Crumbling seawall poses a threat at Miami Circle

Published June 22, 2007

MIAMI - Artifacts surrounding a 2, 000-year-old American Indian circular carving might be swept into the Miami River in the next severe storm, now that a nearby seawall has collapsed, officials said.

The 38-foot Miami Circle is not in jeopardy, but unexcavated bones, pottery, beads or tools around it could be washed away, said archaeologist Bob Carr.

The circle was carved into the limestone bedrock by the Tequesta Indians. It was discovered in 1998 on the site of a planned luxury high rise. The state and county bought it in 1999 for $26.7-million.

State engineers surveyed the crumbling, 100-foot-long section of seawall Wednesday and planned to line the riverbank with large boulders as a temporary fix. Archaeologists said that probably nothing valuable was lost when the seawall collapsed two weeks ago.

"There is an average of 15 to 20 feet of fill before you get into any archaeological deposits. But it can't get any closer than it is now, " said Jeff Ransom, Miami-Dade County's archaeologist.

Officials worry the remaining 300 feet of the seawall could break off at any time, leaving the waterfront site exposed to eroding currents, tides and ship wakes, along with storms.

Ryan Wheeler, chief of the Florida Bureau of Archaeological Research, said a $600, 000 repair plan was derailed two years ago by a dredging project on the river. Designs to build a new seawall estimate the cost at $2.5-million, Wheeler said.

The state agency plans to ask the Legislature to fund that project while emergency repairs stabilize the site for the current hurricane season.