March 7, 2018

MARATHON — Marathon is continuing its canal restoration efforts to improve water quality with two projects located near Sombrero Beach Road.

In January, the Marathon City Council approved a grant agreement with the Florida Department of Environmental Protection for the restoration of canal number 257, which is between Sombrero Beach Road and Sunrise Isle.

The grant is for $100,000, and the match requirement for the city is $115,000, or 53.5 percent.

The canal’s water quality improvements involve the installation of a culvert and other improvements, according to George Garrett, deputy city manager and planning director.

The city engaged the firm of AMEC Foster Wheeler, one of its continuing services contractors, to complete engineering and to obtain required permits. AMEC engineers are the same firm the county and the village of Islamorada use for canal restoration, Garrett said.

The restoration of the Sunrise Isle canal involves installing an 8-by-8-foot box culvert to allow the incoming tide to flush the stagnant portions of the canal and potentially a berm break to allow weed wrack to migrate out of the canal system. The final dimensions and locations of the culverts and berm break are to be finalized during engineering and permitting phases to ensure adequate flushing to meet the goal of improving water quality. The anticipated completion date is June 30.

The second canal restoration project is near Calle Ensueno on Sombrero Island off of Sombrero Beach Road. Among the issues there are mangroves that are reseeding themselves and impeding water flow.

Canal restoration is an important and vital step in Marathon’s continued effort to improve the overall quality of nearshore waters and will have a positive impact on city property values, said City Manager Chuck Lindsey. An 89th Street canal restoration project, which involved a culvert, was completed previously.

Marathon’s 2017-18 stormwater utility budget includes $540,000 for non-specific culvert and canal restoration projects. However, the city originally expected to use state stewardship grant money for this work, which has no match requirement. City officials await word on what funds from the Florida Keys Stewardship Act may be coming to the Keys.

A coalition consisting of elected representatives and managers from Marathon, Islamorada and Key Largo journeyed to the nation’s capital Feb. 15 to pursue water quality funding as well. The officials sought fiscal year 2018 environmental funding for the ongoing Florida Keys Water Quality Improvement Program. Promised $100 million over time, the Keys have received about $53 million over the past decade from the feds. The current emphasis on water quality aims to reimburse wastewater system expenditures, as well as fund canal restoration and stormwater treatment.