The Everglades

Title: Florida quarterly bulletin of the Agricultural Department
Full Citation
Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UF00077083/00066
 Material Information
Title: Florida quarterly bulletin of the Agricultural Department
Uniform Title: Avocado and mango propagation and culture
Tomato growing in Florida
Dasheen its uses and culture
Report of the Chemical Division
Alternate Title: Florida quarterly bulletin, Department of Agriculture
Florida quarterly bulletin of the Department of Agriculture
Physical Description: v. : ill. (some fold) ; 23 cm.
Language: English
Creator: Florida -- Dept. of Agriculture
Publisher: s.n.
Place of Publication: Tallahassee Fla
Publication Date: -1921
Frequency: quarterly
monthly[ former 1901- sept. 1905]
Subject: Agriculture -- Periodicals -- Florida   ( lcsh )
Agricultural industries -- Statistics -- Periodicals -- Florida   ( lcsh )
Genre: periodical   ( marcgt )
Dates or Sequential Designation: -v. 31, no. 3 (July 1, 1921).
General Note: Description based on: Vol. 19, no. 2 (Apr. 1, 1909); title from cover.
General Note: Many issue number 1's are the Report of the Chemical Division.
General Note: Vol. 31, no. 3 has supplements with distinctive titles : Avocado and mango propagation and culture, Tomato growing in Florida, and: The Dasheen; its uses and culture.
 Record Information
Bibliographic ID: UF00077083
Volume ID: VID00066
Source Institution: University of Florida
Holding Location: University of Florida
Rights Management: All rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier: oclc - 28473206
 Related Items

Table of Contents
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        Page 2
    The Everglades
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Full Text
* 1

Volume 25 Number 2 sy) .aa

Supplement to



APRIL 1, 1915.



Entered January 31, 1903, at Tallahassee, Florida, as second-class
matter under Act of Congress of June, 1900.


T. J. APPLEYARD, State Printer, 4
Tallahauee, Florida
10 :

l /oS .

g0~d f! r~pl.c~)


By F. C. ELLIOT, Chief Drainage Engineer


This article is written for those who may be interested
in the drainage of the Everglades of Florida. In the
following pages is briefly set forth some of the most
important facts, conditions and conclusions relative to
the reclamation of Florida's great inundated prairie, des-
tined in the near future to become one of the most produc-
tive agricultural regions in the world.
Much of the information here offered is in answer to
questions which have been selected from hundreds of let-
ters written by parties making inquiries relative to the
Everglades. Other information is added in order to, in
some degree, complete and carry out a logical arrange-
ment and treatment of the subject.
In the caldron which boils eternally over the political
fires every subject, sooner or later, comes to the top, and
so the Everglades Drainage Project did not take shape
purely as an engineering undertaking, but had its origin
in the form of a political plank in a party platform, and
was in that way brought to the notice of the public. In
the campaign of 1905, the successful candidate for Gov-
ernor was elected on a platform pledged to the drainage
of the Everglades. And since that time, notwithstanding
the many obstacles necessary to be overcome, reclamation
by drainage has, on its own merits, gradually become one
of the fixed policies of the State.
It is hoped that these pages may, to those who read
them, serve to set forth in true light and afford to some
extent, at least, a correct idea of the subject under dis-
cussion. From the language used, technical terms have
been eliminated, as far as possible.

