Hard truths for Floridians

There's no way to protect the Florida Keys from hurricanes and rising seas. Homeowners face costly remedies.


National News

February 27, 2020 - 10:58 AM

Debris in a canal on Big Pine Key in the Florida Keys, Jan. 18, 2018. The Army Corps of Engineers recently outlined a $3 billion strategy to defend the Keys from future hurricanes and sea level rise. (Charles Trainor Jr./Miami Herald/TNS)

MIAMI — A bird’s eye look at the Florida Keys is all it takes to understand that little stands between the chain of islands and the sea.

A new federal study all but confirms that there are few big, structural options to keep the Keys safe from the stronger hurricanes and rising seas that climate change is expected to bring. The answer, it suggests, is a combination of elevation and retreat.

In a presentation shown to Monroe County Commissioners last week, the Army Corps of Engineers outlined a $3 billion strategy to protect the Keys. The only new construction measure considered is adding additional rocks on either side of U.S. 1 in six key spots. The rest of the plan is a combination of elevating homes, businesses and essential buildings and “retreat” in the form of government-funded buyouts.

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