With the signing of the report, the Corps and its chief, Lt Gen Thomas Bostick, are certifying that the US$313m (£199m) navigation project is environmentally sound and economically beneficial. The report will now go through further reviews before being sent to Congress for future authorisation.
The project includes deepening and widening the harbour to meet future shipping needs. The planning, engineering and design phase is scheduled to start this year, subject to funding, and the Corps anticipates completion of this phase in two to three years. Construction of the project is subject to authorization and appropriations, and would likely take five years to complete.
The current layout of the port dates back to the 1980s and it is difficult to accommodate today’s larger container and tanker vessels.
Following the release of a draft feasibility study in June 2013, the Corps continued consultation with state and federal agencies regarding the new endangered species coral listings, and refining the environmental mitigation and monitoring plans.
The US$35.6m environmental mitigation plan includes creating five acres of artificial reef, relocating roughly 11,500 corals and planting out 103,000 nursery- raised corals to existing reef enhancement areas, together with and other mitigation and monitoring features.
Plans include up-front mitigation for indirect effects from sedimentation and turbidity, as well as mitigation for impacts associated with potential movement of rubble below dredge depth.