FLORIDA CROSS STATE BARGE CANAL
The Florida cross state barEe canal is no new scheme,
hatched on the sour of the moment, undertaken without the utmost
consideration of its importance and value.
Nor is it a n-w and unheard of enterprise for the consid-
eration of Congress. Quite the contrary is the case, for Congr-ss
has been making appropriations for the canal for some 35 years.
Gen. Andrew Jackson, who took Florida from Spain
in 1818, and became its military governor in 1821, saw the military
need for a shot cut waterway across the p-ninsula, and never ceased
to urge it, even after he became president.
By 1850 a crlal across Florida had become a part of the
War Department's survey program, and the first surveys by the Army
Engineer Corps were begun..It is probable that, but for the in-
terruption of the Civil War, such a c-nal would have become a
reality contemporary with the transcontinental railroad and
the Atlantic cable.
Before 1925 two complete surveys had been made for a
barge canal across Florida. In that year the project began to
grow into a ship canal. In the Rivers and Harbors bill of 1927 was
included an appropri-tion for a survey by the Corps of Engineers for
a ship canal. The Congress of 1930 make a further appropriation to
complete the survey. Dec. 30, 1933,the Army reported that the survey
had been completed; 28 possible routes had been explored and $400,000
spent in six years work.
In the same year the Florida Legislature created a ship
canal authority and adopted a memorial to the President that
construction of the canal be authorized. Gen. Charles P. Summerall,
a former chief of staff of the U.S. Army, was made chairman of the
canal authority with four other members representing those counties
through which the canal would b- cut. The canal authority was
charged with the responsibility of obtaining the land needed' for
the right of way which is to be paid for by the counties in what is
known as the canal district.
LWpon recommendation of a special board of review
that the economic benefits to the nation as a whole would justify
the expenditure of $160,000,000, exclusive of the land acquired for the
right of way, President Roosevelt allotted $5,000,000 of WPA funds
Aug. 28, 1935, to start construction on the then proposed ship
The U.S. Engineers immediately established construction
headquarters at Camp Roosevelt (now Roosevelt Village) on U.S. 441
three miles south of Ocala, built housing for administration head-
quarters, residences, etc., for camp personnel. They built
the piers for the first of the numerous bridges that will span
the waterway, and let contracts for actu-l digging in Marion
and Pdtnap counties.
Two additional allotments of $200,CCC each were made for
clearing the right of way, but Congress has never made a direct
appropriation for the project.
However money has been provided km the U.S.Engineers
for the preparation of compleworking plans for the barge imo
canal, and for two 4eonomic surveys made by the Engineers.
Having been handed to the U.S.Engineers as a Rivers.and
Harbors project, the canal had to look to the Congres- for further
funds as it became a necessary part of the War Department budget.
The War Departmett's request for $12,000,000 to go on
with the canal went to the appropriate House and Senate committees.
By this time, however, strong opposition by the railroads to con-
struction of the canal had developed, and upon the suggestion of
the late Sgn. Arthur Van enherg of Michigan, lengthy hearings
were held by the Senate Committee on Commerce to determine whether
a sea level canal would damage thh underground water table of Florida.
The water damage myth, which was exploded by eminent geolo-
gists even as to a ship canal, raised fears in Florida that such
damage might result. Florida became a divided state on the canal
project, ard som- people nnot d Sassociate the proposed ship
canal from the now authorized barge canal, which would have a depth of
otly 12 feet.
In 1942 the Board of Engineers for Rivers and Harbors
reported it found that th- value of the barge canal in time of war,
together with benefits in normal times, "is sufficient to warrant
its construction" and recommended that the c-nal be constructed.
The Intracoastal Waterway Cross-Florida Canal, to give
the project its official title, was authorized by Public Law
675, 77th Congress, July 23, 1942.
The report of the Chief of Engineers, which formed the
basis for that congressional authorization, was retained in
confidential status because publication of the information con-
tained there in during World War II was thought to be detrimental
to bhe interest of the United States.
Briefly the project calls for a high -level lock barge
canal from the St. Johns River to the Gulf of Mexico, wibh a depth
od 12 feat and minimum bottom width of 150 feet. The canal will have
five locks 75 feet wide and 60C f-et long. In length th- canal will be
184.4 miles. It is now estimated that its construction will cost
The ship canal of the Florida boom period met great
opposition from those who claimed that the groundwater table of
Florid would become salted or otherwise adversely affected by a sea-
Regardless of merit or lack of merit of this line of
thought the now authorized barge canal with its locks would
eliminate any adverse effects on ground water by thextair-step
created by the locks, so that water levels in the barge canal
would approximate the natural ground-water levels across the
peninsula. A pumping station at Silver Springs would replenish
water lost from the summit pool by lock operations.