The Everglades are situated in the southeastern portion
of the Florida Peninsula, below the 27th parallel. Gen-
erally speaking, they lie south of Lake Okeechokee, have a
width of about forty-five miles and a length of nearly one
hundred miles, with an area of 2,860,000 acres. The Ever-
glades Drainage District includes the Everglades proper
and contiguous lands embraced in the same drainage area
or basin. The district has an area of 4,300,000 cres. The
surface of the 'Glades is twenty-one feet above sea level,
just south of Lake Okeechobee, and slopes gently toward
the south at the rate of about three inches per mile. West
of Miami the surface of the glades is from six to eight feet
above sea level. The glades are in no way a swamp. They
present the appearance of a broad, level, grass-covered
prairie. They are covered almost uniformly with a growth
of sawgress. There are practically no trees in the Ever-
glades. Clumps of small bushes are found near the east-
ern edge and in the southern portion. Along the eastern
border, where the glades merge into the higher land, con-
siderable growth of cypress occurs, usually of small size,
though in some places fine timber is found. On the west-
ern edge of the glades occur fine strips of prairie, now
utilized as cattle ranges. A heavy growth of custard
apple fringes the southern shores of Lake Okeechobee.
At their southern extremity, the glades merge almost im-
perceptibly into the tide water of the sea.
The soil of the Everglades consists chiefly of muck,
varying in depth from ten to twelve feet just south of the
lake, to three or four feet in the southern portion of the
glades. The muck is reduced to a thin layer at the edge
of the glades, finally giving way to the sand of the sur-
rounding country. This muck soil was formed by the
dying, falling and decaying of each successive growth of
vegetation. In their normally inundated condition the
Everglades were covered by from one inch to one and one-
half feet of water.


* I

"a 1


The vegetation in the upper glades is much denser, as
a general rule, than in the lower, or southern glades,
and as the muck soil is produced by fallen vegetation, it
would naturally be supposed that the muck would be
deeper over the areas of densest growth. Such is, in fact,
the case, the muck being ten to twelve feet thick near Lake
Okeechobee, where the vegetable growth is heaviest, and
thinner, as a rule, in the southern glades, where vegeta-
tion is and has been less dense. Of course, there are other
agencies which also affected the thickness of the muck,
but the one above referred to is the one most important
under normal glade conditions.
A log thoroughly and continuously immersed in fresh
water will be preserved for ages. Timbers have been re-
moved from fresh water that are known to have been sub-
merged for hundreds of years and found to be in a fair
state of preservation. And so this accumulation of muck
has been made possible by the preserving action of the
water which covered it continually and prevented thor-
ough decomposition, which would have occurred had the
ground been much exposed to the air.
Soil, generally speaking, is formed by the decomposition
of the rocks of the surrounding country. Often the soil
is transported far from the place where it was originally
formed. As a general rule, soil is the product of the de
structive agencies of nature. Not so with the soil of the
.Everglades, which is an exception to the general rule.
Everglade soil is a product of constructive agencies. It
has built itself up by its own growth of vegetation, and
has actually created itself, to a very large extent, at least,
by this constructive process.
The soil is underlaid by a bed of limestone, chiefly
oolitic in character, rather soft, but very jagged and un-
even along the eastern edge and in the southern portion
of the glades. This gives place to a hard, smooth slab
limestone further toward the interior of the glades. This
great bed of limestone forms a broad, shallow, flat-bot-

tomed trough or flat basin, slightly turned up at the
outer edges, these outer edges forming what is commonly
called the rock rim of the Everglades. Down through the
interior of this broad, shallow, flat-bottomed rock trough,
from north to south, the slope or dip which is toward the
south is very slight, so slight that for all practical pur-
poses this great limestone bed inside of the outer edges of
the same may be considered as an immense level floor.
More especially is this the case in the upper half of the
glades. This condition exists from the south shore of
Lake Okeechobee eastward and westward to the edge of
the glades, and southward to a line drawn generally west-
ward from Fort Lauderdale. Westward from Fort Lau-
derdale, the flat slab rock formation, common to the upper
glades, begins to change and is replaced toward the south
by the softer limestone. The rock floor maintains its
generally level character, but is full of small pot holes,
with sharp, jagged edges, very much like an immense
honey comb. This characteristic extends all the way from
the line west of Fort Lauderdale to the southern extremity
of the glades, gradually dipping toward the sea until tide-
water is reached in the proximity of the Thousand Islands
and White Water Bay.
On this great limestone floor lies the muck soil of the
Everglades, thicker at Lake Okeechobee, thinner at the
edges of the glades and toward the south. The soil rest-
ing on this level rock floor, being thick at the lake and
thin toward the south, gives to the surface of the glades
that gradual slope which permits the waters overflowing
from Lake Okeechobee and the waters from natural rain-
fall on the glades, to gradually find their way, seeping
through soil and meandering through sawgrass southward
to the sea. But by far the greater portion of the water
on the glades passes into the air by evaporation and is in
that way disposed of. At a few places along the eastern
edge of the glades, notably at New River and Miami River,
the water broke through the rock rim of the glades and



