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By Dorie Cox
The Intracoastal Waterway dredge project that began north of Port Everglades has deepened the channel on the way to most of the marinas in the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show, which opens today and runs through Nov. 7.
The $20 million project, which began in May, added 5 feet to the ICW, giving it a 15-foot controlling depth as it passes Pier 66 Marina, Fort Lauderdale Hilton, Bahia Mar Yachting Center, Hall of Fame Marina and Las Olas Marina.
But it does just that, passes by, because none of the marinas have dredged from the ICW to their entrances or inside their marinas.
“It’s a shame when they did the dredging in the intracoastal they couldn’t clear out in the marinas,” said Capt. Mac McDonald, who brought in the 205-foot M/Y Lady Lola to this year’s show. She sits on the bottom at low tide, just as she did last year. Low tide falls every afternoon during the show.
“There are four or five of us [touching bottom],” he said. “It happens every year. It looks like we’ve run aground, which we have. It makes us look bad. We’re 10 inches out of water.”
Attempts to reach Bahia Mar management to ask about plans to dredge its marina were unsuccessful. Although Lady Lola can normally tie up to the face dock at Bahia Mar, his current slip is in a different part of the marina where the water isn’t as deep. But he accepts sitting on the bottom as part of the price to be in the show.
“Whoever wants to be there, this is what’s going to happen,” he said.
Several factors may contribute to the marinas not yet dredging a path to the deepened ICW, including the years-long process of getting required numerous permits from groups such as the Army Corp of Engineers, Florida Department of Environmental Protection, Broward County Department of Environmental Protection and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
“They did good job; we’re glad they dredged,” said Kevin Quirk, vice president of operations for LXR Luxury Marinas, which operates the marina at Pier 66. “But dredging the ICW is the beginning, not the end. It’s like building I-95 without exits.”
Quirk speaks from experience. He has seen firsthand the complexity of navigating the permitting process as he oversaw construction when Pier 66 doubled its dock space for yachts larger than 150 feet in 2014.
While property owners are responsible for the dredging inside their marinas, it can take six or seven years of working with local, state and federal agencies to get all the required permits, particularly if the site has seagrass or coral.
City-owned Las Olas Marina had been working to pull permits to dredge, but recently put it on hold while the city chose a company to redevelop the marina, said Jon Luscomb, marine facilities supervisor for the city of Ft. Lauderdale. City commissioners recently selected Dallas-based Suntex Marinas for the project.
The ICW dredge project was originally scheduled for completion in 2017, but now is expected to finish late this month.
Dorie Cox is editor of Triton Today. Comments on this story are welcome below.