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Executive Summary

Executive Summary

Monroe County is ranked third highest in the country for impacts of tidal flooding. Sea level rise will affect county residents through increased nuisance flooding, fluctuations in storm severity, and the resulting changes in our ecosystems and species populations.  It will also affect average temperature levels, precipitation rates, and human health.

GreenKeys! is Monroe County’s plan for addressing climate change and sea level rise.  It  provides guidance for decision- makers as well as for county employees, residents, and business owners. With 165 recommendations and a 5-year work plan, GreenKeys! is a blueprint for increased sustainability and resilience to climate change.

GreenKeys! contains six focus areas aligned with county priorities for future planning and project implementation:

GreenKeys! Results Summary

Sea Level Rise Scenarios

Under a high sea-level rise scenario of a 2-foot rise by 2060, nearly 36% of the population is projected to be displaced.  The high sea-level rise scenario for 2100 predicts that 54.8%  of the population will be affected by an increase in sea level of 2.7 feet and 83.1% affected with 5.4-feet of sea level rise.

Vulnerability Analysis


We used the Florida Department of Transportation’s Sketch Planning Tool to evaluate road vulnerability county-wide.  This analysis shows the impacts to roadways during  king tides (the highest predicted high tide for a year) and during daily tidal flooding.

County Buildings

Of 35 buildings evaluated, all but two show potential exposure to regular tidal flooding (not considering storm surges) by the year 2060. Many others  show potential exposure to Hurricane Wilma-type events amplified by sea level rise


As sea level rises,  upland and freshwater-dependent land is converted into tidal wetlands and open water.  Many upland habitats decrease dramatically as sea level rise increases.


Under a low sea level rise scenario, no wastewater treatment plants shows risk of regular tidal flooding by 2030 or by 2060.  However, under a high sea level rise scenario, by 2060 there is potential for ground-level flooding of some of the structures.

Saltwater corrosion of water supply infrastructure from increased tidal exposure is another risk of increasing concern for the Florida Keys Aqueduct Authority (FKAA) and county.  Monitoring and  modeling indicate that a wedge of saltwater intrusion has penetrated the Biscayne Aquifer along the Card Sound Road Canal toward the FKAA wellfield.

All of the assessed electrical utility infrastructure is higher than the tidal flood elevations predicted for 2060 under the high sea level rise scenario.  This means that even under the worst case scenario, this infrastructure will not be disturbed.

Sea Level Rise Modeling for Properties

For Key Largo, elevating and floodproofing buildings proved to be more cost-effective adaptation strategies than either building an offshore barrier or a voluntary buyout of properties.  For Stock Island, elevating and floodproofing buildings was also found to be the most cost-effective strategy.

2012 Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Emissions Inventory Update

Updated data on greenhouse gas emissions shows significant reductions from both government operations and from the community.  However, much of this reduction was due to changing from landfilling municipal solid waste to incinerating most of it in a waste-to-energy facility.  Such significant reductions will be more challenging in the future.

Sustainability Evaluation

Sustainability Tools for Assessing and Rating Communities (STAR) is a system for assessing a community’s sustainability ranking and for setting targets and measuring progress.  Monroe County has been certified as a 3STAR Community, placing itself at the forefront of  sustainable practices.

Linkage to Other Plans

includes 165 recommendations to make the county and its residents more resilient and sustainable. Of the 165 GreenKeys! recommendations, 66 support  initiatives also recommend in the Monroe County Climate Action Plan (MCAP) and 67 support  recommendations in the Regional Climate Action Plan (RCAP) of the Southeast Florida Regional Climate Changes Compact (Compact).

Summary of GreenKeys! Recommendations

Icon 01-07Government Operations:

Government buildings and facilities will become increasingly vulnerable as sea levels continue to rise.  Eight goals and 57 recommendations address this.  Some examples:

  • Conduct detailed site-level assessments of the most vulnerable county facilities.
  • Create improved LIDAR elevation data county-wide.
  • Perform energy audits on county facilities to develop priorities for retrofitting.
  • Create a list of incentives to encourage construction of energy-efficient and water-conserving structures.
  • Continue greenhouse gas (GHG)inventory updates and reductions.
  • Increase rates of waste diversion and recycling.
  • Improve employee sustainability practices.
Icon 01-07Climate & Energy

