Saying nope to grinder leaves $$ for someone to pay later
Even though the first residential hook ups to the Cudjoe Regional Wastewater System probably won’t occur for another six to seven months, contractors for the Florida Keys Aqueduct Authority are beginning to close out neighborhoods.
Contractors have begun the process of repaving neighborhood roads ripped up by the installation of wastewater collection lines.
“The contractor started laying new asphalt in the Puerto Bello area of Cudjoe Key last week, and will be proceeding in that area as weather permits and pipe installation is complete,” said Kirk Zuelch, FKAA executive director.
As contractors complete the process that puts pipes in the street, paving crews will come along behind that progress and close out the neighborhoods, leaving only the lateral lines from the homes to the street connection, which will be a function of the property owner.
At least, it will work that way in neighborhoods where the controversial grinder pumps aren’t part of the system.
After several months of meetings and discussions, National Key Deer Refuge Manager Nancy Finley says that a new report out this week has defined a concrete set of management objectives for the future of the endangered Key Deer herd on Big Pine and No Name Keys.
Managers are currently working under objectives outlined in the Key Deer recovery program written more than 10 years ago by then-graduate student Roel Lopez and also in the refuge’s own Comprehensive Conservation Plan written just a few years ago after more than a year of meetings and discussions.
But neither of the existing plans are as specific in management objectives as herd managers need going forward, and both are getting somewhat outdated as conditions on the refuge, and in the deer herd, change, said Finley.
After several million dollars in road work over the last 10 years, county and state Department of Transportation officials plan to again contemplate ways to increase the flow of traffic through and around Big Pine Key.
After the completion of the Key Deer Blvd./US 1 interchange, traffic woes on Big Pine Key began to take a decided upswing, with level of service increasing on the island for the first time in decades to a level C.
Traffic flow through Big Pine Key at one point was so bad that the state declared a building moratorium on the island for eight years. Not one new residential home, not one new commercial building, not one new public facility could be built on the Lower Keys’ largest island because tourists couldn’t clear the island in what the state thought was a satisfactory time.
As with most of the Keys, US 1 is both primary cross-island artery and only through lane for traffic on Big Pine Key.
To address that lousy level of vehicular service, state and county officials made a deal with the US Fish and Wildlife Service, overseers for the National Key Deer and National Great White Heron Refuges, to allow for highway improvements.
In return for limited development rights on Big Pine and No Name Key, the county agreed to what is now the Habitat Conservation Plan, which resulted in an incidental take permit. That permit says that human development cannot significantly impact the continued survival of the endangered Key Deer.
After a five-year monitoring period of the deer tunnels and fences on the eastern end of Big Pine Key, the groups allowed that deer kills were again at acceptable levels and road improvements began.
Since then, level of service on Big Pine Key has been slowly rising, with the moratorium lifted by the state in 2004.
The Florida Keys Mosquito Control District can resume spraying in an effort to kill adult mosquitoes on Big Pine Key following the release last week of a finding of no significant impact for revamped spraying techniques by the National key Deer Refuge.
The plan is for the next five years, eliminating, according to Mike Doyle district executive director, the need to renew the permit yearly and potentially forcing another closure of adultaciding by the district.
The year-to-year permit from the refuge to spray for adult mosquitoes on Big Pine Key expired last June. No aerial missions have been conducted in the ensuing year, causing some residents to get quite vocal about the number of biting bugs inundating their neighborhoods.
But Doyle says that the numbers compiled by the district don’t show things to be quite that bad as personnel ramped up larvaciding operations around the island, which accounted for about an 85 to 90 percent kill rate on the mosquito population.
FKAA, service in consultation: Gravity work stops on Big Pine
The US Fish and Wildlife Service late last month asked the Florida Keys Aqueduct Authority to suspend trenching operations on Big Pine Key due to potential adverse effects on federal endangered species.
And while that has changed the approach of the FKAA contractors on the project, work has not stopped.
Several residents in and around the Big Pine area have been inundating USFWS of late with letters claiming that the FKAA may be doing harm to listed federal species as a consequence of the work being done on that island right now in conjunction with the Cudjoe Regional Wastewater System.
“Our primary concerns are associated with both direct ground disturbance, and potential alterations to hydrology and water quality/quantity issues and their indirect and cumulative impacts to federally protected species,” wrote Donald Progulske, Everglades program supervisor for the FWS Vero Beach office of ecological services.
“Our available records indicate that three federal candidate plants: Big Pine Partridge Pea, wedge spurge and sand flax are documented on the project site. In addition, the proposed project site work is within the service’s consultation area for the endangered Key Deer, the Lower Keys Marsh Rabbit and silver rice rat,” he wrote.
The Monroe Board of County Commissioners last week decided that it would just be too costly to open a full-service permitting office in the Lower Keys to accommodate what could be as many as 7,500 permit applications in the coming four years.
That is the estimate on how many permits will be needed for property owners in the Cudjoe Regional Wastewater System service area, which spans from Lower Sugarloaf Key to Big Pine Key, to hook into the central system once installation of collection pipes is completed.
That number doesn’t include the more than 7,000 permits that will be needed for property owners inside the Cudjoe Regional to abandon private septic tanks as part of that hook up process.
County staff and Florida Keys Aqueduct Authority officials both plan to recommend that residents of No Name Key get their enhanced wastewater treatment from on-site septic systems and not be added into the central collection system.
Most of that is based on the estimated cost of running central collection pipes to the remote island off the northeast shore of Big Pine Key for the 43 homes there.
The average cost per EDU in the Cudjoe Regional, which will also include No Name Key, is about $18,000 per. The cost to run central pipes to No Name Key is somewhere between $69,000 and $88,000 per unit, according to Tom Walker, project engineer at FKAA for the Cudjoe Regional system.
“The plan currently has No Name Key listed as a cold spot, to be served by on-site systems. That hasn’t changed,” said Walker.
Using on-site systems leaves residents with a decision to make.
Local insurance agents expect the recent flow of letters demanding proof of primary residence from the National Flood Insurance Program to continue.
And they suggest that you can get out in front of yours and eliminate the stress that comes with the unexpected receipt.
Legal representatives for the grassroots group Dump the Pumps last Friday filed a writ of mandamus in the 16th Circuit Court to try and force the state Department of Environmental Protection to forward petitions the group has filed against permits in six areas of the ongoing Cudjoe Regional Wastewater System to the state Division of Administrative Hearings.
Those petitions, according to group counsel Robert Hartsell, should void the permits that are allowing contractors for the Florida Keys Aqueduct Authority to continue to dig pipe trenches.
Monroe County officials have decided to get tougher on violators of the county’s canal trimming standards.
The Board of County Commissioners adopted an ordinance about ten years ago to regulate the amount of overgrowth allowed along residential canals in the county.
Under the terms of the ordinance, property owners must trim back navigable obstructions in the canal to no more than 10 percent of the canal width to allow for safe passage of boats.
And while county code officers have spent some time attempting to enforce that ordinance, the situation has continued to get worse in the last decade.
Resident complaints about canal overgrowth have gotten more frequent in recent months.
So county staff Wednesday asked for permission to devise a program that will help it eliminate the navigation issues while putting the cost onus onto the property owners violating the ordinance.