Miami International Boat Show wins critical permit

Miami Marine Stadium (credit: Rick Bravo)
Miami Marine Stadium (credit: Rick Bravo)

The Miami International Boat Show continues to move full steam ahead despite efforts to stop it from mooring in Virginia Key by Key Biscayne officials and environmental groups.

Late Tuesday, Miami-Dade County commissioners voted 8-1 to approve a two-year special events permit that allows the boat show operator, National Marine Manufacturers Association or NMMA, to build up to 830 boat slips, floating docks and exhibition stages at Virginia Key’s Miami Marine Stadium Park & Basin. The county commission also approved the NMMA’s request to operate seven water taxis that will transport attendees to and from the event via Biscayne Bay.

The county commission’s decision comes a week after the Florida Department of Environmental Protection issued its permit to the NMMA, which still needs approval from the Army Corps. Of Engineers for the boat show to take place at Virginia Key from Feb. 11-15. In a prepared statement after the vote, NMMA President Thom Dammrich hailed the county and state permit approvals as proof the boat show organizers have well-developed plan to protect the ecosystem in the Marine Stadium basin.

“Approval of these two permits not only reinforces our long-standing commitment to working closely with all environmental agencies to ensure we meet requirements and continue respecting the environment, but it also allows us to preserve thousands of Miami-Dade jobs and millions of dollars in economic activity for the State of Florida,” Dammrich said. “We are proud to continue our promise to be good neighbors at our new home at Miami Marine Stadium Park and Basin for what will be a celebration of the Miami boating lifestyle.”

However, Key Biscayne’s pending lawsuits against the city of Miami to stop the boat show from taking place on Virginia Key could still derail the event’s relocation from its longtime home at the Miami Beach Convention Center, which is closing as renovations begin on the storied venue. Key Biscayne leaders, as well as environmentalists and preservationists, have maintained that Miami officials want to commercialize public waterfront land, bring unwanted traffic congestion to the Rickenbacker Causeway, and seriously harm sea life in  the basin.

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Originally, the NMMA sought approval for a 10-year permit, but county staff recommended only three. To obtain the county permit, the NMMA presented a plan that the organization claims ensures a minimum three-foot buffer between the sea bottom and the boats and docks; ensures Miami Marine Patrol will be heavily enforcing no wake zones and speed zones;  and constructing environmentally friendly floating docks that will be removed at the conclusion of the boat show.

Key Biscayne Mayor Myra Pena Lindsay said in a statement that the commission’s vote was not a clear victory for the NMMA. “By rejecting the Boat Show’s request for a 10-year permit at Virginia Key and imparting strict monitoring protocols on the event, the [county] commission is taking a responsible approach that will allow us to evaluate the event’s impacts on Biscayne Bay and the quality of life of Miami-Dade residents,” Lindsay said. “This vote underscores the short-sightedness of the City of Miami’s decision to build the boat show a taxpayer-funded $20 million commercial showroom venue which may see only two years of use.”