Keys Officials Disappointed Clean-Up Money Cut From State Budget

Jun 24, 2015

The Florida Keys rely on the state for help with big-ticket environmental projects like central sewers and buying land. The island chain is an Area of Critical State Concern and is under a state mandate to clean up nearshore waters by replacing septic systems and cesspits.

The Keys are nearing completion on central sewer projects, like the Cudjoe Regional Wastewater & Collection Plant. Keys officials were disappointed when this year's state budget did not include any money toward that effort.
Credit Florida Keys Aqueduct Authority

The state promised $200 million toward that effort in 2007. Keys officials were hoping for another $50 million in aid from the state this year.

Instead, they got nothing.

"When all is said and done, the Keys will have spent over $900 million dollars, that's almost a billion dollars, to sewer the Keys," said Monroe County Commissioner Heather Carruthers. "So we could really use some funds from the state to help offset that expense since there's only 70-some-thousand of us down here."

Carruthers and other Keys officials say Monroe deserves the extra help because the central sewer systems were ordered by the state. The same goes for strict limits on development along the environmentally fragile islands — with only one road out for hurricane evacuation.

Next year, Keys officials hope they can get a special bill setting aside some conservation money each year for the Keys. The county needs the money to compensate property owners who aren't allowed to build on their property, Carruthers said.

She's hoping state legislators will be more amenable to spending money raised from the voter-approved Amendment 1 to buy land for conservation after they return home from Tallahassee and hear from their constitutents.