Dredging permits have been issued to deepen a channel on the Intracoastal Waterway (ICW) in Riviera Beach, Florida, to allow superyachts access to a local shipyard. The permits were issued by the US Army Corp of Engineers after local and state authorities first applied for them six years ago.

The announcement of the dredging project, scheduled to begin next year, was made at the headquarters of Rybovich, a superyacht refit and repair facility in Riviera Beach. US Congresswoman Lois Frankel called the issuance of the permits a “transformational game-changer” for the town, saying it would create hundreds of new jobs for the region.

The dredging project will involve about 3,500 linear feet, deepening the canal from 10 feet to about 17 feet. That will allow yachts with deeper drafts to access Rybovich’s facilities. The shipyard said it will be able to handle superyachts up to 335 feet LOA.

Mark Crosley, executive director fo the Florida Inland Navigation District, told the Ft Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel that “water depth” has become the “controlling factor” in what marinas can service in the regional market. With the new depth, he expects “hundreds of new jobs” to be created in the area.

Contractors are required to use erosion controls and barriers to preserve the underwater environment during the dredging project. “This is good dredging, not bad dredging,” Frankel told local news station WPBF. “This is not the port dredging, let me make that clear.” Frankel was referring to a dredging project for the nearby port of Palm Beach, which was halted after a coalition of environmental groups and local eco-tourism businesses said it would damage the harbour.

Some of that same coalition voiced objections to the Riviera Beach project. “It’s shocking, I’m discouraged, and I’m in disbelief that they want to start this next summer,” David Sanchez, owner of a local scuba shop, told the paper. “This is Palm Beach County’s hidden treasure where lots of marine life calls home, and we’re threatening it so that a few people can bring in their big yachts.”