Thursday, October 04, 2012

Where's the Cruise Control? Port's President Says Congressional Action Unnecessary

One can't help but think we are being played as gullible fools by some politicians and lobbyists.

How big are the new ships?  
This is the Oasis of the Seas,  
which departs from Ft. Lauderdale. 
 It has a capacity of  5,300 passengers.
Widening of the channel to accommodate larger cruise ships has been debated for the past few years. The majority of Key West has said it does NOT want larger cruise ships, especially if it means dredging in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. Key West Travel Guide has come out and said "We are completely against dredging in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary".
Five times larger than the Titanic, 
the Oasis of the Seas is 1,187 feet long and 20 stories high.

To even consider dredging in the Sanctuary, a three-million dollar study is required which needs the approval of the City of Key West.

Late last year, the Key West City Commission overwhelmingly voted 6-1 against funding a study of the feasibility of such a widening.  After that, the Mayor of Key West acknowledged: “I think for now it’s over and done with...Hopefully (the city manager) got the message...the commission doesn’t want it, and the public doesn’t want it.”

Many locals have been led to believe that even if the study was done, it would still require an act of Congress to get dredging in the Sanctuary approved.  The pro-dredging group has been saying the study is an innocent step along the way.  According to them, the study wouldn't mean dredging.

But this week's Keynoter has a letter to the editor from Doug Wheeler, president of Florida Ports council, who wrote:
"In addition, although there is a regulation against dredging in the Florida Keys Marine Sanctuary, there is precedent for the U.S. Commerce Department to provide a one-time waiver for dredging.  There is no need for Congress to change any laws if the dredging is identified as a viable project by the Corps."
Which means that if the study shows some economic benefit then dredging may proceed without the need for Congress to act.

Meanwhile, the The Lower Keys Guides Association, a collection of concerned fishing guides, is also dead against the idea of dredging in the marine Sanctuary.

They have released the following statement:
“We stand adamantly opposed to this idea! Such a dredging project would negatively impact the health of the area’s ecosystem in ways that cannot be anticipated. This project could devastate our fishery; one that has yet to fully recover from the last such event in 2004. The area to be dredged is located in one of Key West’s prime tarpon staging areas off Ft Zachary Taylor.
As tarpon fishing communities in Texas and Homosassa have learned, you can negatively affect the fishery to such a degree that the tarpon no longer frequent the area. We believe that dredging Key West Harbor could very well be just such an event and the repercussions could be permanent and devastating.”
The Key West City Commission is going to debate the matter on October 17th 2012 at 6:00pm

So, be warned:  Approving the study is a green light for dredging.  This may be the last opportunity that the community of Key West has to prevent the dredging and the overwhelming negative effect it would cause on our environment, tourism experience, and quality of life.

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