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The post-Irma Keys canal cleanup is 53 percent done. Crews found a hot tub and a sailboat.

Crews hired by the county to clean up Keys canals remove a sailboat from a canal on Lower Sugarloaf Key.
Crews hired by the county to clean up Keys canals remove a sailboat from a canal on Lower Sugarloaf Key. Wood Environment

Fifteen months after Hurricane Irma slammed the Florida Keys leaving canals choked with debris, the county’s $49.2 million project to clear marine debris is past the halfway point, the county announced this week.

Junk hauled out of the canals included a hot tub and a sailboat.

Of the 172 canals set for cleaning, 91 have been cleared, which makes the project 53 percent complete.

“The project is on schedule to meet the 220-day grant deadline that ends March 21, 2019,” said Cammy Clark, the county’s spokeswoman.

Hot tub removed from canal 328 on Summerland Key (2).JPG
A hot tub was found in a canal on Summerland Key. Wood Environment

Also, the project is well within the budget, with $11.9 million of the available $45.8 million used to date in unincorporated Monroe County, Islamorada and Marathon. The grant calls for $3.3 million to be used for environmental monitoring services.

For up-to-date information on the cleanup, including a master schedule of the work and the new list of canals approved for this project, go to monroecounty-fl.gov/irmacanalcleanup. The master schedule should be viewed on a computer due to the amount of information, Clark said.

The project is funded through an Emergency Watershed Protection program grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service. The USDA’s NRCS also is the entity that approves which canals can receive the grant funding.

Debris removed at canal 175 in Marathon (1).JPG
Crews remove debris from a Marathon canal. The Keys-wide project is halfway done. Wood Environment

Nine crews have been working in six spots across the Keys called Damage Survey Report (DSR) areas. The hurricane debris is taken to nearby debris management sites before being hauled to Homestead for disposal.

The project is divided as follows: $35.2 million for unincorporated Monroe County, $7.5 million for Marathon and $6.5 million for Islamorada.

The county hired Tavernier-based Adventure Environmental to lead the cleanup, which started in August.

Adventure and subcontractor Arnolds Towing of Stock Island have a combined workforce of about 60 people on the project. They use four grapple trucks, five sonar boats and 15 barges specifically built for the Keys environment.

Wood Environment & Infrastructure Solutions, Inc. is monitoring the work.

Gwen Filosa covers Key West and the Lower Florida Keys for FLKeysNews.com and the Miami Herald and lives in Key West. She was part of the staff at the New Orleans Times-Picayune that in 2005 won two Pulitzer Prizes for coverage of Hurricane Katrina. She graduated from Indiana University.

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