A canal-maintenance plan for Duck Key took a step closer to approval Wednesday.
Monroe County Planning Commission members voted unanimously to endorse a change in the county’s land-use plan language that would allow Duck Key property owners to dredge canals, more than a half-century old, that have become silted in and now support some marine-bottom organisms like seagrass.
Current county law allows permitted dredging in existing canals, but not in areas where benthic life has taken hold. The rule change, to be considered at a future meeting of the Monroe County Commission, specifies that only interior canals on Duck Key are covered by the language pending change.
County planning staff, following general direction of the county commission, objected to an earlier proposal by the Duck Key Benefit Inc., residents’ group to allow dredging in an open-water channel that leads from Duck Key to the Atlantic Ocean.
At a January 2016 meeting, Monroe County commissioners told Duck Key residents that they were not willing to approve maintenance dredging “in areas with benthic [marine bottom life] resources in channels, even if at the mouth of a canal — areas where both edges are under water,” a staff summary describes.
A revised request limiting dredging to no more than 6 feet deep and confined to the mile marker 61 island’s “interior” canals was supported by planning staff before being passed by the Planning Commission at its Marathon Government Center meeting this week.
“It boiled down to the fact that no one really had an issue about maintaining canals at Duck Key,” said Owen Trepanier, a Key West project consultant for Duck Key Benefit.
“The Keys are historically a maritime area, and a great percentage of the people who live here are tied to the water through culture and the community,” Trepanier said. “Access to water is important.”
Monroe County commissioners stressed in a 2016 meeting that they did not want to open the door to dredging in open waters, but did not oppose work in Duck Key’s canal system.
Duck Key Benefit has received state and federal permits, Trepanier said and will apply for Monroe County permits if the revised language is added to the county land plan. Work could be begin in about a year, contingent upon fund-raising efforts.
Kevin Wadlow: 305-440-3206