Lower Matecumbe Key


Sea Oats Beach

What a sight driving along U.S. One just a few feet from the azure blue waters of the Atlantic Ocean from about MM74.5 to MM75!  No homes between you and the ocean. So close you can almost touch the water!  Sheer beauty. But that is just about the end of the good news.....

The close proximity of the highway to the shoreline of the Atlantic spells future disaster. 

Who is impacted:  Not only the folks living on Lower Matecumbe but everyone that travels the Florida Keys beyond our island - tens of thousands of residents and property owners.  

Access after a storm could be impossible if major damage occurs to U.S.One at this narrow stretch of highway.  It would not be just an inconvenience....  it could be a matter of life and safety … getting emergency personnel and supplies to points south!  

We have all known for years that this stretch of highway is in serious jeopardy from storms large and small, long before we even thought about "sea level rising." 

When will something be done to create more than a short term patch?

 Answers are difficult to obtain.  No one seems to be able to answer... what next?

​It appears that Florida Department of Transportation does have a plan for U.S. One.  But the plan may be to restore the highway and the right of way (to the waters edge) to nearly the same condition that existed pre-Irma....and that plan may not be implemented until 2020!


  • But this restoration would create nearly the same condition that resulted in significant damage during Irma.
  • The pre-Irma condition was worse than the condition 20 years ago that resulted in the  need for major work to open the highway after each and every tropical storm or hurricane since Hurricane Georges in 1998 
  • The experts project that the sea level will be rising in the next several decades at an accelerated pace, perhaps covering the highway during normal high tides not so far in the future. 
  • What about the sand blocking the bike path?  What's the plan for it?

While admittedly it is difficult to find out what to expect... these are the photos and plans found on FDOT's website:

Why is it Called Sea Oats Beach?

Why do we call the area  "Sea Oats Beach?"  The beach was once lined with sea oats plants - and not that long ago.   

Sea Oats are a vital part of the ecosystem in so many coastal areas, playing an important role in coastal conservation.  Because of this, it is illegal to pick sea oats in Florida.  They have a massive root system capable of holding soil and sand in place during extreme weather like hurricanes and tropical storms. 

The sand that collects around the plant actually stimulates its growth. The cycle of sand collection and plant growth facilitates expansion of the sea oats and the sand dunes. If a sea oat is buried by the sand, it develops an underground stem system that grows to the surface and produces another plant.

Sea oat leaves and stems also trap wind-blown sand. That increases the size of the dunes, too. Of course, sand dunes also help protect the coast from erosion during high winds and storm surges.

"Sea Oats Beach" has virtually no beach left and no sea oats. 

With every storm, large or small, the surf pushes sand from Sea Oats Beach onto U.S. One.  Hurricane Irma came and went and with it the sand washed up and over U.S. One. With the surge, big chunks of highway went too.   A huge mound of beach sand rescued from the highway sits along the bay side of U.S. One, on the bike path, sifted and cleaned, waiting to be used to restore some semblance of a beach.  

Where have the sea oats gone?

  • Washed away with the beach sand?
  • Have the FDOT "improvements" to the shoreline after storms made it impossible for sea oats to serve the intended purpose?
  • Is there just no longer room between high tide and U.S. One?
  • Too many people walking along the shoreline without regard for the critical vegetation?

Time to rename Sea Oats Beach? ... any thoughts?

Jeopardy Beach?