MIAMI -

The United States Army Corps of Engineers announced Wednesday that the Deep Dredge Project contract has been awarded to Great Lakes Dock and Dredge for the deepening of PortMiami's channel to minus 50/52 feet.

According to Miami-Dade County, dredging is anticipated to begin in August 2013 and be completed in time for the opening of the expanded Panama Canal in 2015.

Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos A. Gimenez called the contract award a "major milestone" for PortMiami.

"The Deep Dredge project is vital to the future success and growth of our seaport," said Gimenez. "PortMiami will be the only U.S. East Coast Port south of Virginia to be at the required minus 50 feet level in time to welcome the new generation of larger container cargo vessels arriving via the expanded Panama Canal."

Miami-Dade County Board of County Commissioners' Chairwoman Rebeca Sosa congratulated the Army Corps of Engineers in moving forward this important project that will enable PortMiami to grow its cargo traffic.

"PortMiami, already known worldwide as the 'Cargo Gateway of the Americas,' is well-positioned to capture new trade opportunities especially with Asian nations thanks to investments in PortMiami's infrastructure—the importance of the dredge project cannot be over-stated," said Sosa.

"Together with our state and federal partners, the Port is committed to upholding the highest environmental standards for the project," said PortMiami Director Bill Johnson.

The dredge project includes the restoration of more than 16 acres of sea grass in northern Biscayne Bay and the creation of over nine acres of artificial reef, according to the county.

In order to minimize impact on existing resources, the Port's mitigation measures include the relocation of hard coral colonies greater than 25 centimeters and those that are between 10 and 25 centimeters.

Additionally, divers will be in the water adjacent to the project to monitor natural resources for turbidity and sedimentation effects before, during and after all dredging activities ensuring the highest environmental protection monitoring protocols outside of a national marine sanctuary.

Thanks to the pledge of $112 million from Governor Rick Scott and the State of Florida, the county said the PortMiami Deep Dredge remains on schedule to open in sync with the expanded Panama Canal, helping transform Florida into a global logistics hub.