Fort Zachary Taylor, in Key West, Florida has provided harbor defense in four wars: The Civil War, Spanish-American War, World War I, and World War II. Construction of the fort began in 1845 with various expansions and modernizations of the fort and weapons occurring until the Army deactivated it in 1947. In the lead up to the Spanish-American War, batteries and new weapons were added. During World War II, 5-inch anti-aircraft guns were positioned within the fort. With the end of World War II, the harbor defense system was considered obsolete, and the Army transferred the property to the Navy.
The Formerly Used Defense site comprises 51.32 acres that were deeded to the State of Florida in 1979. Fort Zachary Taylor is a federally designated National Historic Landmark, and the Florida Division of Recreation and Parks preserves the fort and operates the Fort Zachary Taylor Historic State Park.
Over the years, the Corps has conducted a number of investigations of the Fort Taylor Formerly Used Defense Site, and the Corps divided the area into three projects: Interior Fort and Casemates, Artillery Ranges Land and Disposal Area, and Artillery Ranges Water. While conducting fieldwork for the Site Inspection, which was completed in 2008, teams found munitions within the casemates in areas not open to the public. Therefore, the Site Inspection recommended a Remedial Investigation/Feasibility Study. The purpose of a Remedial Investigation/Feasibility Study is to determine if anything remains in the area from the military's training, and if so, in what amounts and locations.
The fieldwork will include searching for munitions and collecting environmental samples to test for metals and explosives. The Corps' contractor will tow a digital metal detector to locate buried metallic objects on land and in the water. Then technicians will analyze the data to create maps showing the location and amount of buried metal. Grids are square or rectangular areas of various sizes (such as 25' x 25' or 50' x 50') where munitions experts dig up metallic objects to determine what they are and if they present a potential hazard.
The Remedial Investigation will encompass approximately 40 acres on land within the park as well as 99,977 acres in the ocean offshore from the park. You may see crews on land or in boats using metal detectors or other equipment to search for potential munitions. Teams will establish a safety zone around where they are working, so access to some areas may be temporarily limited during the investigation. The fieldwork is being carefully coordinated with park staff, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and other state and federal agencies to protect the environment and historic/archeological features.
Once the fieldwork is complete, the team will analyze the data, draft a report and make recommendations. The results will be summarized in a document called a Proposed Plan which will represent the alternatives for addressing what, if anything, remains on the site. The alternatives can range from no further action being necessary, to educating the public about the site, to conducting a removal action to search for and remove munitions. When the Proposed Plan is ready, the Corps will present it at a public meeting, and the public will have at least 30 days to review and submit comments on the plan.