COUNTY'S $2.6 BILLION USACE COASTAL STORM AND SEA-LEVEL RISE INFRASTRUCTURE RESILIENCY PROJECT SIGNED INTO LAW
On Friday, President Joe Biden signed into law authorization of a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) $2.6 billion coastal storm and sea-level rise infrastructure resiliency project in the Florida Keys. The project authorization has already passed through Congress and federal lawmakers; however, appropriations for the project will require separate, annual approvals by Congress.
On Friday, the County also secured a nearly $1 million initial appropriation, approved in the omnibus spending bill to fund the planning, engineering, and design of six U.S. 1 stabilization projects in the Florida Keys, the first phase of the plan. The plan includes 5,500 feet of the roadway at mile markers 79.5, 70, 70.9, 67, 37, and 34.5, identified as vulnerable to erosion and wave energy. Estimates for the completion of the construction phase of the U.S. 1 stabilization project are $16 million.
With the Board of County Commissioners' support, Chief Sustainability Officer Rhonda Haag and Legislative Affairs Director worked with USACE and local stakeholders for the past five years to put this project together, including numerous public meetings to discuss the project. Then they worked to move the project authorization and appropriation through Congressional approval.
Based on the development of a three-year USACE Coastal Storm Risk Management Feasibility Study, the project plans for the economic, environmental, and social effects of coastal storms and sea-level rise and addresses the hardening of U.S. 1, dry floodproofing of critical infrastructure and private commercial buildings, and elevating residential residences. The study did not address the resiliency of locally-maintained roads, which Monroe County completed under a separate study.
Future appropriations will allow for the voluntary elevations of up to 4,698 vulnerable residential homes and the dry floodproofing of 1,052 commercial and 53 critical infrastructure buildings susceptible to storm surge damage throughout the Florida Keys. Dry floodproofing allows for essential services to resume more quickly after a storm surge event.
The total project, including the dry floodproofing and elevations, is estimated at $2.6 billion, to be split 65 percent federal ($1.7 billion) and 35 percent non-federal ($893 million). Non-federal funds can come from the state, county, municipalities, residents, and other non-federal entities. The County is coordinating with the Florida Dept. of Transportation for the non-federal match for the U.S. 1 stabilization phase. The County also intends to sign sub-agreements with the five municipalities to authorize and fund work performed within the cities.
"We are committed to making Monroe County as resilient as possible against the effects of future storms and sea-level rise," said Roman Gastesi, Monroe County Administrator. "This partnership with USACE allows us to tap into federal money to help offset resiliency costs to Florida Keys residents."
What's the difference between authorization and appropriation? Congress requires authorizations to be in place before final funding decisions are made. An appropriation provides the legal authority to spend or obligate U.S. Treasury funds.
The Wounded Warrior Project Soldier Ride takes place Friday, Jan. 6, and Saturday, Jan. 7, in the Upper, Middle, and Lower Keys. Residents and visitors are encouraged to cheer on and support the warriors while they cycle through the Florida Keys or join them for the community ride on Saturday in Key West.
“The Wounded Warrior Project Soldier Ride is an opportunity for those who honorably serve or have served our nation to build confidence and strength from wounds incurred in service,” said Monroe County Veterans Affairs Director Cathy Crane, who is also a coordinator of the event. “We enthusiastically welcome these warriors as they ride through the Florida Keys.”
Motorists should take extra time to get to their destination during the ride times. U.S. 1 will remain open for the Soldier Ride, but motorists should be patient, use caution, and note that there may be rolling lane shifts in traffic.
Friday, Jan. 6
Saturday, Jan. 7
On Dec. 2, the Florida Association of Counties (FAC) unveiled the county photos featured in their 2022 – 2023 annual calendar: Keep Calm & Love Water. Monroe County was selected as July 2023. The photo was taken by Michael Schilling and is of Long Key, an island in Dry Tortugas National Park. The island is home to the only nesting colony of magnificent frigatebirds in the continental United States.
Every year FAC opens a contest to all of Florida’s 67 counties to be one of the fifteen featured in their annual calendar. More than 500 photos were submitted from 52 Florida counties. The calendar is sent to all members of the FAC.
“We are very excited to be featured this year in the calendar,” said Monroe County Commissioner Michelle Lincoln. “Monroe County hasn’t been featured in a few years, and with this year’s theme being water related, we knew we would have a good chance to show off one of our best assets.”
Chosen photos from other counties can be seen at https://www.fl-counties.com/2022-2023-fac-calendar-counties/.
On Dec. 6, the Monroe County Board of County Commissioners and Monore County Emergency Management Senior Planner for Radiological Emergency Preparedness Mary Napoli joined Ocean Reef Public Safety Director Juan Perez and Fire Chief John Flynn to visit Florida Power and Light’s Turkey Point, the nuclear power plant, located in South Miami. The commissioners learned about plant safety, security, and hurricane preparedness at the plant.
To learn more about Turkey Point, visit www.monroecountyem.com/turkeypoint.
