A Hill of Beans

The last time Broward County mounted a big dredging program at Port Everglades, environmentalists raised so much hell that taxpayers had to spend millions to create a whole new mangrove marsh along the edge of John Lloyd Park. It was the late 1980s, and port officials vowed that the adjoining wetlands, now home to a 300-strong community of manatees, would be safe from human meddling.

That was then, and this is now. Tailpipe can tell you on good authority that the port is quietly preparing to unveil a $200 million to $220 million project to open the port for new megatankers. The project, if it gets through all of the required environmental hurdles, will probably take out much of the existing natural habitat.

Adios, sea cows, sea bass, and wood storks. Hello, monster ships.

The county has big plans for this poor manatee.
The county has big plans for this poor manatee.

Amazingly, the plan has been in the works for four or five years without any public scrutiny. "Considering the amount of money involved and how far they've come with it," says Dania Beach City Commissioner Bob Mikes, "it's the best-kept secret in the county,"

There's no way around it (harrumph, harrumph), port officials insist when they're asked about it. Those so-called "Post-Panamax" vessels -- called that because they're too large to squeeze through the Panama Canal -- need deeper berthing and wider channels.

"It's so urgent, it should have been done four years ago," says Allan Sosnow, the port's environmental projects manager, who answered the 'Pipe's questions about the project like a motorist asked to explain the presence of a corpse in his trunk. No widened channels, no new business.

Though neither Sosnow nor the Army Corps of Engineers, which is doing a feasibility study, would show the 'Pipe anything on paper, Sosnow reluctantly explained that, except for the port's extreme north end, the whole system of channels and turning basins -- "the whole waterward jurisdictional area of the port" -- is in play. The state Department of Environmental Protection is already weighing the port's request for a permit to dredge 50,500 cubic yards from the entrance channel -- apparently the first phase of the project.

Not to worry, though. The port truly cares about its natural surroundings. "We're studying the [environmental] impact, if any," Sosnow says airily, bringing a tear to Tailpipe's rusty eye. The port may come up with some sort of "environmentally friendly bulkheads," he adds (or maybe supply football helmets to all the manatees in the path of heavy shipping).

Whether federal funds will be available won't be clear until next year, says Steve Ross, the project manager for the Corps of Engineers. "The benefits have to exceed the costs," he says.

But take it from the Tube. The lives of a few hundred manatees don't amount to a puff of exhaust in this cockeyed world where leviathan ships trundle across the ocean with huge warehouses full of merchandise and fuel. "Oil spills make big headlines," says Pedro Monteiro, the Sierra Club's Broward conservation chairman. "But the cumulative effect of projects like this, though they don't get noticed, are even more deadly."

Tailpipe used to think that having more women cops around would make the nation's police forces kinder and gentler. So much for that theory. Last August, Lake Worth police Officer Kathleen Bogart followed 49-year-old dance instructor Chris Marcelle as she drove her '94 LeBaron from her Lake Worth home to her dance studio on North Dixie Highway. Marcelle was speeding, Bogart reported. When the officer pulled over the alleged speedster, she determined there was a "seize" order on the car -- the result, it turned out, of an insurance snafu.

Despite Marcelle's objections, Bogart blundered on, removing the license plate from the Chrysler and ordering Marcelle from the car. Confused and frustrated, Marcelle clung to the wheel. A moment too long, it turned out; there's no dilly-dallying when you're dealing with Bogie. From Bogart's report: "I grabbed her by the hair, turned her face toward me and [pepper] sprayed her with a short blast..." Depends on your definition of short. Marcelle says the blast covered her face, neck, and chest; residual stains are splattered all over the inside of the car.

Marcelle fainted briefly, then, gasping for breath, stumbled out of the car to be handcuffed roughly as her ballroom students looked on. Paramedics came and rinsed her off; then Marcelle was transported to Palm Beach County Jail, where she spent a miserable night shivering in wet clothes, her eyes stinging from the pepper spray. She has had lingering eye and shoulder problems ever since, she says.

"She's hardly the aggressive type -- for God's sake, [she's] into ballroom dancing," attorney John Reynolds says of his client. Indeed, Reynolds convinced the state to drop three of the five charges that Marcelle was hit with that day, while the other two were never prosecuted. "I think it was an abuse of power. You're going to pepper-spray somebody because they don't move fast enough?"

Police regulations state that "an officer should attempt to exhaust all alternatives before resorting to physical force or the use of non-lethal weapons." Marcelle contends she didn't even get a warning. The fact that Bogart was already wearing protective gloves indicates the officer expected to do some whoop-ass spraying, Marcelle says.

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