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Reef snag leaves Zaragoza Canal dredging project on hold for three months

Chetumal, Q.R. — The current dredging project for the Zaragoza Canal has hit a snag that could see it ended. Artemio Santos Santos, who heads the office of Governor Mara Lezama, says the barrier reef is what could limit any additional project advancements.

The reef, which is located at the entrance of the canal, is a protected natural area which is restricting dredging. Santos says they are starting a study to determine feasability.

He says to date, millions of pesos have been spent dredging the canal and that both cruise and cargo companies have expressed interest in the finished product. However, with the reef at the entrance, they are uncertain as to how much dredging can be done, which leaves them uncertain as to which types of vessels may be able to enter the canal.

In the meantime, he says they are carrying out a bathymetry study between the artificial barrier and the coast to determine what type of vessels they may be able to accommodate.

We want to understand what can be done once and for all and move forward with the project “because it is useless to continue dredging if we are limited by its characteristics as a protected natural area,” he explained.

He said that the result of this study, which will be ready in three months, will be the starting point to find out what the state government can do and what they have to work with.

“Until then, we do not want to waste resources or speculate about what will come for the Zaragoza channel as long as the study has not been completed,” he added.

Santos explained that the study carried out by the last administration confirmed the existence of a large rock at the entrance of the Zaragoza channel and to remove it required the use of explosives.

“Since it is in front of the reef barrier, it represents many limitations due to environmental issues.”

The 1.2 kilometer canal is an artificial seaway that was constructed during the administration of José María de la Vega in 1901. It was created to provide easier and faster maritime access to the Bay of Chetumal.

The current dredging project would see the canal expanded to a depth of three meters and an additional length of 4.8 kilometers for a total length of 6.3, which could accommodate larger vessels including cruise ships.