The annual American Water Resources Association conference was held last week in Key West. Rhonda Haag, Monroe County Director of Sustainability, presented at the conference on Thursday on County adaptation efforts regarding climate change and sea-level rise in the Florida Keys. The conference focuses on the latest developments in water resource management in Florida.
“Monroe County is among the most vulnerable counties in the nation,” said Haag.
Haag’s presentation centered on “bridging the gaps” between sustainability, climate change, and resiliency. She discussed Monroe County’s Road Inundation Analysis and Elevation Plan, which will address flooding impacts, stormwater improvements, and potential elevation costs for the 300 miles of County roads. The County has recently embarked on two road elevation projects in Key Largo and Big Pine. Haag added that the County is also doing resiliency planning for its facilities and parks, like Harry Harris Park in Tavernier, the Stock Island Fire Station, the new Marathon library and Bay Shore Manor Senior Home.
The County is also finalizing the Watershed Master Plan for the Green Keys Sustainability Action and Resilience Plan that identifies the vulnerability of its stormwater infrastructure. Completion of the Watershed Master Plan will enable the County to meet one of the three prerequisite requirements to move unincorporated Monroe County from a Class 5 to a Class 4 designation in the Community Rating System (CRS) for flood insurance discounts for homeowners. With the new designation, Monroe County’s CRS discount will increase from 25 to 30 percent, boosting savings from $5.1 to $6.1 million per year.
In addition, Russell Morgan, State Conservationist in Florida for the National Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), presented on the agency’s Emergency Water Protection Program grant program, which is the federal grant program that funds the removal of marine debris and sediment removal projects resulting from Hurricane Irma in the Florida Keys. Morgan highlighted the 248 canals that have been approved for debris removal with ten being approved for sediment removal.