The local grassroots group that has dubbed itself Dump the Pumps, with a mission to attempt to eradicate low-pressure grinder pumps from as much of the under-construction Cudjoe Regional Wastewater System as possible has filed an administrative appeal with the state Department of Environmental Protection.
In that appeal,the group alleges that the Florida Keys Aqueduct Authority has ignored state regulations in its development of the regional wastewater collection system and asks the DEP to reign in the system.
Local law enforcement officials and animal rescue personnel say that the rash of mutilated brown pelicans that were recently found in the Lower Keys seems to have come to an end.
And investigators are no closer to solving the string of abuse crimes.
“I’m just glad it’s stopped,” said Maya Totman, director of the non-profit Florida Keys Wildlife Rescue Center on Big Pine Key.
Totman and her volunteers were involved in more than a dozen rescue attempts of brown pelicans over the span of a few weeks, but weren’t able to get to all the skittish birds they were tipped off to by angered and concerned folks.
Totman said she was alerted to the situation by long-time local charter boat Captain Jim Sharpe Sr. who found an injured pelican while on a run a abut six weeks ago.
When Sharpe and his crew were able to reach the bird, he discovered that its throat pouch had been slit cleanly.
US Fish and Wildlife Service Officer Steve Berger said at the time that the wounds were obviously caused by some human-manufactured instrument, and probably wielded by human hands.
Berger said this isn’t the first time they have found pelicans apparently mutilated by humans.
Residents in Big Pine’s Eden Pines Subdivision are acting more wary these days as they traverse the canal system that serpentines through the subdivision.
Neighbors are a little bit upset that one of their other neighbors has established a personal shooting range on an empty lot next to their home.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency Tuesday officially called an end to the controversial downstairs enclosure pilot inspection program in Monroe County with publication in the Federal Register of that end.
“FEMA is publishing this document to give notice that the pilot inspection procedure under the Pilot Inspection Program was terminated on June 28, 2013 for Monroe County…” states the Register Notice.
Oncoming sea level rise poses a “serious and growing threat to our nation’s endangered species.”
Such is the conclusion of a recent study on sea-level rise completed by California’s Center for Biological Diversity.
And in that study, the group identifies the endangered Key Deer as one of those, among the top five in fact, most at risk for significant impacts from sea-level rise.
The report says that about 86 percent of the land mass that supports the Key Deer population, which are all in the Lower Florida Keys, is less than three feet above sea level. The deer exist primarily in pine rockland habitat, the last remaining stands of which are located on Big Pine Key, No Name Key and surrounding islands.
The report concludes that sea levels in coastal communities have begun to rise faster than anticipated even 10 years ago and that a three to four foot rise is possible by the end of this century. That will leave the majority of existing habitat for the endangered Key Deer either under water or transitions into salt marsh, neither of which are suitable for deer habitat.
Fire Departments from Big Pine to Sugarloaf, along with US Fish and Wildlife Service personnel and state Division of Forestry crews, were called in Tuesday evening to battle a brush fire adjacent to Wildwood Road on Big Pine.
The call went out just before 6 p.m. Crews had the fire under control by about 8 p.m. and mop up work was completed about two hours later.
Residents who live in the Cudjoe Regional Wastewater System service area that remain on low-pressure grinder pumps after the latest round of conversions to gravity by the Monroe Board of County Commissioners say they feel as though they are running out of options.
The group, which has coined itself “Dump the Pump,” is made up primarily of residential property owners who are looking at having grinder pumps installed on their private lots rather than connecting to a gravity pipe in the street.
The group has already appeared before the Florida Key Aqueduct Authority board of directors and the BOCC, “And we feel like we’re chasing the tail,” said Banks Prevatt, a Little Torch Key resident, local realtor, and head of the organization.
Prevatt lives on Pirates Road, the entrance street to Jolly Roger Estates Subdivision on Little Torch Key. He got involved in the movement when he took a look at the system plans for the Cudjoe Regional and realized that he was on one of the streets in that area where grinder pumps instead of gravity pipes would be used.
He says that he was told by FKAA officials that Pirates had too low a density number because it had homes only on one side of the street, and that grinders made more economic sense.
Prevatt didn’t buy that explanation and instead asked FKAA to run an estimate to convert that one road in Jolly Roger Estates from grinder to gravity.
When 2014 dawned Wednesday morning, residents in the Cudjoe Regional Wastewater Treatment System service area were still doing what they started 2013 doing…questioning Monroe County and the Florida Keys Aqueduct Authority on why the largest infrastructure project in the county’s history is being handled the way it is.
And as the year progressed, those questions became more pointed. But sewers weren’t the only things that topped the news cycles in 2013.
The longest running legal battle over wastewater treatment in the Cudjoe Regional service area is no closer to resolution as 2013 draws to a close than it was the day it was filed in the courts nearly a year ago.
The Venture Out homeowners association is still embroiled in a pitched legal battle with the Florida Keys Aqueduct Authority and Monroe County over the procedure that will take place to get the 600-plus unit housing complex hooked into the collection pipe for eventual treatment by the Cudjoe Regional plant.
A sizable contingent of Lower Keys residents appeared before the Florida Keys Aqueduct Authority Board last week to protest the installation of low-pressure grinder pump wastewater systems on private property as part of the now $170 million Cudjoe Regional system instead of building all gravity pipes.
After nearly a half hour of discussion by the residents on why grinder pumps weren’t the answer for wastewater collection in the service area from Lower Sugarloaf to Big Pine Key, the board tossed the issue right back at the Monroe Board of County Commissioners, as FKAA has done throughout the process.
Board Chairman Bob Dean said that the FKAA would prefer to use gravity everywhere feasible, but that construction funding is controlled by the BOCC.
“If they (BOCC) give us more money, we’ll be happy to do it (install gravity),” said Dean.
Monroe County is the funding entity for the initial construction of the Cudjoe Regional system while FKAA is the general contractor during construction and provides the long-term operations and maintenance of the system.
It is those long-term costs of operations and maintenance, as well as the perception from the residents that the grinder pump systems are inferior to gravity, that form the basis for most of the arguments against the pumps.
According to Kevin Wilson, Monroe County Engineer, the protests concerning grinders are based more on perception than actual system designs.
“The Cudjoe Regional system has a very robust design that will work,” said Wilson.