made its way directly to the sea. Other portions of this
water from the glades makes its way slowly and tediously
through the entire length of the glades to the sea at the
southern extremity of the peninsula.
Lake Okeechobee, the second largest body of fresh
water wholly within the United States, is nearly circular
in form, about thirty-two miles in diameter, and has an
average depth of about fifteen feet. Its normal elevation
is twenty and one-half feet above the level of the sea, and
through the varying seasons of the year fluctuates through
a vertical range of about two and one-half feet between
high water in the rainy season and low water in the dry
season. The banks of the lake on the west and south are
low and marshy. On the east a low sand bank confines
its waters. This lake is the catch basin receiving the run-
off from a watershed to the northward about seven times
its own size, finding inlet to the lake by numerous creeks
and rivers, the principal of which, and by far the most
important, being the Kissimmee River. During the rainy
season an enormous quantity of water is discharged from
this watershed into the lake, and continues in less amount
during other seasons. Formerly, in its natural condition,
when the lake became filled to overflowing, it discharged
its water over the low shores on the south, inundating the
Everglades, adding its quota of water to that of local pre-
cipitation on the glades, which escaped very slowly on ac-
count of the insignificant slope, lack of channels, and the
obstruction to flow offered by the dense growth of saw-
The waters which inundate the Everglades are of two
kinds: First, waters of overflow from Lake Okeechobee;
second, waters of local rainfall on the glades. If Lake
Okeechobee be lowered so that it cannot overflow its banks
one portion of the water which now inundates the glades
will be removed. If the excess rainfall on the glades be
carried off, the other portion of the water which floods
this area would be removed.

The plan for drainage purposes two general things:
First, to construct a large canal by the shortest feasible
route from Lake Okeechobee to the Atlantic, for the pur-
pose of lowering the lake about four (4) feet and bring-
ing it under control; second, to build drainage canals
through the glades, connecting with the sea, for the pur-
pose of carrying off the excess local rainfall. The lake
control canal will be approximately 25 miles long, 150 to
200 feet wide, and will have a 10 to 12 feet depth of flow.
The Everglades drainage canals proper will be approxi-
mately sixty feet wide and ten feet deep. The accom-
panying map shows the general arrangement of main
canals and the suggested plan for the major system.
The conditions existing in the Everglades are most
favorable for economical drainage by means of canals
operating under gravity alone. The elevation of the sur-
face above sea level and the distance from the sea are such
that the canals which will be constructed will have a
sufficient grade to give a good current for carrying off the
water, a mile to two miles per hour, without making ex-
cessive cuts. The slope of the land surface to the south-
ward, about three inches per mile, is nearly the slope of
the bottom of the canals which run southward from Lake
Okeechobee, so that the depth of cut for the canals
through the glades, from north to south, is almost the same
along the entire length of the canals. This is of great
value in the economical construction of the main canals,
which traverse nearly the entire glades from north to
south. Neither is the slope so steep that currents with
dangerous velocities will result. Also the water stage in
the canals can be controlled by a few simple and economi-
cal locks and dams, which would not be the case if the
glades had steeper or uneven slopes, making necessary
great lifts in the canal locks and great numbers of dams
and controlling works.
In order to make the drainage of the Everglades thor-
oughly effective, it will be necessary to construct a system

