Protect Florida Keys Marine Sanctuary from Proposed Dredging

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Target: Key West Mayor Craig Cates

Goal: To prevent the additional dredging of waters in and around the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary.

Dredging around the waters of Key West has already reached the point where over 350 cruise ships carrying roughly 800,000 passengers a year can be accommodated. In spite of this, developers are looking to expand even further. The current project in question, which is intended to widen the southernmost city’s main shipping channel, is not only a needless waste of revenue but also runs contrary to federal law as the project would result in dredging within the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. This marine sanctuary covers 2,800 square miles and includes within it the only barrier coral reef in North America. Perhaps of even greater importance would be the largest known seagrass bed in the world. Because of this, the area has been under federal protection since being established as a marine sanctuary in 1990 which in part means it must remain safe from any harm such as being irreversibly damaged by dredging.

In order to begin preparations for this project, a federal feasibility study must first be conducted. This study would cost an estimated three million taxpayer dollars. This amount is merely to decide whether it would be possible to dredge; the actual project itself is projected to cost over $36 million. Considering that cruise ships now amount for roughly $2.5 million annually for disembarkation fees and $1.3 million annually in tax revenue, it seems difficult to justify the permanent destruction of an important haven for marine life.

Not only would the project take over a decade to return its taxpayer investment, but the actual economic boost to Key West residents would be surprisingly slim. Cruise ship tourists rarely venture beyond the local pier and inject most of their dollars back into the cruise line itself over local shops and attractions. In addition, the environmental damage would actually have a negative impact other facets of tourism, thus ultimately causing a loss of tourist-generated revenue for Key West residents in the long-run. Because of this, any plans to further dredge the waters around Key West must be stopped.

PETITION LETTER:

Dear Mayor Cates,

The waters around Key West comprise one of the nation’s greatest marine wildlife treasures. This area is so important, in fact, that in 1990 over 2,800 square miles were made into the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. Within this sanctuary rests the largest North American barrier reef as well as the largest known marine seagrass bed in the world. It would not be hyperbole to state that this area holds perhaps the most important offshore ecosystem in the entire nation.

Unfortunately, development interests with an eye towards the cruise industry are seeking to potentially cause irreparable damage to this site by looking to expand the area’s cruise ship capacity via dredging. With the area already holding accommodations for 350 cruise ships carrying roughly 800,000 passengers a year, this addition is entirely superfluous.

Not only is the project unnecessary, it is also quite expensive. In order to begin work on this project, a federal feasibility study must first be conducted. This study alone would cost an estimated three million dollars. This amount is merely to decide whether it would be possible to dredge as the actual project itself is projected to cost over $36 million. That money would take an extremely long time to recover as cruise ship revenue currently amounts to roughly $2.5 million annually for disembarkation fees and $1.3 million annually in tax revenue. Beyond this the actual economic benefit to Key West, residents would be considerably lower than one might think. Cruise ship tourists rarely venture beyond the local pier and inject most of their dollars back into cruise line companies themselves rather than local shops and tourist attractions. In addition, the environmental damage would actually have a negative impact other facets of tourism, which would ultimately result in a loss of tourist-generated revenue for Key West Residents in the long-run.

For the irreparable damage it would cause the marine ecosystem and the limited benefit it would have for Key West residents, the plan to dredge in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary must be stopped. This project would be far too costly in the long-term.

Sincerely,

[Your Name Here]

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2 Comments

  1. Cruise ships don’t belong here. Take your business elsewhere and leave this precious ecology alone.

  2. Leave the Keys alone. I live here in Key West where the local politicos are pushing for a deeper ship channel to bring in even larger cruise ships. Damage to the sea bed, coral reefs, and environment do not concern these people. Money does. Like Mr. Davidson says, cruise ships do not belong here.

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