Nancy Klingener

Nancy Klingener covers the Florida Keys for WLRN. Since moving to South Florida in 1989, she has worked for the Miami HeraldSolares Hill newspaper and the Monroe County Public Library.

She is a Spring 2014 graduate of the Transom Story Workshop. She is on the board of the Key West Literary Seminar and reviews books for the Miami Herald

Almost two years ago, Hurricane Irma destroyed or did major damage to more than 4,000 homes in the Florida Keys. It also devastated many hotels, especially in the Middle and Upper Keys.

It's been more than 20 years since the last comprehensive plan to manage the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary.

It's been decades since Monroe County opened a new library branch. And even longer since the county built a library. That is about to change.

Construction began on a new library in Marathon last month.

In the last few months, Key West has banned the sale of chemical sunscreens and the use of styrofoam and some pesticides on city property. Now the city is taking on single-use plastics.

Rebuild Florida is a state program that helps people whose homes were severely damaged in Hurricane Irma. The program is also aimed at removing some homes in harm's way .

For months, a truck that serves only as a mobile billboard has been driving around downtown Key West. Its days on the island may be numbered.

Key West is taking on the island's abundant wild iguana population. They're everywhere, including city-owned property, from the old landfill known as Mount Trashmore to the historic cemetery in the center of the island. 

For the last several weeks, Chicago-based composer and percussionist Ben Wahlund has been a resident artist at The Studios of Key West, absorbing the island and its people, both the tourists and the service workers who provide the only-in-Key West experiences for them.

Wahlund's observations and encounters have been transformed into a dozen musical compositions that he's calling "Mile Marker Zero."

WLRN's Nancy Klingener talked to Wahlund about his work and got a preview of some of the pieces he'll be performing on Saturday, July 13, at The Studios of Key West.

There are a lot of challenges to living in the Florida Keys. The biggest is the cost of living. But even some people who can afford to live in the Keys are leaving anyway for another reason — the lack of access to medical care.

About 25 Democrats in Key West gathered at Shanna Key, an Irish pub, to watch the debate.

Bert Sise is chairwoman of the Democratic Party in Monroe County.

She was watching to see the candidates address a couple issues in particular.

"Climate change for sure. For sure. Because all of our lives in South Florida are going to be impacted by what happens in the next couple of decades," she said.

While the spotlight was on the candidates Wednesday evening, Sise says local party members have an important role to play in the election and in national politics.

In September 2017, Hurricane Irma destroyed or majorly damaged more than 7 percent of the homes in the Keys. A lot of those were ground level and mobile homes — what passes for affordable housing on the island chain.

On Thursday, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis came to Marathon to announce a new state program that will provide $140 million for affordable workforce housing.

A new report from a climate change advocacy group estimates the costs of protecting public infrastructure from rising seas. And the Florida Keys are facing one of the biggest bills.

The recent U.S. ban on cruise ships traveling to Cuba has had a ripple effect on South Florida's cruise industry. Yet not all of it is bad news.

In fact, it's bringing more attention to the southernmost port of call for these big ships in the continental U.S.

People in South Florida have lots of reasons to resent iguanas. They pillage the garden. They poop in the pool. And in the Keys, they sometimes knock out the power.

Now Keys Energy Services, the utility that provides power from the Seven Mile Bridge to Key West, is taking steps to prevent that.

The red tide on Florida's Gulf Coast last year killed dolphins, manatees and fish. A new study finds the toxic algae also affects stone crab, one of Florida's most valuable seafood products.

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