There's a big pot of money coming to Florida from the federal government to help communities hit hard by recent hurricanes be more resilient in future storms. The Keys are making the case for a good chunk of that money.
Monroe County was already working on plans to deal with sea level rise and more frequent flooding before Hurricane Irma hit the island chain, in September 2017. And since then, king tide flooding has worsened in some neighborhoods.
Now the local governments and the Florida Keys Aqueduct Authority have gotten together with a proposal. They want $150 million set aside for the Keys from the mitigation money coming from the federal government to the state.
The mitigation program has $630 million in available funds for communities that were affected by hurricanes Hermione, Matthew and Irma. The state has declared 51 of its counties are eligible to apply. If the Keys request is granted, it means that a little over a quarter of the whole pot will be allocated to the southern tip of the state.
"We know it's a bold ask. But we also think we're very vulnerable," said Assistant Monroe County Administrator Christine Hurley.
Hurley said the Keys are hoping to become a national model of resilience in the face of sea level rise. And she said the island chain deserves an outsize slice of the pie because of its importance, environmentally and economically.
"Coastal communities are more at risk than inland communities. We're surrounded by coastline on all of our islands, and we also are an asset of the state like no other," she said.
Possible projects in the Keys include raising roads, building a new reverse osmosis plant for water supply and managing retreat from areas that are flooding more frequently.