On Dec. 23, President Joe Biden signed into law authorization of a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) $2.6 billion coastal storm and sea-level rise infrastructure resiliency project in the Florida Keys. Appropriations for the project will require separate, annual approvals by Congress.

The county also secured a nearly $1 million initial appropriation, approved in the omnibus spending bill, to fund the planning, engineering and design of six U.S. 1 stabilization projects in the Keys, the first phase of the plan. The plan includes 5,500 feet of the road at mile markers 79.5, 70, 70.9, 67, 37, and 34.5, identified as vulnerable to erosion and wave energy. Estimates for the completion of the construction phase of the U.S. 1 stabilization project are $16 million.

With the Board of County Commissioners’ support, Chief Sustainability Officer Rhonda Haag and Legislative Affairs Director Lisa Tennyson worked with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) and local stakeholders for five years to put this project together, including numerous public meetings. Then they worked to move the project authorization and appropriation through Congressional approval.

Based on the development of a three-year USACE coastal storm risk study, the project plans for the economic, environmental and social effects of coastal storms and sea-level rise and addresses the hardening of U.S. 1, dry floodproofing of critical infrastructure and private commercial buildings, and elevating residential residences. The study did not address the resiliency of locally-maintained roads, which Monroe County completed under a separate study.

Future appropriations will allow for the voluntary elevations of up to 4,698 vulnerable residential homes and the dry floodproofing of 1,052 commercial and 53 critical infrastructure buildings susceptible to storm surge damage throughout the Keys. Dry floodproofing allows for essential services to resume more quickly after a storm surge.

The total project, including the dry floodproofing and elevations, is estimated at $2.6 billion, to be split 65 percent federal ($1.7 billion) and 35 percent ($893 million) non-federal . Non-federal funds can come from the state, county, municipalities, residents and other non-federal entities. The county is coordinating with the Florida Department of Transportation for the non-federal match for the U.S. 1 stabilization phase. The county also intends to sign sub-agreements with the five municipalities to authorize and fund work performed within the cities.

“We are committed to making Monroe County as resilient as possible against the effects of future storms and sea-level rise,” said Monroe County Administrator Roman Gastesi. “This partnership with USACE allows us to tap into federal money to help offset resiliency costs to Florida Keys residents.”

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