The Monroe County Board of County Commissioners will accept public comment for the new canal restoration work program that requires updated canal master plan information and proposed selection criteria. The new plan ranks 96 canals in unincorporated Monroe County with poor or fair water quality ratings that do not meet minimum state standards for water quality. Governor Desantis’ office proposed the work program to help provide accountability in implementing canal restoration projects. The newly adopted Administration Commission Rule 28-20.140, F.A.C., amends the County Comprehensive Plan to include a 10-year Canal Restoration Implementation work program. Like other tasks in the County’s work program, lack of progress on the new canal restoration tasks will reduce 20 percent of the County’s Rate of Growth Ordinance (ROGO) allocations.
The County is under a deadline to formalize the canal selection and ranking criteria by June of this year to include it in the County’s update to the State. The selection criteria may be modified as more canal information becomes available. The selection criteria include various environmental factors such as the amount of dissolved oxygen in canals, nutrient accumulation, depth of canals, the connectivity to nearshore waters, and the number of parcels along the canal. It also uses a second set of financial criteria to rank canals to take the best advantage of the County’s limited financial resources.
Canal remediation techniques include organic removal, backfilling, culverts, weed gates, and gravity-fed injection wells to improve dissolved oxygen and the overall water quality of the canals. The technologies were tested in several pilot projects within the County, Marathon, and Islamorada.
The initial price tag is estimated at $540 million to restore the 96 canals. With the proposed ranking system, including, but not limited to, water quality, technology, and implementation criteria, the top 17 canals would cost $21 million to restore.
“Monroe County has been working to improve canal water quality since 2014 when the county implemented a series of pilot projects to test the efficiency and effectiveness of the various restoration technologies,” said Rhonda Haag, Monroe County’s Chief Resilience Officer. “There are limited resources to fund these types of projects, but the County and the State of Florida have recognized the importance of canal and nearshore water quality in the Florida Keys.”
Public comment will be accepted on the Guidance Document and selection criteria through May 12, 2021. The final set of criteria will be submitted for approval at the regularly scheduled June 16 Board of County Commissioners meeting. To learn more about your canal, view the presentation, or submit a comment, visit www.monroecounty-fl.gov/canals. Comments can also be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com with a subject line of “Canal Restoration Program – Public Comment.”