“Later that year Lunetta [the Port of Miami Director] resigned amid a federal investigation charging him and two businessmen at the port with embezzlement, fraud, and theft of funds. But before he left, Lunetta approved $9.9 million in payments to Dutra for work it never completed.”3 “Dutra workers returned to the channel in January of  after the county made a deal with Safeco, a company that had insured the dredging project. Safeco agreed to finance a resumption of the dredging and to reimburse the port for the $9.9 million Dutra had overbilled.”3
It was in February of 1999 that DERM discovered the illegal dredging in Biscayne Bay and the “eighteen mysterious piles of coral rock on the ocean bottom”3 illegally dumped outside the federally authorized offshore disposal site. “In April 1999 DERM issued violation notices to Dutra chairman Bill Dutra, port director Charles Towsley, and Luis Ajamil of Bermello Ajamil and Partners (B&A),”3 the engineers of record. In mid-1999 Dutra “pulled out of the job, saying its arsenal could not compete with the resilience of coral rock,”3 despite the fact that they had previously “removed several football fields worth of seagrass and coral rock”1 illegally.
The illegal dredging led to a lawsuit: Miami-Dade County v. Safeco Insurance Company, Bill Dutra, Harry K. Stewart and George W. Gilfillan which alleged civil fraud and breach of contract.5 In this case, ‘No.: 98-17437 CA 20 United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida”5, tried in the Miami-Dade Circuit Court, the County sought $40 million in damages and settled for $22.5 million.6
The damage to Biscayne Bay cannot be directly mitigated because “the water was 2 to 5 feet deep where the sea grass was destroyed, now the area is 30 feet deep - unsuitable for sea grass.” 4 Therefore, the settlement money will be used for other environmental projects, including mitigating “62.5 acres with red mangroves within the Oleta River State Park, North Miami.”2
1: Harboring Pollution. The dirty truth about US Ports, NRDC and Coalition for Clean Air, March 2004 (PDF)
4: Miami Group, Sierra Club Conservation Archives: 2000 “Port of Miami Violations” Editorial by Nancy Lee
5: Website of AFC Group, Litigation and Valuation Advisory Services
6: Miami-Dade settles longstanding law suit over botched dredging project, Dredging News Online - January 30, 2006
A Chronology of Dutra Construction Co., Inc. in the Port of Miami, Florida
Dutra dredging begins in the channel where DERM had approved deepening a section of the shipping channel in Biscayne Bay in the Port of Miami.
Dutra “unlawfully scooped out several football fields' worth of seagrass and several tons of the bay's coral-rock floor below the seagrass.”
Dutra stops work and files for bankruptcy.
Dutra returns to work in the channel after the County made a deal with Safeco, the insurance company for Dutra; Safeco agreed to finance the resumption of work and to reimburse the port for the $9.9 million Dutra had overbilled.
Biologist Craig Grossenbacher of Miami-Dade Department of Environmental Resources Management (DERM) discovers illegal dredging in Biscayne Bay. DERM had approved deepening, not widening, a section of the shipping channel.
Illegal dumping is also discovered.
DERM issues violation notices to Dutra chairman Bill Dutra, port director Charles Towsley, and Luis Ajamil of Bermello Ajamil and Partners (B&A).
Dutra stops work.
Miami-Dade County v. Safeco Insurance Company, Bill Dutra, Harry K. Stewart and George W. Gilfillan. Action: Civil fraud, Breach of contract. Case No.: 98-17437 CA 20 United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida. The County sought $40 million in damages.
Settlement reached for $22.5 million between the County and Safeco
Contract awarded to another company to “mitigate 62.5 acres with red mangroves within the Oleta River State Park” in North Miami, using a portion of the Safeco settlement.
“This project was necessitated by damage caused by the County’s dredging company, Dutra Construction Co., Inc., which impacted 3.5 acres of seagrass outside of the permitted dredging area.”