West Fanny Key vegetation removal sparks outcry from locals
When Marathon resident Bob Williams set out on Sunday, September 19 for his daily swim around the east and west of Fanny Key, two small gulf-side islands just off the south end of Marathon, he encountered a surprising and inevitable obstacle: a barge and excavator clearing the vegetation of the center of the island.
Confused, Williams quickly returned to shore and grabbed a GoPro, only to find the barge pulling away by the time he returned to the island. Several posts shared on Facebook sparked an uproar among community members, and Williams called George Garrett, director of Marathon City the next day.
“I have seen many examples of clearing to improve the view of the water for new homes, but this incident was particularly egregious due to the density of the birds,” said Williams. “Egrets, herons, frigates, pelicans and cormorants all nest there. It is devastating for a healthy and viable colony. “
After learning of the incident, Garrett contacted both the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) to establish separate but cooperative investigations. After touring the island with the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office and observing from the surrounding waters, Garrett asked the Code Department to issue a citation.
“They absolutely needed it and didn’t apply for a building permit or land clearing,” Garrett confirmed. “It’s a permit that would have been difficult, if not impossible, to obtain. It was absolutely a violation of our code.
A special hearing of the magistrate has been set for Thursday, October 21 at 2 p.m.
In a statement, DEP added to Garrett’s comments. “The Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) is investigating reports of illegal mangrove clearing on West Fanny Key, a vacant offshore island. The DEP has no record of an application for a permit to carry out the activities described above, and at this time, our investigation remains active and ongoing. After gaining access to the site with FWC investigators on Tuesday, September 28, the ministry said it was drafting a warning letter.
“The ministry is in the process of finalizing its compliance inspection report, which will be made public and published in our public database once completed,” continued the DEP. In addition, the department is in the process of drafting a warning letter, which will require responsible parties to meet with the DEP to review possible violations of Section 403, Florida Statute and provide the department with the facts necessary to complete its regulatory review. . The department is committed to upholding Florida’s environmental laws and holding offenders accountable. We will continue to share information as we progress through this application process. “
At the start of the investigation, photographs of the island taken immediately after Hurricane Irma, which swept through most of the greenery in the Keys, questioned whether the island’s vegetation was alive at the time. clearing. However, personal photos and satellite images taken from the storm confirmed that the island is home to many living trees and plants.
According to Williams, he and many others fear that the fines resulting from the compensation may not be enough to deter similar actions in the future.
“After three decades here in the Keys, I have seen similar things on a much smaller scale. I’m tired of seeing fines becoming a cost of doing business, ”he said.
According to the Monroe County Real Estate Appraiser website, the Fanny Key Islands were last sold in 2015 to a couple in California and are currently valued at $ 3.3 million. Keys Weekly attempted to contact the couple for comment, but received no response.