. .... .. ---


of lateral canals and farm drainage ditches which will
have for their object the transportation of the excess
rainfall to the main canals. These laterals may also be
used to draw off the water from the main canals if it
should be required for purposes of irrigation. The main
canals have been favorably located for an economical ar-
rangement of lateral drains, and providing these will be
a simple matter when the main canals shall be ready to
receive them. The lands bordering Lake Okeechobee will
be drained into the lake as it is lowered.
Mention has been made of controlling works. These
controlling works are intended primarily to conserve the
waters of the canals and lake for navigation and irriga-
tion, but they will also be advantageous for protective
purposes against overflow, and their location and ar-
rangement for this service is also given due consideration.
It is proposed to build one of these structures, consisting
of a lock and wing dam, with spillways or sluice gates,
near the head of each canal, at a distance of six or eight
miles from Lake Okeechobee, and others at proper inter-
vals through the canals. By their use, it will be possible
to control the water stage in the lakes and regulate the
flow in the canals. The controlling works, which will be
constructed in the large control canal connecting Lake
Okeechobee directly with the sea, will be located near its
lower end.
When the Everglades drainage canals proper will be
called upon to carry their full capacity of water from
local rainfall on the glades adjacent to them, they will
be shut off from Lake Okeechobee by means of the con-
trolling works near the upper ends so that they will uot
be burdened by water from the lake, and may thus be
permitted to operate to their full efficiency for removing
local rainfall. During the rainy season, when the lake
is receiving large quantities of water, the spillways and
gates in the dam of the large control canal will be opened
wide, so as to permit the maximum flow of water through

the canal, and thus afford relief to the lake. As the rainy
season passes and the water is lowered, the gates and
spillways will be so adjusted as to regulate the flow of
water through them and prevent Lake Okeechobee from
becoming so low or shallow as to impair navigation.
Lake Okeechobee is a navigable body of water, held by
the United States government to be under its control and
jurisdiction, and so important does it consider the mat-
ter of conserving its water and preserving its navigability
that the War Department is ever watchful of this great
inland waterway. Provision has been made to lower the
level of the lake about four feet, or to an elevation of
sixteen feet above sea level. This will leave an ample
depth for the navigable requirements of the lake, and at
the same time furnish a margin through which the waters
may safely fluctuate and also prove advantageous as a
storage reservoir for holding over water which may be
used during the dry season, and as a catch basin for re-
ceiving and storing temporarily the waters from exces-
sive rainfall, which frequently occurs in that region.
The principal function of the canals is, of course, drain-
age, and their arrangement for this purpose is of first
and dominating importance. Of importance also, and
which has received consideration, is the question of nav-
igability of the canals, in order that they may provide
whatever water transportation is incident upon their di-
mensions. It is expected that the main canals will be nav-
igable at all seasons and afford passage for vessels up to
85 feet in length by 22 feet beam, having a draft of 3 feet.
The size of the lock chamber limits the size of the vessels
to these dimensions.
The Everglades were a great unsurveyed territory. In
the early days the government surveyors detailed for work
in this part of Florida did not penetrate the glades. They
confined their operations largely to the dry land and did
not contemplate in their work the great, inundated area
reported in their field notes as impracticable and impene-

