Let’s talk about the sustainability projects that are underway…

Chief Resilience Officer for Monroe County, Rhonda Haag, joined Good Morning Keys on KeysTalk 96.9/102.5FM this morning to talk about sustainability and resilience.

There are a number of projects in the works.

Haag said, “Last year, we had applied for a grant that was for $16 million. We partnered with our municipalities Marathon, Islamorada and Key West to install eight different charging stations throughout the Keys. We call it the electrical vehicle corridor station. What we’re trying to do, of course, is give people at least access to charging stations. So if they want to come and visit they can feel comfortable and confident that they have a place to charge up. There’s a lot of single ones here and there, but we wanted to provide a corridor. So we didn’t win last year, there was 535 applications and they only awarded 47. We were highly highly qualified though, we had a follow up and so the grant has reopened with another about a billion dollars in funds. So we’re going to be resubmitting that for consideration and hopefully this year, we’ll be lucky and we’ll hopefully have some electric vehicle charging stations going in.”

That would be up and down Monroe County.

Haag said, “I think three in unincorporated Monroe and Islamorada, Marathon and Key West and people don’t have to worry about where to stop.”

Road elevation is another goal of Monroe County.

Haag said, “You’re going to see quite a few items. We have, first of all, a resolution for the state funds. We’re going to request the additional match that we need for the Sands subdivision project in Big Pine Key. We have $11.75 million. We need about another 11 million, 12 million according to the bids that we received that we weren’t able to award because we didn’t have the money. So we’re going to go to the commission and see if we could put back in for funds for that. Also for the Stillwright Point neighborhood. We have the 20 million in federal funds for the construction. We now need to ask for the 20 million in state funds. So that project is under design and we’ll be wrapping up in the spring and hopefully if we get awarded, we’ll be ready to move forward with construction. Then on the actual commission, there will be some design and engineering contracts for moving forward with the Big Coppitt road elevation neighborhood project. That’s a really big one. Also the Winston Waterways and Flagler Avenue. So these three really big projects are moving forward with design and permitting and each of those will probably take about a year and a half. Then we already have the federal construction funds for all three of those projects lined up through $175 million grant through FEMA. So we still need another proximately 175 through the state. So when we get a little bit closer, and we get the design and permitting wrapped up, we’re finally moving forward, then we can apply for the state half of the funds. And so hopefully, we’ll get all of these projects fully funded through grants.”

Just the design phase will take a year and a half.

Haag said, “It takes a long time. There’s a lot of surveying involved, and they have to locate where the pump station is going to go and they have to design all the specs, and they have to kind of measure how the water flows through the neighborhoods. It a very detailed tedious task.”

The heavy rains certainly proved the need for the projects.

Haag said, “We’re pretty good at getting grants at the county, and hopefully as we move forward with these five big projects, we’ve got Conch Key out there, too, that we’ll be able to at least get, hopefully most of it funded through federal and state grants, and if we to have to come up with some local funds through the county, that’s a decision that the commissioners will have to make. It’s to the benefit of the residents. It’s to maintain access to their homes, so they can have them for generations if they want and be able to access them during high tide months of October, November, December. It’s for their benefit. That’s really why we do this.”

Canal restoration is also continuing.

Haag said, “We finished the injection well, in Big Pine Key. We’re going to hold a little neighborhood meeting there so we can explain what that’s all about. So we’re expecting that canal turnover to increase greatly. When you increase the amount of water turnover, you get a lot more oxygen in and bring a lot more fish in. We just finished up the one in Tavernier, canal 90, and we’re in a little bit of a break right now. We’re wrapping up a lot of designs, but we’ve got about 15 projects under design and permitting. So we’re anticipating when those wrap up we’re going to have a lot of projects going on throughout the county. So a lot going on. We’re hosting a conference in December, a climate summit in December, where we invite official down and other counties and our businesses and we all get together to talk about how to make the region more resilient to climate change. That includes adaptation, things like road elevation, and sea wall elevation like the other counties are doing and mitigation, too, a lot of good sustainability initiatives.”