With climate change, this problem with freshwater-dependent native species is only going to increase, he said. The reintroduction in this case involved state land, but with other species, it will inevitably involve county land, he said.
Sea level rises as budget sinks
The action plan provides a framework for these kind of climate refuges, stating that the Monroe County Land Authority should place "a high priority on purchasing natural areas for conservation purposes."
How much any of these ideas will be implemented is an open question. Monroe County, like many counties around the country, is strapped for cash. The 2012 county budget was $319 million.
As a reference point, the county Public Works & Engineering Division's Wilson said it could cost hundreds of millions of dollars to outfit the entire Florida Keys with stormwater pumps that force water down drains during storms, one option for predicted heavier rainfalls with climate change.
Simultaneously, the county is getting less revenue from state and local gas taxes, said George Neugent, one of the five county commissioners.
It is currently funding many of its projects, including the wastewater revamp, with a 1-cent infrastructure sales tax that may expire, depending on whether Monroe County voters approve its extension in November elections. After that, the next priority for use of the sales tax money is roads and bridges in need of repair, Comissioner Murphy said at the advisory committee meeting.
"Don't even think of trying to do anything else with that money," she told the committee members.
Real estate community prefers 'quiet'
But it is those already planned projects that provide a golden -- and often inexpensive -- opportunity for the action plan, Bergh said. As the county resurfaces roads in coming years with money already allocated, he said, it should think about adding culverts so threatened wildlife can more easily move around.
There are also inexpensive ways to restore wetlands through activities such as plugging ditches, he said.
Additionally, he said, research is going to be extremely important. The county has a basic understanding of the most flood-prone areas, based on land elevation data. But it has not done a thorough analysis of natural infrastructure, such as offshore coral reefs and sand barriers, that could play a major role in holding back water from storm surges and rising seas.
"We need to do that analysis and overlay it with our current zoning," Bergh said.
The fate of the action plan may depend on the public's reaction in hearings and time constraints of the county governing schedule. Murphy and others have urged the advisory committee to narrow things down to six or so main points, to not overwhelm the Board of Commissioners. That raises a lot of questions in coming months about what will be emphasized and what will be taken out.
There is no guarantee, either, that the plan will be implemented if it is adopted.
Neugent said public opinion and a "lack of passion" among some members of the board are still obstacles.
The islands are not yet experiencing constant flooding problems, making it difficult to force climate change to the top of the agenda on a day-to-day basis, he said.
The real estate community, for one, is not thinking extensively about climate change and does not want the board to alarm people, he said.
"They want me to keep quiet," Neugent said.
Reprinted from Climatewire with permission from Environment & Energy Publishing, LLC. www.eenews.net, 202-628-6500