Vehicles are pulled from canal 277 on Big Pine Key recently. CONTRIBUTED

In the last six weeks, Hurricane Irma marine debris removal throughout the Keys has been ahead of schedule – so ahead of schedule that another 41 canals have been added to the laundry list. 

Adventure Environmental Inc. the lead contractor on the multi-million dollar cleanup project with Monroe County, has until March 2019 to bring the waterlogged debris to the surface. During a discussion at the Sept. 19 meeting of the Board of County Commissioners, Adventure director Greg Tolpin said crews are 22 percent of the way through.

That leaves more time to clean an additional 41 canals, with 15 in Key Largo, 16 in Islamorada and 10 in Marathon.  

“This is to stretch the existing $49 million grant further,” said Rhonda Haag, county sustainability director. “In some of the canals, there’s not a lot, so there is a diving team on each boat and they’re using the divers to get the stuff on the bottom.”

If there were no new canals added to the list, Adventure would still meet the clearing deadline by January for all 103 canals. 

So far, 29 have been cleared, Haag said. Among the estimated 59,281 cubic yards of debris in all canals, about 12,000 has been collected, Tolpin said. The debris includes a car and a minivan that were removed from a canal on Big Pine Key this week.

Adventure Environmental and subcontractor Arnold’s Towing of Stock Island have a combined workforce of about 60 people committed to the project using four grapple trucks, five sonar boats and 15 barges specifically built to perform in the Keys environment. Wood Environment and Infrastructure Solutions Inc. is monitoring the work.

The hurricane marine debris is being taken to nearby sites before being hauled to Homestead for proper disposal.

For up-to-date information on the cleanup, including a master schedule of the work and the list of canals to date approved for this project, go to www.monroecounty-fl.gov/irmacanalcleanup. The master schedule is better viewed on a computer than on a mobile device, due to the amount of information.

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