Green Keys Sustainability Action Plan
Monroe County is ground zero for experiencing the impacts of global climate change and sea-level rise. Along the chain of islands that is barely above the sea, many streets experience flooding times throughout the year especially from extreme fall and spring high tides, commonly referred to as king tides.
In 2016, the County set priorities, a work plan, and implementation strategies, which can be found at its Green Keys website. The Green Keys Sustainability Action Plan identifies the County’s vulnerabilities to sea-level rise and climate change and provides a comprehensive 5-year roadmap on how best to proactively deal with these issues that likely will worsen in the future.
Habitat for wildlife that once was high and dry continues to have seawater encroach on the lands. Rising seas have begun to affect some roads and other County infrastructure, as well as some homes and businesses – and will continue to do so into the future.
The Board of County Commissioners approved a hiring a sustainability director, now known at the County's Chief Resilience Officer, in 2012. The director's job is to address sustainability and climate change issues, manage a comprehensive canal restoration project to improve the County's water quality, and to monitor the solid waste and recycling program to help the Florida Keys become more green and sustainable.
In 2017, the Office of Sustainability began the 'Year One' projects listed in the Monroe County GreenKeys Sustainability Action Plan. The larger projects include:
- Mobile LiDAR data elevation project: The office is improving the elevation data on the County’s roads and facilities. Before the County can accurately project the effects of sea-level rise on the County’s roads, the County must first have accurate data on the exact elevation of all 300 miles of County roads.
- Countywide roads analysis: This project, which began in 2018, identifies near-term roads subject to inundation risk, including nuisance flooding. The elevation data from the mobile LiDAR work will be used in the engineering analysis phase of this project.
Southeast Florida Regional Climate Change Compact
Monroe County Chief Resilience Officer Rhonda Haag presented at the Monroe County-hosted 11th Annual Southeast Florida Regional Climate Leadership Summit in December 2019 where she debuted the Florida Keys climate change projections.
During the past decade, Monroe County has taken a leading role in the regional effort to combat climate change and adapt to rising seas. The County is continuing its coordination and activities with the four-county Southeast Florida Regional Climate Change Compact.
A revised Regional Climate Action Plan was issued in November 2017 and presented at the 2017 Climate Summit held in Fort Lauderdale. For the County, planning for climate change and sea-level rise must be integrated into all of our decision-making for a cohesive response.
Heavy Sargassum Year in the Florida Keys
This summer, you may have noticed tons of brown organic material washed up on beaches and decaying all over the Atlantic side of the Florida Keys. But what is it, really? And why is it appearing on our beaches? It’s called sargassum, and it is brown algae - or seaweed - that floats in massive mats out on the open ocean. To learn more, Sargassum Information.
Canal Restoration Program
In 2014, Monroe County embarked on a Canal Restoration Program after a study showed that 311 of the 502 canals throughout the island chain did not meet the State’s minimum water quality criteria – and are a source of nutrients and other contaminants to nearshore waters.
The County has funded $7 million for 8 demonstration projects that used different methods for canal restoration. The purpose was to verify the applicability, feasibility, effectiveness, and costs of the different methods. State and federal grants have contributed more than $1 million to this program.
Results from a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency grant – which provided funding to address data gaps and changes to the State’s DEP dissolved oxygen methodology and criteria in the canal masterplan – showed a reduction in the number of “Poor” classified canals throughout the Keys. Based on this new information, the County is re-ranking and prioritizing canals for potential restoration projects.
In 2018, the Board of County Commissioners adopted the PACE (Property Assessed Clean Energy) Program that provides alternative options for funding of projects that increase energy effectiveness. Homeowners can receive funds, based on specific parameters, and pay back the funds through their property taxes.
Climate Modeling Research
The County continues with climate modeling research to better characterize damage assessments from sea level rise.
Road Elevation Demonstration Projects
In 2017, the County budgeted for the design of two road elevation demonstration communities, one in the Upper Keys and one in the Lower Keys. Progress was slightly delayed due to Hurricane Irma. The design was be completed in 2018.