August 7, 2019

ISLAMORADA — Some recently placed fill in a north parking lot at Anne’s Beach may have to come out, state regulators have warned.

No final decisions have been made, pending ongoing talks to determine a location of the park’s mean high water line and possible solutions.

“There is some disagreement and [the Florida Department of Environmental Protection] is looking at it differently than we did,” said Mary Swaney, assistant village manager of Islamorada.

Anne’s Beach has been closed since the September 2017 hurricane that destroyed the 1,234-foot boardwalk and pavilions, and two parking lots separated by a quarter-mile.

After a June 19 inspection of the village’s reconstruction at Anne’s Beach, on Lower Matecumbe Key near mile marker 74, FDEP staff reported finding “rock fill placed across the entire eastern parking lot. The rock fill extended waterward of the [parking lot] pilings. … The filling activities conducted on the eastern parking lot are outside of the scope of work authorized.”

That could require obtaining a new Environmental Resources Permit, or removing all fill placed below the mean high water line, regulators say.

Contract engineers working for Islamorada responded with aerial photographs, recent and older, that “paint a clear picture of the erosion over time, especially the damage to the area caused by Irma.”

“It was not the village’s intention to reclaim years of erosion but rather to restore what was lost from the hurricane so that vehicles could park in this area as they have for decades,” said a reply from Weiler Engineering Corporation, the village’s project engineer.

The pilings were properly placed to prevent vehicles from winding up in the Altantic waters. But the FDEP’s report indicates the mean high water line extends past the pilings and into part of the lot.

The FDEP makes the final decision on the location of the water line, said Terry Cerullo, an agency spokesman.

No cost estimates for removing the fill, if eventually required, were available earlier this week, Swaney said.

“If we have to meet the FDEP standards, it will take a little more time,” she said.

A $1.49 million project contract was awarded last September to Island Villa, an Islamorada firm. The completion date is scheduled for mid-October 2019 but village officials were hopeful of an earlier opening at the popular beach.

The restrooms at the eastern parking lot will be rebuilt by Islamorada staff.