Contractors at a Key Largo canal restoration project show State Chief Resilience Officer Wes Brooks, Monroe County Administrator Roman Gastesi, and Monroe County’s Chief Resilience Officer Rhonda Haag how silt is removed from poor water quality canals.

Contractors at a Key Largo canal restoration project show State Chief Resilience Officer Wes Brooks, Monroe County Administrator Roman Gastesi, and Monroe County’s Chief Resilience Officer Rhonda Haag how silt is removed from poor water quality canals.      

Newly appointed State Chief Resilience Officer Wes Brooks and Florida Dept. of Environmental Protection Deputy Secretary of Ecosystem Restoration Adam Blalock met with County officials Jan. 6th to discuss local resilience and water quality restoration efforts.

Monroe County Commissioner Holly Raschein, County Administrator Roman Gastesi, Monroe County Chief Resilience Officer Rhonda Haag, County Engineer Judy Clarke, and Legislative Affairs Director Lisa Tennyson thanked Brooks and Blalock for the State’s support in the efforts.

The group then toured two Key Largo neighborhoods included in the Statewide Flooding Resilience Plan, Twin Lakes and Stillwright Point, and visited an active canal restoration project funded through the Florida Keys Stewardship Act.

Brooks and Blalock walk through Stillwright Point in Key Largo, where Monroe County’s Chief Resilience Officer Rhonda Haag shows how high water can reach in the neighborhood. Both Key Largo neighborhoods are on the State’s Resilient Florida list.

Brooks and Blalock walk through Stillwright Point in Key Largo, where Monroe County’s Chief Resilience Officer Rhonda Haag shows how high water can reach in the neighborhood. Both Key Largo neighborhoods are on the State’s Resilient Florida list.  

“This allowed staff to give a broad overview of Florida Keys’ environmental and resilience challenges and how the County is proactively meeting the challenges,” said Gastesi. “Monroe County can be a model for other coastal communities in resilience and restoration efforts.”

Brooks and Blalock also spoke to residents, like Stephanie Russo, in the Twin Lakes neighborhood. Russo showed how sea-level rise affects her and her neighbors’ quality of life when the roads are inundated with up to 2 feet of water, at one point, for 90 resilienceconsecutive days. Brooks, who is familiar with the Florida Keys and its unique challenges, said the Florida Keys are a special place that needs to remain special for generations to come.

Haag discussed more than a decade of resilience work the County has been involved with and explained recent updates to the nearly completed Roadway Vulnerability Analysis and Capital Plan. The plan uses environmental and human-use factors in assessing the flooding vulnerability of 300 miles of county roads. “The vulnerable roads are across the entire Florida Keys; therefore, we will need a united front to move forward on funding and construction alternatives given our preliminary assessments,” she said.

Clarke explained why neighborhood-wide flooding mitigation is not easy nor inexpensive.

“Water management, stormwater road runoff, and residential properties all have to be considered,” she said. “We wish it were as simple as raising the road, but it isn’t.”

The Monroe County Board of County Commissioners and Tennyson will continue working with these and other agency officials to advance the County’s legislative priorities, including continued support of the Florida Keys Stewardship Act, which funds water quality projects and conserves environmentally sensitive land, and the legislative approval for funding of county projects on the new Resilient Florida list.

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