Two sizable lakes would be created along the midreaches
of the Ocklawaha river by Rodman dam and Eureka lock and dam. These
should provide increased recreational water areas. The lower reaches
of the Ocklawaha river would be left in their natural scenic conditi-
tion because the canal would follow a dry cut several miles north of
the river. The beauty and functioning of large springs near the canal
route would not be affected.
4hat is the present status of the canal project, you may
ask. It has been authorized by the Congress on the basis of its
value to the national defense.
An economic restudy .,-i aw-. made by the U.S. Corps of
Engineers, recently comoleted,shows that the annual benefits,
principally savings in transportation costs by use of the canal
would amount to $L.05 for every dollar of cost. Value of the
canal to national defense is not included in this comparison. The
bare canal project has thus b-en classed as "active" by the
Corps of L'ngineers. It is not eligible for appropriation of
funds by Congress for construction.
Opening of the canal would save 360 miles of travel
for barge cargoes between gulf ports and those of the Atlantic
aeaboard, and in case of war would eliminate the hazard of
cargoes going by ship around Florida from being sunk by enemy action.
Barges on the canal-arrsuch items as petroleum, manufac-
tured products, iron and steel, grain, cement, fertilizers, coal,
citrus frukt, lumber, machinery, naval stores, cotton, paper products,
salt, sugar, sulfur, crossties, sand, bauxite, building stone,
Fuller's earth, fish, oil and all paint products.
The canal and connecting island waterways would ser e
the principal raw materials producing areas of the United States.
A large volume of bulk freight could be unomm moved by the
barge canal and connecting waterways, thereby relieving the rail
and other transportation systems of the nation.
At the present time 18,000 acres of right of way lands
have been purchased, by the issue of bonds by the six counties
comprising the canal district. Some 60,C00 additional acres must
be acquiredl,estimated to cost $9P00,000. The right of way must
be furnished by the district. Present width of the right of way
is one mile. Since this width was specified for a ship canal, it may
not be necessary to hold to the one mile width for the barge canal.
Great industrial development along the route of the canal
is being prophesied by some of its sponsors. Recently 6. G. Ware,
Leesburg banker and secretary of the Florida waterways committee,
said that construction of the barge canal would result in more
industry for Florida in the next 20 years than the state's present
Principal opposition to the canal in Florida has come
from South Florida, where the water damage myth of a ship
canal alarmed owners of citrus groves. Also, it was pointed out
that there is a shallow canal across the state from Fort Myers to
Fort Pierce, through Lake Okeechobee, which was constructed mainly
as' a drainage project. It carries a small amount of commercial
tonnage because it is of shallow depth and TVoo far south to be of
Sentiment in South Florida, however, is changing. Shipping
interesting the Tampa Bay area are now supporting the canal project.
Opposition on the lower East Coast is dying down. South Florida
port cities are be inning to realize that aside from the economic
advantages that wo-ld accrue from the cross state waterway,its
construction wo-ld open an inland waterway paradise for owners of
yachts and small power driven boats, who would travel across
the state, and up and ea both coasts on cruise trips.
An effort wl- made to get the U.S. Engineers to
put ~h item in their 1959 budget for beginning construction on
the canal. Whether Congress will authorize an appropriation now
is problematical, however, as the Presilent may again turh thumbs
down on any new starter public worked.
.J...r-- m" rb. o m tg sm W T b construct-
Recently thb Florida waterways s Committee, a state-wide
body, at a me tiry held at Silver Sprirgs, endorsed the cqnal as the
key project in its nrograr of waterways improvements()
it a subsequent meeting of the committee, k 2C members
representing all section of th' state, "w-the Florida delegation
in Washington, the prospects for obtaining an appropriation at
this session of Congress were canvassed.
Hearings are to be held before House and Senate ap-ro-
priations committee to urge an appropriation. We believe
that for the first tire in th- canal's history we will have the
support of the entire Florida delegation in Congress in seeking
an appropriation to begin construction.
It should be of interest to point out that construction
on the coral would be of great economic benefit to this section
of the state. Sixty-six hundred men were at work on the excavation
items of the canal in Fe&ru-ry, 193K. A much larger work force
would be employed,if ) substantial 4appropriAtion for the ccnal
should be authorized by the Congress