|Five (5) Areas off Miami-Dade To Get Mooring Buoys|
Miami-Dade County will install mooring buoys in September 2009 that will allow boaters to moor at five coral reef areas without tossing damaging anchors overboard.
The county's Department of Environmental Resources Management (DERM) will begin to install 20 of floating balls (moorings) on five reef areas stretching from Sunny Isles Beach south to Key Biscayne, Florida. Foundations for the moorings have been built at reef areas named Graceland, North Canyon, South Canyon, Pillars and Emerald Reef. Future plans call for adding 17 moorings at those sites and several artificial reefs, including the Half Moon underwater archaeological site; the Jose Cuervo Bar and a Port of Miami mitigation site filled with limestone boulders.
Sara Thanner, environmental resource project supervisor with DERM, said mooring sites were chosen in consultation with the local fishing and diving communities.
``It was a conglomeration of diving and fishing interests and DERM,'' Thanner said. ``They were selected strategically to span the county to give people access from north of Biscayne National Park to the Dade-Broward line.''
Thanner said the county received grants totaling $50,000 from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection coral reef conservation program to install the first 20 buoys and maintain them for one year. To keep the program going, DERM has launched an ``Adopt-a-Buoy'' program similar to ``Adopt-a-Highway,'' where local groups and individuals can donate money to sponsor buoy installation and maintenance.
``We may be able to install decals on the buoys to acknowledge their sponsorship,'' Thanner said.
By deploying the moorings, Miami-Dade soon will join its neighbors to the north and south -- Broward and Monroe -- which have been protecting coral reefs from anchor damage for years.
Thanner said the Miami-Dade project has been in the works since 2005. She said it took the county 1 1⁄2 years to get federal, state and local permits. Once the permits were secured, Thanner said the county's procurement process took another year. DERM was ready to install the moorings in April, but FDEP asked it to hold off while coral reef researchers completed a study of anchoring impacts at those sites and others. Thanner said she expects the buoys to be put in the week after the Labor Day holiday.
Captain Mike Beach, operator of RJ Diving Ventures' Big Com-ocean dive boat out of Miami Beach Marina, and local dive instructor Nick Morrell have been pushing for the mooring program for the past five years, firing off e-mails to federal, state, and local agencies and helping to locate grant money. Beach is not thrilled with the placement of some of the moorings, especially those planned for artificial reefs and mitigation sites.
``They're not going to reefs that need it,'' Beach said. ``It's the natural reefs that are in danger. I would like to see them on the natural reefs south of Government Cut and north of Emerald Reef. Let's start a new permit process for some more moorings.''
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