As part of the canal restoration demonstration project currently underway, engineers had planned to pump dirty canal water out of the Eden Pines Colony canal system onto a wetlands area adjacent and allow supposedly cleaner water from the basin outside the system to fill in.
All in an effort to clean up the degraded water in the residential canal system.
That plan didn’t sit well with local National Key Deer Refuge officials who weren’t terribly keen on mechanical pumps dragging admittedly crappy water out of a canal and dumping it into wetlands areas that served their indigenous fauna and flora population.
Final answer: No pumping out of the canal.
The Monroe Board of County Commissioners Wednesday approved a development agreement with Longstock LLC that allows that company to build a 100-room motel on the waterfront as part of the ongoing Stock Island Marina project.
And with that approval, commissioners also ensured the end of Seahorse Trailer Park on Big Pine Key as it exists today.
Longstock bought the oft-maligned trailer park in the heart of the Avenues section of Big Pine Key earlier this year. The developer needed some way to garner transient rental units for its waterfront motel proposal on Stock Island as there are none readily available under the county’s building allocation criteria.
For the last several years, county officials have renewed an existing moratorium on transient residential units in the Keys, making none available for new construction. Developers wishing to put up motel rooms had to seek transient units from existing facilities, which has most often meant mobile home parks, RV parks and camp grounds.
And such is the case with the planned 100 units at Stock Island Marina. Those transient units, right now, are slated to come from moving development rights from Seahorse Trailer Park on Big Pine Key to the Stock Island location.
That would leave about 25 units attached to the acreage that is Seahorse Trailer Park.
Residents and business owners in the Lower Keys have noticed a marked difference in recent months in the distribution and number of homeless encampments scattered across Big Pine.
Since he took office after the 2014 general election, Sheriff Rick Ramsay has been on a mission to clean up areas of the Keys where trash and people have caused crime to congregate.
The Monroe Board of County Commissioners is expected to approve a local ballot referendum at Wednesday’s regular meeting that will allow the Monroe County School Board to seek voter approval for the extension of a half-cent capital improvements sales tax for another 10 years.
The school district is the recipient of one penny in sales tax yearly for capital projects. However, state rules allow the board to seek voter approval to shift a half-penny of that cent to general fund operations rather than capital projects.
A long-standing battle between Monroe County and a former animal control contractor for the Middle Keys may come to an end Wednesday.
On the Monroe Board of County Commissioner’s agenda for Wednesday is the approval of a settlement agreement between the county and Stand Up For Animals that should put to rest a multi-year legal battle that started with an argument over the cost of animal control and ended with Stand Up For Animals walking away from the county contract.
That was all followed by accusations of poor practices by SUFA concerning its financial record keeping, the county attempting to freeze assets of the contractor, being forced to relinquish that freeze, and dragging out a court fight for several years to try and recoup what county officials claimed was money owed the taxpayer by SUFA.
For Wednesday’s action, the county attorney is suggesting that Monroe County cough up $45,000 in payments to the ousted organization, $8,000 of which will be reimbursed by auditor Paul Mills.
The anti-grinder pump group Dump the Pumps continues to ratchet up the heat on Florida Keys Aqueduct Authority officials and state and federal permitting agencies.
Dump the Pumps has been a vocal opponent of the use of low-pressure grinder pumps in the large Cudjoe Regional Wastewwater System, claiming that the small pipe technology will eventually be bad for the sensitive Florida Keys ecosystem when massive failures begin to occur in the mechanical pumps, and also in rate payers’ wallets for the same reason.
But Banks Prevatt, group president, said he is fearful that the group’s message is getting lost in a bevy of action and counter-action across many fronts.
In a recent letter to the group, Prevatt wrote, “I was told that we may be getting a reputation for being against sewers, and that we are simply trying to be disruptive and bring all sewer construction to a stop.”
That, he says emphatically “Is wrong.”
Florida Keys Aqueduct Authority officials have begun sending out a second round of requests for those property owners in planned areas for the installation of low-pressure grinder pumps to authorize easements and identify hook up locations for the pipe in the street.
There are areas on Little Torch Key where work is beginning to wind down on some low-pressure pipe areas without easements the FKAA requires from homeowners to get on the property and install the primary piece of the puzzle, the actual grinder pump and pit.
While Monroe County will own the grinder pump and pit and it will be maintained under a 99-year lease agreement by FKAA, private property owners must give their approval for the apparatus to be installed.
With the advent of some rather stiff opposition to the installation of grinder pumps as part of the Cudjoe Regional system by the grass roots group Dump the Pumps Inc., FKAA finds itself without the needed approvals from homeowners to dig the trenches and hook up the pumps and pits to the street.
FKAA’s installation responsibility ends when the pit gets hooked up to the street and the pump gets hooked into the homeowner-supplied electrical circuit at the house. From there, it is the property owner’s responsibility to hook the pit into the home drainage system and abandon the old septic tank.
But without easements, FKAA contractors can’t do their part.
What is being billed as the “Greatest Show on Big Pine” kicks off next Friday at 5 p.m.
The annual Independence Day celebration for the Lower Keys will be held this year at the Big Pine Key Community Park at the north end of Sands Rd.
Next week crews will begin work on what is slated to be a seven-month road and right-of-way enhancement project on the south side of Summerland Key, from Caribbean Dr. to West Shore Dr., and encompassing almost all of the commercial district.
The project, estimated to cost about $2 million, in addition to repaving the highway, should also address what has long been a serious drainage issue in the area.
Florida Department of Transportation contractors will repave and re-stripe the half-mile section of US 1. The project also calls for installing drainage improvements on the south side of the highway.
Standing water after even the lightest of rains has long been a problem for the businesses in that area, and even more of a problem in the last four or five years as standing water has increased the depth and breadth of potholes running through the right-of-way.
A couple of years ago, FDOT contractors installed a drainage basin on the north side of the highway that will now receive the flushed water from the new drainage system on the south side.
Business owners in the area have been pleading with FDOT for nearly a decade to address significant drainage issues along the south side right-of-way, along with a heavily potholed travel surface that in some instances prevents low-profile vehicles from entering some shops and offices.
To that end crews will be installing standard French drains which will then flow under the road to the drainage basin on the other side.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency will be visiting the Keys July 21-23 to begin the process of revising the county’s Flood Insurance Rate Maps.
And depending on how that shakes out when the study is scheduled to be completed in 2017, it could again give rise to significant flood insurance premium increases, even if homeowners dodged the bullet this time around with the fallout from the 2012 Biggert-Waters Act.
When Congress voted in Biggert-Waters it was for the express purpose of stabilizing fund balances for the National Flood Insurance Program,a FEMA program where residents in flood prone areas can purchase federally subsidized flood insurance.
After taking huge claim hits following Hurricane Katrina in 2004 and Super Storm Sandy in 2011, the NFIP coffers were estimated to be some $17 billion in the red.