To decrease greenhouse gas emissions which cause climate change and sea level rise, we must change our energy consumption, technology, and daily operations.  Nineteen specific recommendations  help  accomplish these mitigation goals, including:

  • Create a database of nuisance flood events.
  • Ensure that nuisance flood data informs future road decisions.
  • Develop a ranking process to identify the most vulnerable neighborhoods first.
  • Continue sea level rise vulnerability discussions.
  • Create a list of energy and water efficiency incentives for the Rate of Growth Ordinance (ROGO).
  • Adopt a plan to improve the resource efficiency of community businesses.
Icon 01-07Natural Systems

Climate change and sea level rise will inundate upland ecosystems.  As the oceans continue to acidify and warm, the composition and productivity of marine ecosystems will change.

To mitigate these effects, there are 24 recommendations, including:

  • Continue cooperation with federal, state, and private partners in support of coral reef restoration.
  • Complete a county-wide tree inventory.
  • Identify and mapping natural inundation buffers.
  • Maintain natural habitat corridors.
  • Identify and protect core areas with the best chances of persisting and adapting to sea level rise.
  • Promote living shorelines and mangrove restoration.
  • Continue invasive exotic species management throughout the county.
Icon 01-07Built Environment

Planning needs to focus increasingly on adaptation strategies.  These include avoidance, accommodation, and protection. There are 25 recommendations, including:

  • Maintain and strengthen setback policies.
  • Impose use restrictions in areas most vulnerable to flooding.
  • Adopt an “environmentally challenging locations” ordinance.
  • Incentivize resilient construction standards.
  • Establish adaptation action areas.
  • Increase mileage of bicycle lanes and shared use paths.
  • Identify strategies to provide better public transportation options.
  • Adopt a complete streets policy.
  • Incorporate dark skies practices into land development regulations.
  • Adopt zoning and development regulations that support farmers’ markets, community gardens, and urban agriculture.
Icon 01-07Health & Safety

Climate change and sea level rise will affect emergency response and evacuation routes as well as the health of county residents.  To ease these affects, there are 20 recommendations, including:

  • Incorporate sea level rise impacts into emergency management plans.
  • Support school district participation in Florida’s Farm to School program.
  • Encourage the sale of local catch by charter captains.
  • Include active living or active transportation in the Comprehensive Plan.
  • Create guidelines to encourage the incorporation of active building design in new buildings.
  • Adopt a health-in-all -policies statement.
  • Encourage workplace wellness programs.
  • Identify resources for disposal of toxic materials.
  • Develop informational resources on how to properly dispose of unused medicine.
Icon 01-07Economy & Jobs; Equity & Empowerment; Education, Arts & Community

A more sustainable economy , we will see several important benefits, including increased economic opportunities for sustainably focused businesses and an overall shift toward a greener economy.  As tourism and coastal recreation patterns shift with changes in climate and sea level, so to must the  economy.  To facilitate the shift to a greener economy, there are 20 recommendations, including:

  • Develop an “arts, culture and innovation” policy or plan.
  • Build on the county’s commitment to public art to create opportunities on major streets.
  • Encourage sustainable practices in the county’s Art in Public Places Program.
  • Encourage diverse community involvement in county government.
  • Adopt policies or regulations to increase market demand for green buildings and materials.
  • Develop and maintain a sustainability handbook for business owners.
  • Encourage sustainable business practices.
  • Create or support promotional campaigns to bank locally, buy locally, or buy from small independent businesses.

GreenKeys! 5-Year Work Plan

To effectively implement Greenkeys!, a 5-year work plan includes recommended capital projects, policy and code revisions, education and outreach initiatives, operational and programmatic considerations, and budget estimates for these actions.

Outreach, Education, and Next Steps

The county will continue sharing GreenKeys! results and  ensure that residents and business owners are informed about changing conditions and engaged in the process of adapting to predicted impacts.

To study the effectiveness of specific GreenKeys! recommendations, the county plans to organize pilot projects.  For example, it may conduct a pilot project on the feasibility of floodproofing or elevating structures or it may conduct a pilot project to assess stormwater and tidewater impacts on vulnerable county roads.

Focusing on strategic planning, wise investment, and adaptations now enables the country to make proactive changes that maximize preparedness and overall resilience while the impacts of climate change and sea level rise are still minimal.

Executive Summary