More than five months after Hurricane Irma crossed the Florida Keys, clean-up began of the canals that cut through much of the island chain.
Many canals, especially in the Lower Keys where the storm’s eye crossed, were full of debris including RVs, appliances and structural materials ripped from homes.
The county estimates that Irma left 100,000 cubic yards of debris in Keys canals and that removing it will cost between $15 million and $30 million.
The work will focus on the areas hardest hit by the storm. The first canal cleaned up Friday morning, in the Avenues neighborhood of Big Pine, was one that had been restored before the storm as a demonstration project.
On Friday, crews pulled trees, fencing, roofing material and a TV from the canal, according to a county press release.
The first phase of the clean-up is expected to last four to six months and cost $6 million. The state is overseeing and paying for the work. The plan is for the county to then reimburse the state, and seek reimbursement of 75 percent from FEMA.
Collection of hurricane debris on land ended over the weekend of Feb. 10-11, with a total of 2.5 million cubic yards of debris — and 20,000 large appliances collected since the storm on Sept. 10.