A Big Pine Key canal is cleaned in the first phase of the Hurricane Irma marine debris removal in 2018. CONTRIBUTED

On July 17, Monroe County announced it had secured permission to clean an additional 76 canals. One-hundred and seventy two canals have already been cleared of hurricane debris, and five out of 10 canals have been cleared of sediment.

“For residents who say we haven’t cleared their canal yet, we’re coming back,” said Rhonda Haag, the county’s director of sustainability.

She said the federal Natural Resources Conservation Service approved the extra 76 canals (it turned down 148 in the same application cycle) because the county submitted extra documentation.

“Some of the debris was covered by sediment, which wasn’t visible on the underwater sonar, so we went back with an underwater camera to document the debris,” she said.

About $28 million of the original $49.2 million grant has been spent. The cleanup for the additional 76 canals, and anticipated okay to clear sediment from five more canals, would cost about $6 million. Haag said that would leave about $15 million of the original grant unused. She said the county would extend the contract and could complete the work by Dec. 31, 2019.

A breakdown of the canals to be cleared:

  • 37 canals in the Lower Keys
  • 2 canals on Big Pine Key
  • 17 canals on Conch, Key Largo and in Tavernier
  • 7 canals in Islamorada
  • 13 canals in Marathon

Haag said the final two canals on Big Pine Key are the only ones remaining on the to-be-cleaned list. There are five canals still undergoing sediment removal, or dredging, on Big Pine Key. Monroe County Commissioner David Rice praised the department for its efficient, timely work and cooperation with Adventure Environmental and Wood Environmental and Infrastructure Solutions.

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