November 21, 2018

ISLAMORADA — The threat of sea-level rise in the Florida Keys often lies just a few yards away.

“Monroe County residents know this area is very low-lying. It’s a very different environment from the rest of the state,” Corey Aitken of the South Florida Regional Planning Council told a “Peril of Flood” meeting in Islamorada.

Aitken, the council’s resiliency and economic coordinator, is assisting Islamorada and Marathon municipal planners in updating land rules to conform with the Peril of Flood law passed by the Florida Legislature in 2015.

The law requires communities to identify “coastal high hazard areas” likely to flood during storms or exceptional high tides as a step toward limiting property damage and insurance losses, and consider additional steps.

“We are seeing larger storms,” Aitken said. “There are areas that have changed over the course of years. Maybe we can look back and see if there is a solution hidden in the past.”

While the planning council assists local governments to improve their flood mapping and building codes in coming decades, development and building regulations will be decided by counties and municipalities, Aitken said.

“We offer assistance on updating the comprehensive plan … advice on what rules and regulations can allow,” Aitken said. “How development works, that’s going to be Islamorada’s decision.”

Monroe County remains a designated Area of Critical State Concern, which gives state officials authority to review Florida Keys rules.

The goal, Aitken said, “is to do what we can to balance the environment and make sure people living in Islamorada can stay.”

Mark Gregg, a former Islamorada councilman and current member of the village’s Local Planning Agency, said he has witnessed more frequent high tides “to the extent that [yard plant] growth has changed more into marine growth.”

“I’ve increased my seawall by 18 inches to protect my property and home from further damage,” Gregg said. “I’m getting really tired of it.”

“We are in the front lines of flooding,” LPA member Van Cadenhead said. “Where we’re standing today some day might be somebody’s favorite fishing spot.”

Additional sessions on flood planning in Islamorada are planned for early 2019.

Marathon residents can attend a Peril of Flood logistics session with Aitken from 3 to 5 p.m. Monday, Nov. 26, at Marathon City Hall’s council chambers, 9805 Overseas Highway.

kwadlow@keysnews.com