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Transportation Infrastructure

Florida Keys Hurricane 1935

Long Key

After the Matecumbe Area, across 6.4 km of open water was Long Key. And after Long Key was more open water.

The only island between Long Key and Lower Matecumbe was Fiesta Key near Long Key.

Fiesta Key was called Jewfish Key in the 1800s. Jewfish was a type of very large grouper, now called Atlantic Goliath Grouper. Our guess is that goliath groupers could have been seen there in their full splendor, as can now be seen at shallow depths near small islands in the Bahamas, where there is still access to the deep sea and groupers are larger than people and weigh 280 kg (600 lbs).

The entire area, on both sides of Long Key, is now blocked off with dikes and viaducts. Opening this area to the Ocean again would recreate impressive natural recreation opportunities.

Figure 1:  Aerial photograph of dikes and viaducts from Long Key to Lower Matecumbe, December 1935. Gulf of Mexico is to the left, Atlantic Ocean on the right. Dike leading to Long Key is lower-left. Lower Matecumbe Key is upper-left. Note: Description written on the high resolution download states this photograph was taken on the other side of Long Key — that description is incorrect and can be disregarded.
(2 MB)

The aerial photograph above, taken two months after the 1935 hurricane, show the dikes and viaducts from Long Key (behind the camera, not shown) to Lower Matecumbe Key (upper-left, in the distance). All of those dikes and viaducts are still in place today, still blocking water flow.

Several natural channels crossed the open water of the sandy shoals between Lower Matecumbe and Long Key. The channels provided large boat passage between the Gulf (left) and the Atlantic (right). The water was deep enough for small craft to traverse without needing to take the channels. Small craft could go perpendicular to those channels to reach Long Key from Lower Matecumbe.

The names of these channels were numbers, beginning with Channel One on the shore of Lower Matecumbe, now blocked by a dike jetty. Numbering the channels, sequentially in order, would have helped small craft keep track of how far along they were, on their way from Lower Matecumbe to Long Key.

Following is portion of the preceding 1935 aerial photo, showing dikes and viaducts that still block the channels off Lower Matecumbe Key.

Figure 2:  Portion of 1935 aerial photograph showing Lower Matecumbe dike jetty blocking Channel One, viaduct blocking Channel Two, and further dike and viaduct blocking additional channels. All of these dikes and viaducts are still in place.

All of these channels need to be unblocked. One possibility to unblock Channel One may be to remove the dike jetty, and use that fill to build a breaker strip island (long narrow artificial island) off the shore (and following the shore) of the Gulf side of Lower Matecumbe (under a new bridge to Long Key).

Another possiblity may be to seriously shorten the dike jetty, and almost connect the breaker to it, leaving a gap between the breaker and shortened dike jetty. The jetty could extend slightly past the breaker gap to help block incoming Ocean waves from directly entering the gap (essentially itself a breaker), yet allowing storm ebb-current to reflect out toward the Ocean.

Other ways of unblocking Channel One are possible. Research needs to be conducted into how to unblock Channel One.

The Channel Two viaduct, and the curved dike after it (known as Craig or Craig Fill), need to be removed, replaced with artificial islands under a new bridge that should be built straight from Lower Matecumbe to Long Key. Those new artificial islands need to be made parallel to water flow (not parallel to the new straight bridge).

It may be possible to leave a compact island where Craig Fill is now, reachable by boat and ferry, like Munson Island in the Lower Keys. This area would become part of the Ocean again after the surrounding dikes and viaducts are removed, allowing the relatively shallow areas to be part of the Ocean ecosystem, like in the nearby Bahamas. After water currents become established, more islands can be placed in-line toward the Gulf from there, parallel to water flow, also accessible by boat and ferry, possibly connected to each other with pedestrian bridges, fishing docks, etc.

Another arc of compact artificial islands, also parallel to water flow, may also be possible between Channel One and Channel Two, also accessible by boat and ferry from Lower Matecumbe Key.

These arcs of compact islands would be in addition new artificial islands elongated parallel to water flow under a new straight bridge connecting Lower Matecumbe and Long Key, some of those islands optionally connected to the bridge, others possibly not (like Government Island in Oregon although fully accessible by boat and ferry).

Continuing from the Craig dike, a viaduct blocking Channel 5 (and likely blocking other channels) extends to a dike jetty that connects to Long Key and also blocks channels.

Figure 3:  Portion of 1935 aerial photograph showing viaduct blocking Channel 5 extending from Craig dike to a dike jetty that connects to Long Key. A draw bridge, on the viaduct, is shown remaining open. These dikes and viaduct are still in place.

Viaducts, like this viaduct that blocks Channel 5, may contain substantial fill inside the viaduct that could be used to create new artificial islands made parallel to water flow.

The Channel 5 viaduct connects to a long dike jetty that extends from Long Key. Near Long Key, that dike jetty passes and connects to Fiesta Key (which is now in the Gulf of Mexico).

Figure 4:  Fiesta Key, formerly called Jewfish Key, now in the Gulf of Mexico. The highway dike (upper-center to upper-right) separates the Atlantic Ocean (background) from the Gulf of Mexico (foreground). The north end of Long Key (upper-right) is connected to Fiesta Key with the highway dike. The dike continues to the left to Channel 5 (not shown).

The portion of the dike that extends from Long Key to Fiesta Key needs to be completely removed and replaced with a bridge extending all the way from Long Key to Fiesta Key (without jetties or fills). This will restore an obvious channel and laminar flow flats.

The portion of the dike that is immediately adjacent to Fiesta Key (upper-left in this figure) may not need to be removed because it is in the water flow shadow of Fiesta Key, and is referred to as Fiesta Key Fill in this report.

The new straight bridge to Lower Matecumbe can extend from Fiesta Key Fill.

The dike from Fiesta Key Fill to Channel 5 needs to be removed, along with removal of the rest of the dikes and viaducts to Lower Matecumbe from there.

Fiesta Key Fill would then have a bridge leading to it from Long Key, provide a turn-off for Fiesta Key, and have a new bridge that goes in a straight line to Lower Matecumbe.

The new bridge in a straight line, from Fiesta Key Fill to Lower Matecumbe Key, could be multiple bridges in series connecting new artificial islands that are made parallel to water flow (replacing the dikes and viaducts).

Continuing westward past Long Key are many more dikes and viaducts, all continuing to block water flow, and all needing to be removed and replaced with bridges that also could be connected with artificial islands that are transverse to the arc of the Keys (parallel to water flow), made of fill and rubble from removing the dikes and viaducts.


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