Editorial by Nada Khalaf-Jones
On the Irmaversary of September 10th 2017 the odious Hurricane Irma threatened to wipe out communities in the Florida Keys. The destruction left in its wake was complete in some areas. Other areas faired better. Either way our Florida Keys life and the infrastructure and environmental assets that support it all are still here.
Albeit changed forever by Irma’s passing.
The series of short films we’re making gather together the clean up story, a year down the road, with regular updates on Monroe County Administrator, Roman Gastesi’s successful securing of funds for a $39 million dollar project from federal agency NRCS.
Approximately the federal funds are intended to return the canals and coastal communities’ waters to healthy, ‘clean waterways.’ For fund minutiae MCOBOCC and NRCS can be accessed from the links.
Our story is a visual journey that delivers information from the center of the clean up action along the Florida Keys.
We began filming Adventure Environmental Inc (AEI) when they launched their fleet of 13 barges out of a marina in Key Largo recently. The challenge of moving the fleet around the Florida Keys to most affected areas and removing debris from deep canals with shallow entrances is many fold.
AEI works to a required standard that involves a commitment to do no further harm whilst problem solving along the way. Manatees are gently herded out of canals by divers, the canals are blocked off ensuring the often anaerobic contents of the silt when stirred up by digger claws is contained as much as possible.
We filmed with aerial cameras as they piled the debris with care onto barges, loading into trucks, returning to precise pre-scanned sonar and gps points to ensure all debris is cleared.
At the Key By The Sea, Marathon, Floria site, environmental engineering company and official watchdog of the project, Wood Inc., log all the contents of the canals as they come up in the claw, get placed on the barge, get rinsed and transported to the debris pile for canal 242, a short truck drive away.
Here a at ‘The 242 Pile’ Wood Inc monitor records the slowly growing pile on her ipad, by taking a series of photos of the inside of the truck from above and each delivery after it’s placed on the pile.
According to locals, who have photos to back this statement up, Canal 242 a person could walk across on the top of the trailer homes after the storm.
Adventure Environmental Inc’s Operations Director Chris Colarusso informed Senator Marco Rubio during a recent 2 minute stop off at the Key By The Sea clean up site, “they were stacked on top of one another.”
Progress is ongoing, removing debris left by the storm and improving our waterways is a concern for the people who live here, the state of Florida, and a dire necessity to reclaim and reestablish a modicum of health on our precious and always challenged coastal environment. It has a global impact too.
In a time of ongoing commentary about inshore and nearshore coastal waterway health decline, algal blooms tied to fertilizer run off are a daily topic in the news, when we meet local long time fishermen who say the water looks bad, when we meet first time tourists who don’t want to swim in it.
Winning federal funding to clean waterways should be a celebrated moment because it sends the right impression. Yes. That matters. Perception changes minds and prompts actions.
In the end it’s the passion of a few that can turn the intentions of the many. For the good in this case. Another small group responsible for some of the biggest perception changes comes to mind. This month, September 2018 the annual Alligator Reef Light Swim has a massively positive impact on your and my perception of our waterways health. It’s their first since the storm. Welcome back. Keys Stronger.