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Panama Canal Project Raises Ire Around East Ports

"The main thing in terms of health that we're focusing on is looking at the impacts of truck traffic on local roads," said Ruth Lindberg, a program manager at the center.

In Miami, the Tropical Audubon Society last year settled a lawsuit against the Army Corps of Engineers that claimed dredging the port would significantly damage Biscayne Bay and harm wildlife.

Residents and environmental groups in Charleston, S.C., aren't as worried about cargo vessels as cruise ships. They're currently battling over the environmental and aesthetic impact of increased cruise ship traffic and worry a wider canal could bring even larger ships.

Some on the West Coast, whose ports handle most U.S. imports from Asia, are concerned their ports will hemorrhage cargo and jobs because of the expanded canal. A "Beat the Canal" campaign in California is trying to push projects that would "enhance the competitiveness of our green ports and corridors," according to its website.

Back in New York, Thurman and others said they want the Coast Guard to fully assess the impact to the communities surrounding the bridge and ports.

"I don't understand what they're thinking," Thurman said, "except that they don't live here and if something goes horribly wrong, they're not going to be scrambling to get the hell out of the way."

Copyright 2011 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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