Florida Keys

The latest battle against sea level rise? Raising one mile of road

This 2015 photo shows tidal flooding in a Key Largo neighborhood.
This 2015 photo shows tidal flooding in a Key Largo neighborhood. Monroe County

In an effort to battle sea level rise, the Monroe County Commission on Tuesday approved spending $517,000 to raise one mile of where flooding is common.

That’s just for the engineering design work and permitting, and that one mile is the total length of road that will be raised in both Key Largo and Big Pine Key.

“It is costly to raise roads,” said county spokeswoman Cammy Clark. “In addition to the design and permitting fees, the construction for the pilot project is estimated to run about $3.5 million.”

The commission made the decision for the “Sea Level Rise Pilot Project” at its monthly meeting in Key West and it only addresses a fraction of the work needed, Clark said.

There are about 144 miles of road countywide at risk of tidal flooding, she said.

The design contract, awarded to WSP US, focuses on specific roads in the Twin Lakes subdivision in Key Largo and the Sands subdivision on Big Pine Key.

Clark said the design work will take 15 months, which includes an estimated six-month period in which to obtain permits.

Construction, which hasn’t been put out to bid, will take a year.

“The pilot project design will include replacing passive gravity drainage through swales and trenches with an engineered storm water collection treatment and disposal system that requires pumps, generators, electricity, retaining walls and deep drainage wells,” Clark said.

The agenda item didn’t get much attention Tuesday. County Commissioner Heather Carruthers called it godo news.

“People need to understand how progressive we are,” Carruthers said. “I don’t know how many other communities are engineering now to deal with it.”