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MIA Director On Air Travel During COVID-19, Miami-Dade's Biscayne Bay Chief Officer, Illegal Lake Development In PBC

Renata Sago
Travel at Miami International Airport remains 50% below pre-COVID numbers according to Director Lester Sola. However, he remains confident that vaccine distribution and support from the federal government will keep airlines afloat.

Miami International Airport Director Lester Sola explains the future of air travel. Also, Miami-Dade’s new Chief Bay Officer discusses her role in preserving Biscayne Bay. And residents of a Boynton Beach neighborhood are angry over the illegal construction of a lake.

On this Thursday, January 14th episode of Sundial.:

Miami International Airport Director

The coronavirus pandemic has significantly impacted the air travel industry, and Miami International Airport (MIA) is no exception. As more people get vaccinated around the world, there’s hope for airlines recovery.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced this week that all international travelers coming to the U.S. are required to show a negative COVID-19 test result before boarding their flight beginning Jan. 26. However, airports will not be responsible for ensuring their legitimacy.

“The airlines have a certain level of responsibility to ensure that the individual that’s before them, and the test that they’re providing, is in fact a valid test,” said Lester Sola, director of MIA.

Sola says the airlines are trying to establish a testing protocol in airports of the countries that don’t have high levels of testing.

He also mentioned MIA’s continued efforts to keep travelers safe and prevent the spread of COVID-19 by consistently informing passengers to wear their masks and maintain social distance.

“We’ve taken a very active role not just in enforcement but also educating the passengers,” Sola said. “In order for the industry to recover, it’s going to require that people conform to the mandates.”

Miami-Dade's New Chief Bay Officer

Biscayne Bay is a treasured resource for boaters, beachgoers, and anglers. It also plays a major role in the region’s economy. However, over the past few decades, the Bay has suffered from chronic pollution, algae blooms, and seagrass die-offs.

Miami-Dade County recently created the position Chief Bay Officer, who will be in charge of the preservation efforts. As the county’s first CBO, Irela Bague says she recognizes there’s a lot of work to be done to revitalize the damaged Bay.

“It’s a number of issues. There’s not one direct source … so we have to attack them systematically,” Bague said.

She mentioned how there have been efforts in the past to preserve the lagoon, but there was never anyone coordinating these projects.

“Every time the bay gets back to normal, people go on to other things,” Bague said. “There really hasn’t been an oversight or a watchdog, really, on a consistent basis, so that’s what’s been missing.”

Bague said her first priority in office will be bringing all of the stakeholders to the table to address plastic pollution, illegal dumping and coral reef preservation. She sees business leaders as playing a critical role in the process.

Boynton Beach Lake Controversy

Residents of the Valencia Reserve neighborhood, west of Boynton Beach, are dealing with un-welcomed guests developing a major project. Douglas DeBruin, Chet Raley and Darin Montgomery have been illegally building a lake without a permit adjacent to the residents’ properties.

At first, Valencia Reserve residents figured the lake was for waterskiing because the developers are former water-skiing competitors. But now, the developers say the lake will be used for aquaculture — stocking the water with hundreds of tilapia and catfish.

Beth Rappaport is the president of the Coalition of Boynton West Residential Associations (COBWRA), which represents 112 residential associations and about 125,000 people. Rappaport first heard a resident’s complaint in June. She says Palm Beach County officials have been very responsive as they try to make sense of this situation.

“The county has responded to these [violations] by the book,” Rappaport said. “Unfortunately, this group and these developers are just non-compliant.”

Authorities have issued stop-work orders on the property, but the developers are still working.

“The standard procedures that are in place that stop just about anybody else have just not stopped this group,” she said. “It’s really a mystery. I think everybody just has lots of questions about this.”

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Amber Amortegui is a senior studying journalism at Palm Beach Atlantic University. Born and raised in Davie, Fla., Amber is a native South Floridian who embraces one of America’s most diverse regions.
Chris knew he wanted to work in public radio beginning in middle school, as WHYY played in his car rides to and from school in New Jersey. He’s freelanced for All Things Considered and was a desk associate for CBS Radio News in New York City. Most recently, he was producing for Capital Public Radio’s Insight booking guests, conducting research and leading special projects at Sacramento’s NPR affiliate.