RCAP Database | Case Study of

Initiative: Monroe County Canal Management Master Plan and Restoration

Contact Name: 
Rhonda Haag
Contact Email: 

Canals are the closest water bodies to the visitors of the Keys. Cleaning up the canals is going to definitely help the tourism industry

- Gus Rios, Florida Department of Environmental Protection

Quick Facts & Statistics

In total, of 502 canals, 171 canals received a Good water quality classification, 180 received a Fair classification, and 131 received a Poor classification. This included canals in all municipalities.


In Monroe County, prior to environmental regulations, dredge and fill activities created 170 miles of canals. Most canals are long dead-end networks with little or no tidal flushing.  Many of these canals do not meet the State’s minimum water quality criteria and are a potential source of nutrients and other contaminants to near shore waters within the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary designated as Outstanding Florida Waters.

Clean canals are important for recreational use and propagation and maintenance of healthy fish populations. A Canal Management Master Plan was developed to understand the water quality conditions of every canal in the county and develop feasible strategies to improve the water quality in the canals.

Implementation Process

In response to the documented water quality issues in the residential canals, the Water Quality Protection Steering Committee, which manages the water quality in the FKNMS, designated a Canal Restoration Advisory Subcommittee to focus their efforts on developing methods to improve the canal water quality.  The Canal Restoration Advisory Subcommittee provided oversight of the development of the CMMP and the future implementation of recommended restoration techniques.

One of the main objectives of the CMMP was to prioritize the residential canals within Monroe County related to need for water quality improvements. A process was developed utilizing water quality assessment data and physical conditions of the canals that influence the ability to improve the water quality and benefit the public. The canals were classified by water quality characteristics into “Good”, “Fair”, and “Poor” categories. Those canals receiving a “Poor” classification were scored and ranked in order to provide a list of high priority canals which were suitable for consideration of various public works restoration projects. In total, 171 canals received a Good water quality classification, 180 received a Fair classification, and 131 received a Poor classification. This included canals in all municipalities.

A preliminary technology selection process was developed utilizing the identified source(s) of water quality impairment and the canal characteristics. Restoration technologies recommended in the CMMP include removal of accumulated organics, incorporation of weed gates or similar weed barrier structures, addition of culverts, construction of pumping systems, and backfilling of deep canals.  Implementation of these technologies was initiated through a Canal Restoration Demonstration Program.  

Implementation Timeline

A Canal Restoration Demonstration Program was initiated in 2013 to start implementing the CMMP. Restorations will be completed within approximately 18 months. Effectiveness monitoring will extend into 2017. Restoration of other canals will be an on-going effort for many years in the future.    

Implementation Funding

$5 Million has been approved to complete the Canal Restoration Demonstration Program which includes the construction of a series of 6 demonstration projects that test various technologies for canal restoration.  The County is researching funding options for future restoration work, including state and federal funds, and some type of municipal taxing unit. The results of the demonstration projects will be used to further define restoration costs and provide information for future grant applications to state and federal sources.

Community Benefits

Restoration projects implemented as a result of this CMMP will be evaluated closely to determine their effectiveness based on both water quality and ecological response factors.

A comprehensive baseline was established to document existing conditions. The evaluation will consider parameters including water quality conditions (both field and analytical), ecological field surveys, and habitat surveys. 

Community benefits are anticipated to include:

  • Greatly enhanced water quality (increased levels of dissolved oxygen)
  • New or improved benthic areas serving as habitat
  • New and increased level of marine life including various fish species, manatees, plant life, etc.
  • Potential for human “swimmability” of the canals
  • Increased valuation of residential homes.

Resource Links

Monroe County Canal Restoration: http://www.monroecounty-fl.gov/index.aspx?nid=598