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Miami Dredging Project to Continue Despite Threat to Local Coral

Jun 09, 2014 11:47 AM EDT

Around 1,000 healthy corals have been displaced, and efforts are being made to save more, as dredging projects continue around the port of Miami.

The US Corps of Engineers says that the project is about 35 percent complete and is likely to finish no later than July 2015, according to the Associated Press.

Researchers requesting more time to save this field of corals were denied by the US Corps of Engineers on June 6.

"Taxpayers would be paying $50,000 to $100,000 a day to keep that dredge on standby and that's not happening," said Susan Jackson, a corps spokeswoman, Reuters reported.

The project is intended to deepen two channels 50 feet (15 meters) towards the port and expand the port so that bigger ships can pass through the Panama Canal.

Dredged remains are being used for building nearly 10 acres of artificial coral reefs. Researchers began daily dives to gather and relocate coral from the edges of the channel on May 26 after Illinois-based dredging contractor Great Lakes Dredge & Dock finished relocating about 900 more mature corals to an artificial reef, as required by the Army Corps of Engineers.

"We've been able to remove more than 2,000 corals in less than two weeks and if we had another two weeks we'd get thousands more," said Colin Foord, a marine biologist and co-founder of Miami-based Coral Morphologic, which is part marine biology lab and part art and music studio.

Coral is a stationary animal that slowly grows on seafloors over tens and even hundreds of years. Scientists hope they can extract information about how these corals survive in warmer oceans brought about by climate change.

"The corals in the disturbed environments are the most pre-adapted and might be the most valuable in terms of saving them," said Andrew Baker, a marine biology professor at the University of Miami's Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science.

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