Issued by the Chief Drainage Engineer
Tol lahoseee, Fla., February 16,1915
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trable marsh. In connection with the drainage work a
plan of surveys has been inaugurated, to include the Ever-
glades proper. The principal base lines have already been
projected, half a million acres have been surveyed into
townships and sections, and the task of subdividing this
vast and hitherto unsurveyed area is now being carried
out as rapidly as is warranted, till in time it will be as
easy to locate an acre of land in the Everglades as any-
where else in the State.
The great tract of land composing the southern portion
of Florida was, until recently, a valuable but neglected
asset in the 'State's development. In fact, anything to be
appreciated must first be known and understood. From
the time that these millions of acres of land were granted
to the State by Act of Congress of 1850, until the last few
years, the region south of Lake Okeechobee, marked "Ever-
glades," had no particular identity in the minds of the
public. It had not been penetrated except occasionally by
a stray scientist, an adventurous hunter, or a traveler
with more curiosity than common, and it had never been
surveyed. It was considered much in the same light as
the African jungles were before Livingston and Lord
Stanley made their excursions into the interior of those
dangerous and obscure regions. There was little or noth-
ing known of its fauna, its flora, or its soil. It was known
that the Seminole Indians had their home on the edge
of this vast inundated prairie and subsisted by hunting
and fishing, but even they could not find a resting place
in the interior, owing to inundation and continual over-
flow. So, from 1850 to 1900, a period of fifty years, this
great asset of the State lay almost unexplored, with al-
most nothing accomplished in the way of practical devel-
While thousands swarmed to the Alaskan gold fields
and the Klondyke, and the fame of those regions spread
the world over; while irrigation projects had taken hold
upon the West and theretofore arid lands were made to

blossom and bear rich harvests; while dams and dykes and
levees were confining waters, developing water power and
protecting river valleys from overflow; while splendid
canals were being built for navigation, irrigation and
drainage in other parts of the world, and stupendous en-
gineering problems were being met and solved by the most
scientific minds of the age; Lake Okeechobee, fed by nu-
merous lakes and rivers from the country above and by
heavy tropical rainfall, was gorging itself to overflow and
discharging its waters unmolested eastward, southward
and westward over the millions of acres of muck and saw-
grass known as the Everglades, thus concealing and ren-
dering dormant an area as great in promise and probably
as great in wealth as any other like area in the world.
From an engineering standpoint, the practicability of
draining the Everglades has been amply determined by
careful and thorough investigation of the conditions
whiclf control and govern the situation. Other undertak-
ings of a similar nature have been successfully accom-
plished elsewhere, which assist us in forecasting the re-
sult. In Louisiana similar lands have been drained which
are thirty to forty miles from the sea, with an elevation
of only six or eight feet above sea level. The Everglades,
thirty or forty miles from the sea, are fifteen to twenty
feet above sea level. In Holland, lands have been re-
claimed from inundation and are in a state of successful
cultivation to-day which are actually below the level of
the sea. The Fens of Eastern England, comprising three-
fourths of a million acres, were formerly inundated by
the high tides of the North Sea. That great area, having
an elevation of only four or five feet above sea level, pre-
sented a far more difficult problem for its successful recla-
mation by drainage than do the Everglades of Florida.
Yet, that formerly almost valueless waste is to-day a
national asset of great value, dotted with thriving towns
and traversed by canals and railroads. The Everglades
of Florida, generally speaking, south of Lake Okeechobee,

have an elevation of from fifteen to twenty feet above sea
level. It does not necessitate great engineering perception
to discover the advantage which the above comparison of
elevation indicates in favor of the drainage of the Ever-
Five main drainage canals connecting Lake Okeechobee
with tide water and traversing the glades are under con-
struction. One of these has two branches. Three auxil-
iary canals have been constructed. The Caloosahatchee
Canal is open, connecting Lake Okeechobee with the Gulf,
via the Caloosahatchee River. The North New River Canal
is open from Fort Lauderdale to Lake Okeechobee. The
Miami Canal and its branch, the South New River Canal,
are open from the lake to the Atlantic. None of the above
canals are, however, fully completed, and are discharging
only a fractional portion of their ultimate capacity. Work
on the West Palm Beach Canal was begun in January,
1914; twelve miles of the same are now open. A water-
way is open from Fort Lauderdale on the Atlantic to Ft.
Myers on the Gulf, via the North New River Canal, Lake
Okeechobee and the Caloosahatchee Canal and River. Two
or three convenient and comfortable hotels for the accom-
modation of guests are located at and near Ritta, near
the head of the Miami Canal, on the south shore of Lake
Okeechobee. The distance from Fort Lauderdale to Ritta,
via the canal and lake, is sixty-nine miles; and from
Ritta to Ft. Myers, via the lake, canal and Caloosahatchee
River, is eighty-five miles. Recently the Florida East
Coast Railroad completed its branch to Okeechobee, a
town on Taylor's Creek, about three miles from the north
end of the lake; and a regular train schedule is in opera-
tion. From this place the various points on the shore of
Lake Okeechobee are accessible.
Contract for the construction of the Lake Okeechobee
Control Canal has recently been let to a reliable dredging
company. The excavation of this canal will require the
removal of approximately twenty million cubic yards of

