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Up Or Out: $5.4 Billion Corps Plan To Protect Keys Relies On Elevations And Buyouts

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has released its plan to help the Florida Keys adapt to rising seas. The $5.4 billion plan would include elevating more than 7,000 homes and buying out almost 300.

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It's a very different approach from the Corps plan to protect downtown Miami, which involves flood walls and gates.

"Really, it's elevation. We can't put a wall — you put a wall on one side, then water comes in through the other side," said Monroe County Administrator Roman Gastesi. "We don't have that luxury of going inland. There is no inland."

The plan includes stabilizing just over a mile of shoreline along the Overseas Highway, in six different segments. That would help the road withstand storm surges.

It also includes floodproofing 47 "critical infrastructure" buildings and almost 4,000 commercial buildings. 

The buyout portion of the plan could be a problem. Corps policy says they have to be able to use eminent domain. That's when the government can buy your property even if you don't want to sell.

"That's a dealbreaker for us. We will not move forward if that's still in there," Gastesi said.

The county is trying to get a waiver from Congress on the eminent domain part of the plan. If they don't, they would probably go forward only with the other parts of the plan — which means they would lose out on federal money for any of the buyouts.

The Corps has scheduled virtual public meetings and office hours about the plan in July. Keys residents have until August 10 to offer feedback.