MARATHON, FL – The Monroe County Board of County Commissioners approved Wednesday a contract not to exceed $35 million with Tavernier-based Adventure Environmental, Inc. The contract is for the removal of marine debris created by Hurricane Irma in 103 of the most heavily impacted canals in unincorporated Monroe County, the City of Marathon and the Village of Islamorada.
Adventure Environmental anticipates it will have its crews, equipment and permits in place to begin the project in early August, with the work scheduled to take no more than 220 days (about 7-8 months) to meet the federal grant funding conditions.
Adventure Environmental is hiring two locals companies (ASAP Marine Contractors of Tavernier and Arnolds Towing and Salvage of Stock Island), as well as Tetra Tech, Inc. commercial diving division, to work on the project. The crews will be cleaning up canals simultaneously at different locations throughout the Keys. Of the 103 canals, eight are in the Upper Keys, 23 in the Middle Keys and 72 in the hardest hit Lower Keys.
Funding was obtained from the Emergency Watershed Protection Program of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service. A total of $49.2 million is available under this grant ($45.9 million for marine clearing activities and $3.3 million for monitoring). It is divided as follows: $35.2 million for unincorporated Monroe County, $7.5 million for Marathon and $6.5 million for Islamorada.
“Kudos to our County staff and County Administrator (Roman Gastesi) for pulling this off – obtaining this funding really is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” Monroe County Commissioner Heathers Carruthers said, with agreement from the rest of the Commission. “Way to go Roman.”
The federal grant has a local match (non-federal funds) of 25 percent. Monroe County will use $5.5 million of its Florida Keys Stewardship Act funds toward its portion of the local match.
The marine clearing contract with Adventure Environmental may be amended at a later date to add additional available grants funds if they are needed and desired by the County BOCC.
The marine debris will be collected from the canals and taken to four temporary debris management sites throughout the Keys before being hauled to the mainland for final disposal.
The County’s temporary debris management sites are: Rowell’s Waterfront Park in Key Largo and the old Prison site on Big Pine Key. The City of Marathon is using its City Marina and Marathon Blanco Oceanside. The Village of Islamorada is using FDOT property at MM 80.5 on the bayside.
To obtain this funding, on Feb. 15, 2018, Monroe County submitted five Damage Survey Report application packages for Irma marine debris removal to the regional office of the National Resources Conservation Services.
“We would like to thank our elected officials – U.S. Senator Bill Nelson, U.S. Senator Marco Rubio, U.S. Rep. Carlos Curbello and state Rep. Holly Raschein – for helping us navigate the federal grant through the federal system once the USDA-NRCS had approved our project applications,” said Rhonda Haag, Monroe County’s Director of Sustainability who is coordinating the marine debris cleanup project for the County.
All funds go through the County. The County also entered into interlocal agreements with the Village of Islamorada and the City of Marathon that addresses coordination between the municipalities and the County, and the payment by the municipalities for work performed in their areas.
The Commission also approved a contract with Wood Environment and Infrastructure Solutions Inc., not to exceed $3.1 million, for marine debris monitoring services for the project.
Adventure Environmental already has been conducting side scan sonar, photographed the top side of canals and had divers document debris below the water line.
“We are very excited that after months of working to obtain the funding and coordinate the project, the work soon will begin to clean our canals of hurricane debris and hazardous material that is adversely affecting water quality and our marine ecosystem.”