The Monroe County Board of County Commissioners unanimously approved spending $242,000 of Department of Environmental Protection Stewardship Grant funding for removal of Hurricane Irma marine debris from five plugged canals in unincorporated Monroe County.

The cleanup project started immediately and includes canals 19 and 20 in Key Largo, 62 in Rock Harbor, 122 in Plantation Key, and 448 on Big Coppitt Key. Other plugged canals in the County and municipalities may be included. Plugged canals are non-flushing and have no boating access and because of these factors, the marine debris can have an even stronger negative effect on the water quality.

With funding from the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture Natural Resource Conservation Services (NRCS) Emergency Watershed Program funding, the County and local municipalities were able to clear 172 open canals of Hurricane Irma debris and is in the process of sediment-removal of another 10 canals in the County and local municipalities. The program included three plugged canals, based on NRCS eligibility requirements. The Stewardship grant funding can be used for these types of water quality projects.

The removal process includes disposal at designated debris management sites.

"The plugged canals selected were impacted by Hurricane Irma and need to be cleared of its marine debris," said Rhonda Haag, Director of Sustainability for Monroe County, who oversees the project. "This is a one-time opportunity to help improve the water quality in these canals by removing the debris that is contributing to their impacted waters.”

Eligibility requirements for the canals are based on the level of impact, pre-Hurricane Irma water quality testing, and the number of homes along the plugged canal.

For more information about projects in the Florida Keys, visit www.monroecounty-fl.

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