MARATHON, Fla. – Some Marathon residents said they noticed heavy machinery over the weekend outside one of the uninhabited Fanny Keys, a private island on the bayside of the island chain.
“I noticed there was a barge and bulldozer and backhoe pushed up to the island,” said Robert Williams, an area resident.
The vegetation in the middle of the island appeared to have been cleared out and bulldozed. The island is usually home to a variety of birds and wildlife.
“There’s pelicans, cormorants, frigates,” Williams said. “I was really angry once I got out there and saw what they had done.”
Marathon officials said a permit would have been needed to do the work, and there is no record that one was pulled. City officials have launched an investigation.
“There was absolutely no permit on record with us,” said Marathon City Manager George Garrett.
In an e-mail, a spokesperson with the Florida Department of Environmental Protection wrote that there was no record of an application for a permit to do work on the island on their end, either.
“Since the island is privately owned, the department spoke with the property owner to request permission to access the island. However, access was not granted. As a result, we will be issuing a site access letter soon to formally request access,” DEP spokesperson Jacob Newberry wrote.
“The Keys are, honestly, a special place. We are within the boundaries of a national marine sanctuary,” Garrett said. “Then the question of whether they could have gotten a permit to do what they did. Honestly doubtful, but until we do that investigation we won’t know.”
The property is listed on the Monroe County Property Appraiser’s website to a couple from California. They did not respond to the several messages sent requesting their comments in time for the deadline of this story.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission is assisting with the DEP’s investigation.
Read FDEP’s response