WHITE MARLIN-PORT ANTIGUA BEACH - A SPECIAL BUT TROUBLED BEACH
A Special, But Troubled Treasure
A Beach on Lower Matecumbe
The Florida Keys doesn’t have many real beaches. But, there is a lovely one on the bayside of Lower Matecumbe, in front of the bayfront homes at Port Antigua and White Marlin Beach at about MM 74.5.
Generations have enjoyed the shallow waters off this beautiful beach, experiencing family beach time by boat. For years now, the crowds have been continually growing, particularly on the weekends all summer long. There are serious safety concerns. And the loud music, huge crowds, jet skis, litter, drinking and adult activities are problematic for nearby residents. It is not usually the local families who are guilty of playing music too loud, urinating and defecating in the ocean, throwing trash and plastics overboard, trespassing, and the like.
Discussions about controls and improvements date back to 2014 when a town hall meeting was held to gather input from residents.
Up until now, there has been just talk, but a plan was finally approved in the summer of 2020. A vessel exclusion zone/swim area received Islamorada Village Council’s approval during a special call virtual meeting on August 12, 2020. The 5-0 vote came during a second reading of the ordinance following two hours of comment from the public, mainly those living in the Port Antigua community.
The swim zone required authorizations or permits from four agencies: Florida Fish and Wildlife (FWC), Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP), U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), and U.S. Coast Guard (USCG). Applications to all agencies were submitted by staff.
As of January 20, 2021
The Village has received the FWC permit, authorization from the USCG, and received the FDEP permit.
However, the FDEP permit is contingent upon the Village acquiring a sovereign submerged lands lease from the state, since it is its submerged lands the Village will be managing. A required benthic and bathymetric survey has been done. FDEP also requires authorization from all adjacent property owners. Several have not yet responded.
The Village is waiting for the USACE permit. That will most likely take the longest to receive.
Once all permitting is complete, the Village will purchase and install regulatory markers and buoys. They are prepared to do that as soon as authorized. Estimated costs for equipment installation is in the range of $21,500 to $37,500.
The Village is hoping the installation of the buoys and markers will be complete by early July.
As of April 21, 2021 (update)
It has been a long and tedious process to get the required permits to install the buoys to delineate the swim zone in front of Port Antigua and White Marlin Beach that was approved by the Village Council on August 20, 2020.
The swim zone required authorizations or permits from four agencies: Florida Fish and Wildlife (FWC), Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP), U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), and U.S. Coast Guard (USCG).
As of April 20, 2021, eight months into the process, three of the four permits or authorizations have been finalized. The FDEP permit proved to be the most difficult. FDEP required a submerged land lease from the State of Florida. In order to have the lease approved, numerous types of surveys were required as well as documentation on the makeup of the sea bottom where each anchor would be located. FDEP also required authorization from every property owner along the beach. The process is now complete and all requirements have been met, but the Village is still awaiting finalization of the permit, expected in the next several weeks.
The Village has the buoys, chains and anchors on order so they will be ready to install as soon as that last permit is finalized.
Peter Frezza, the Village Environmental Resources Officer, has been coordinating this permitting effort. Councilman Dave Webb has stayed involved continually assuring the process continues in the right direction.
There was significant concern raised as the Senate bill 1086 had language that required that swim zones can only be created by municipalities if there is general public access by land to the beach, which is not the case on Lower Matecumbe. Our representative in the Senate, Ana Maria Rodriguez, offered a late amendment on 4/21/2021 eliminating the “general public access by land” and the bill passed as amended.
There are still many questions remaining: