Divers photographing coral reef ahead of Port Everglades expansion plan

ABOARD THE BASELINE EXPLORER Conservationists are working off of Port Everglades to document the plight of coral reefs already battered and, they fear, further endangered by a planned seaport dredging project.

Divers on Sunday began taking pictures, video and measurements of a stretch of the Florida Reef Tract around the Port Everglades channel. The goal is to establish a baseline record of the underwater environment in a roughly one square mile area and track it over time.

The effort comes ahead of an expansion and widening project, awaiting funding from Congress, which will allow larger ships to fit into the port. Officials hope the project will be completed by 2022.

Rachel Silverstein, executive director of Miami Waterkeeper, a nonprofit that focuses on South Florida’s coastal environment and water issues, said she is concerned the dredging will damage the reef near the port. Officials said dredging for the recent PortMiami expansion churned up sediment, smothered coral and damaged sealife, causing more damage than was anticipated, the Miami Herald reported.