We all benefit from cleaner watersBy Steve Estes
During Wednesday’s discussion of canal restoration projects by the Monroe Board of County Commissioners, the members seemed to get a little too hung up on ownership of the canals in the Florida Keys.
Like every other geographic feature in the Keys, canal ownership is a mish-mash of public and private, often overlapping on the same street, sometimes meeting in the middle of the canal.
But we believe the argument is simple.
The residential canals of the Florida Keys all, repeat all, feed the near shore waters and thus have an effect on our water clarity and quality.
The problems with water quality in our residential canals are many and long-standing.
The problems began way back when there were little or no controls on land development here and people platted land they bought, hauled out the backhoe and dredged out some dirt to form canals.
The amount of dirt dredged out was dependent more on how much fill the developer needed to satisfy the upland requirements for home building than creating a self-sustaining canal system.
One of the primary problems we have with canal water quality is that the canals don’t flush properly with the tides because they were dug too deep originally.
And then, we’ve had dozens of storms over the years, each one of which drops its share of junk into the canals.
And then, we’ve had thousands of waterfront residents over the years that have each dropped their fair share of junk into the canals.
We’ve been getting by on leaky cesspits and septic tanks that eventually leach into the nearest body of water—the canal.
Normal life cycles add their air share of silt to the bottoms of the canals.
Each of the above actions caused our canals to get worse by the year, and since we did little to combat the problem when the problem was smaller, now we’re talking big bucks to correct the sins of past generations.
The overall goal is to clean up near shore waters. The canals all add to the degradation of the near shore waters. We all use the near shore waters, be it Upper, Middle or Lower Keys.
Therefore, this is a problem for all of us.
While those who don’t own property on a canal might want to complain that since they didn’t contribute to the problem they shouldn’t have to contribute to the solution, that is a short sighted view.
Unless you live here and don’t enjoy the water that is our lifeblood, you are directly affected by the lack of water quality in our canals.
On days when visibility is only a few feet off the causeway, the reason probably isn’t due to wind or wave, but to muck coming from the canals. And that makes it an issue for all of us.
When the lobster get hard to find in close because the algae is covering everything, that’s an issue for all of us.
When the fish steer clear because the water is bad, that’s an issue for all of us.
We liken canal restoration to building roads. Maintaining roads is a benefit to the entire community, not just the folks who live on that road. And our elected officials never ask who owns the road.
Doing what we can to maintain clear near shore water is a benefit to the entire community, not just those who live on the canal.
Who really cares who owns the canal?
We understand that in today’s age of greed and real estate as a bank account, property values are everything to some, and restoring a canal might make that street’s values a few bucks higher than the street next door.
The end result of this evolution is cleaner near shore water. The canals empty into that near shore water. Clean canals empty cleaner water into the near shore waters.
Thus we need cleaner canals.
It won’t be cheap. Nothing is. But this is an expense we need to bear.