Keys councils urge action to help Florida Bay

With a unanimous vote Thursday, Islamorada Village Council members signed on to the campaign to help restore Florida Bay.

“It is incumbent upon the Florida Legislature and governor, U.S. Congress, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and South Florida Water Management District to continue to partner in this concerted effort prioritizing the health of Florida Bay immediately,” said the resolution.

“It was a defining moment,” Councilman Mike Forster said in a social-media post. “Too many politicians are held back by what is politically correct, and that is not taking care of ... our fragile ecosystem under siege.... The time for change is now. ”

Monroe County commissioners considered a Florida Bay resolution earlier this year but held it back after several residents and conservation groups urged the board to adopt stronger and more specific language. The county’s resolution was expected to be scheduled for a July 20 meeting in Marathon; the agenda for that session has not been released.

Islamorada’s resolution urges authorization and funding for the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan “and other projects that will help restore [fresh water] flows to Florida Bay....”

Those projects include a spreader canal and other work to mitigate environmental damage caused by construction of the C-111 canal system, and construction of a large water-storage reservoir area in the Everglades Agricultural Area south of Lake Okeechobee.

Lack of a water reservoir in the agricultural has been cited as a contributing factor to the current algae bloom affecting waters along Central Florida coastlines.

“The restoration of freshwater flows through the Everglades ecosystem and into Florida Bay is critical for the health of Florida’s estuarine ecosystems, recharge of the Biscayne aquifer with potable water, and sea-level rise resiliency,” says an Islamorada staff report to the council. “The ecosystem of the Florida Keys, including Florida Bay, attracts over 4 million visitors and over $4.5 billion in economic activity annually.”