The Card Sound Toll Annual Pass is available for purchase at the Computer Training Room at Ocean Reef on Tuesdays through Thursdays and at the Monroe County Public Work Building, Engineering Office, 300 Magnolia St., Key Largo on Mondays and Fridays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
The annual pass allows unlimited trips for the registered two-axle vehicle through the toll plaza with a Sunpass account. The pass can be used from Jan. 1 through Dec. 31, 2023, and the cost for the 2023 calendar year is $420, payable by check or credit/debit card. Credit cards will include a $7.50 convenience fee.
More information on the Card Sound Toll discount programs and the Card Sound Toll Annual Pass application can be found at www.monroecounty-fl.gov/cardsoundtoll. For questions, call or email the Card Sound Toll Manager, Olympia Newton, at email@example.com or 305-853-7359.
In October 2022, the Monroe County Land Authority purchased almost an acre of coveted hardwood hammock habitat in front of the Tradewinds Shopping Center in Key Largo. Upon inspection of the site, Assistant Land Steward Jim Duquesnel discovered just how special this particular piece is when he found nearly two dozen live Florida Banded Tree Snails (Orthalicus floridensis).
Monroe County Commissioner Holly Merrill Raschein, who had encouraged the original acquisition, acknowledged the importance of such land authority purchases. “The Land Authority acquiring this property shows the importance of this program,” said Merrill Raschein. “Not only did we protect this area in perpetuity, but we also found it is a habitat for native local snails.”
This snail species has been under attack since the introduction of the New Guinea Flatworm, an invasive predator of snails, in the mid-2010s. As a result, the snail is currently part of the State of Florida’s Imperiled Species Management Plan.
Merrill Raschein asked Land Authority staff to work on the purchase at the request of the Island of Key Largo Federation of Homeowners Association. The association conducted many cleanups of this parcel in the past and believed Land Authority ownership would help manage the site and ensure the long-term protection of this vital habitat.
“The Land Authority Advisory Committee ranks priority parcels for purchase, and this property ended up being one that ranked well enough to acquire given its environmental importance,” said Linda Grist Cunningham, chair of the committee.
Anyone interested in learning more about Florida’s native (and introduced) tree snails should visit:
To learn more about the invasive New Guinea Flatworm that is threatening these types of snails, visit:
For information on the Monroe County Land Authority, visit www.monroecounty-fl.gov/landauthority.
The Florida Dept. of Transportation presented its 5-year tentative work plan for 2024-2028 to the Board of County Commissioners at the Wednesday meeting to address the transportation needs of the Florida Keys. The work plan has $498 million set aside for Monroe County projects during that time for bridge repairs and replacements, resurfacing, construction, safety, transit, and more. It also includes funding for demonstration projects, like micro-mobility.
Micro-mobility uses smaller vehicles to transport people, rather than bigger buses. Monroe County conditionally approved a micro-mobility grant to start tentatively in 2023 for Stock Island to Key West transportation. The City of Key West and the Village of Islamorada have already implemented micro-mobility efforts.
According to the tentative work plan, bridge repair and rehab are slated for Bahia Honda in 2025 and the 7 Mile Bridge over Moser Channel in 2026. Bridge replacements include the Long Key Bridge in 2027 and Card Sound Road at Tubby’s Creek and Mosquito Creek in 2025. The replacement of the 7 Mile Bridge is slated for 2030.
Monroe County Mayor Craig Cates and the Board of County Commissioners presented Steve Sullivan, Building Inspector/Plans Examiner of the Monroe County Building Department 20 Years of Service Award at Wednesday’s meeting.
“Steve has truly been a wealth of knowledge over the years and a mentor to his co-workers,” said Rey Ortiz, Monroe County Assistant Building Official.
Monroe County and Monroe County’s yard waste contractor will offer free compost (nutrient-rich black dirt) to the residents of unincorporated Monroe County and the cities of Marathon, Key Colony Beach, Islamorada, and Layton at the County’s three transfer stations on the dates below from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. or until it is gone. Residents can fill one 32-gallon trash can or six 5-gallon buckets with compost. Proof of residency is required in the form of a driver’s license, utility bill, tax bill, etc. Residents are limited to one pick-up per household. You must bring your own shovel and be able to load the containers on your own or bring someone to assist you.
Monroe County’s transfer station locations:
“Earlier this year, the free compost giveaway was such a huge success for our residents,” said Monroe County Solid Waste Director Cheryl Sullivan. “This is a great way to spruce up your backyard.”
Monroe County is coordinating efforts across departments to ensure floodplain management ordinances are consistent with Florida Building Code and National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) requirements and in anticipation of the new FEMA flood maps adoption. At its Nov. 15 meeting, the Board of County Commissioners adopted amendments to the County’s existing regulations based on the FEMA State Model Ordinance. The amendments are critical for the County to remain in good standing with the NFIP and to maintain Community Rating System (CRS) insurance discounts for NFIP policyholders.
“The most important thing is that we stay in compliance and do not jeopardize our National Flood Insurance Program protections,” said Monroe County Planning Director Emily Schemper.
In summary, the updates to the floodplain management regulations include the following:
At this time, there is no timeline for when the new FEMA flood maps will be adopted. Monroe County appealed several areas of FEMA’s preliminary maps and is still awaiting final decisions. Visit www.monroecounty-fl.gov/floodmaps to view preliminary and appeal maps or learn more about flood map changes.
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