The Water Quality Protection Program (WQPP) Action Plan (Item W.10) of the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary identifies impaired water quality in residential canals as a priority for corrective action. Many of the residential canals in the Keys do not meet the state's water quality standards and are a source of nutrients and other pollutants to near shore waters. Water quality problems in residential canals include land-based discharges of inadequately treated wastewater and stormwater, poor tidal circulation or flushing and accumulation of organic debris, such as dead seaweed and flotsam, leading to elevated levels of nutrients, fecal bacteria and biochemical oxygen demand. Improvements in wastewater treatment and stormwater management practices are currently being implemented in many areas of the Keys. These improvements are an essential first step, but will not fix all the water quality problems existing in canals. Although many of these problems are linked to wastewater and stormwater discharges, others are caused by the physical structure, depth and orientation of these canals.
In order to address this issue, the WQPP Steering Committee created the Canal Restoration Advisory Subcommittee and tasked this group to develop cost-effective and feasible strategies to improve water quality in residential canals. Recognizing the importance of improving water quality, Monroe County secured $5 million and Islamorada, Village of Islands secured $100,000 to fund canal restoration projects. The subcommittee is currently working with the county's consultant, AMEC Environment & Infrastructure Inc., to complete a canal management master plan and to select several canal restoration demonstration projects. Some of the remedial actions being considered - such as installation of seaweed gates and air curtains, construction of culverts, removal of accumulated organics from the bottom of the canals, backfilling to remove deep stagnant zones, and pumping to enhance circulation - will require authorization or permits from federal and state agencies with jurisdiction.
For more information on the ongoing canal water quality restoration program for the Florida Keys Water Quality Protection Program, please visit the Monroe County website.
The Florida Department of Environmental Protection is the state’s lead agency for environmental management and stewardship – protecting our air, water and land. The vision of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection is to create strong community partnerships, safeguard Florida’s natural resources and enhance its ecosystems.