Port serves as protector, steward of its coastal host
By Yvette C. Hammett
Some 5,100 acres skirting downtown Tampa’s eastern edge serve as a staging hub for goods bound for global destinations and for cargo landing here for distribution throughout the country.
Tanker and cargo ships haul more than 4 billion gallons of oil, fertilizer components and other hazardous materials through local waters each year. Port property is peppered with hulking petroleum tanks, rail cars, a phosphate operation and massive sulphuric-acid holding tanks — all disasters waiting to happen without proper oversight.
Port Tampa Bay, Florida’s largest port, is entirely dependent on Tampa Bay, the state’s largest open-water estuary and one of the largest in the nation. In exchange for its use of the bay and surrounding lands, the port is required, by law, to protect the natural resources from the impact of its business. The impact includes everything from wetland and bay dredging and filling to shoreline pummeling by wakes from huge ships traveling to the port’s berths and toxic spills that may occur along the bay shoreline.
The port also partners with regional environmental organizations that work to correct past environmental impacts that it had little or nothing to do with, environmental officials say.
Protecting the natural areas the port depends on is factored into the cost of doing business. On average each year, about $1 million of the port’s annual enterprise budget of $151 million is spent to mitigate dredging operations, create wetlands, clean up contamination, even develop management plans for migratory bird protection.