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Reef off Palm Beach Partly Repaired; DEP in Talks with Contractor

Posted on November 10, 2016

State environmental officials have overseen repairs to coral reefs believed to have been damaged last spring by a contractor traveling through coastal waters near the town.

Representatives of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection met with the contractor, Weeks Marine, in a June 17 “informal enforcement meeting” to discuss damage to the reefs.

CSA Ocean Sciences was contracted on behalf of Weeks Marine to repair and restore the corals, which are about a mile east of The Breakers, between June 9 and July 1. “All reattached specimens were considered in relatively good health with the exception of one large stony coral,” DEP spokeswoman Jessica Boyd wrote in an email last week.

The DEP is preparing a settlement proposal that includes penalties and provisions to monitor the reefs, she said.

Rob Weber, the town’s coastal coordinator, told the Shore Protection Board on Oct. 27 that the DEP had determined that Weeks Marine damaged the reefs, that the New Jersey-based contractor would be fined $100,000, and that the money would go in a fund set aside for reef restoration. Boyd, however, would not confirm the $100,000 fine or say whether Weeks has admitted responsibility for the damage.

Neither the DEP nor Weeks representatives were at the meeting. An attorney for Weeks Marine did not return phone messages seeking comment.

The damage occurred in March as a cable was dragged over the reefs while a dredge was being towed over them. Weeks Marine was doing a beach fill in Boca Raton using the Port of Palm Beach as a staging area for its equipment.

The Town of Palm Beach was involved with the project.

The DEP investigated after divers found and reported damage to the reefs, which are a popular recreation spot for diving and snorkeling.

Weeks Marine is returning this fall to complete the beach fill for Boca Raton. In the past, the town has used the contractor for a sand fill at Midtown Beach.

Source: Palm Beach Daily News

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