material and will require two and a half years to cut
an opening from the lake to tidewater, and four years
in all for its full completion.
The total length of canals now open in the Everglades
is 280 miles. The total excavation amounts to, in round
numbers, 21,000,000 cubic yards of earth and rock, at a
total cost to date, including all expenses of whatever na-
ture connected with the drainage work, of $2,550,000.00.
The canals now contracted for, or under construction,
emptying into the sea from the Everglades, if placed side
by side, would be equivalent to a river about five hundred
feet wide, flowing ten feet deep.
There is no question as to the feasibility of draining the
Everglades. -This has been passed upon by some of the
best engineers in the country. They are all emphatic in
their statement of this fact. For further information as
to feasibility of drainage, see U. S. Senate Document No.
379, being the report of the Florida Everglades Engineer-
ing Commission, composed of Isham Randolph, M. O.
Leighton and Edmund T. Perkins. The following is
quoted from the above report:
"Our conclusion, based on our study of ascertained
facts, is that the drainage of the Florida Everglades is
entirely practicable, and can be accomplished at a cost
which the value of the reclaimed land we'll justify, the cost
per acre being very small."
See also Senate Document No. 89, entitled "Everglades
of Florida," containing much detailed information on the
Everglade lands are essentially agricultural. Experi-
ence has verified the original belief that the lands of the
Everglades would become extremely valuable for agricul-
tural purposes when drained. Their great natural fertil-
ity, adaptability to large variety of crops, responsiveness
to cultivation, economy of preparation, fertilization, culti-
vation, etc., and high degree of frost immunity, make these
lands especially valuable. Early vegetables are marketed


before those from any other part of the United States,
and a large number of general farm crops grow well in
the Everglades. A visit to the south shore of Lake Okee-
chobee, or to the truck farms on South New River Canal,
or to the gardens west of Miami, where many varieties of
agricultural products are grown winter and summer, will
demonstrate the fertility of Everglades land beyond any
sort of questions. Some of the crops successfully grown
in reclaimed portions of the glades are: Tomatoes, po-
tatoes, peppers, beans, egg plants, onions, cabbage, cucu-
bers, strawberries, radish, beets, lettuce, celery and other
vegetables; sugar cane, rice, corn, alfalfa, kafir corn, sor-
ghum, millet, milo maize, many grasses and other staple
crops; banana, guava, avacado, papaya and other fruits.
Land where these products are growing have not been re-
claimed long enough to bring many kinds of fruit trees
into bearing, but young trees of lemon, lime, grapefruit,
oranges and others are thriving.

The soil of the Everglades being composed chiefly of
decayed vegetable matter is highly nitrogeneous. It is con-
sequently a rich but not well balanced soil, and the appli-
cation of mineral fertilizers, especially phosphoric acid
and potash, have been found to be highly beneficial in
greatly increasing the yield and improving the quality of
the product. The following extract is taken from the
Florida Quarterly Bulletin of the Department of Agri-
culture. January 1, 1915, on the analysis of Florida muck

"A series of analyses of saw grass muck soils, from the
saw grass territory of the upper St. Johns Valley, in St.
Lucie County, will be found under the proper heading.
It will be noted that these analyses are practically identi-
cal with those of the Everglade muck soils, reported in
1912, analyses by the U. S. Department of Agriculture
and the Florida State Laboratory, samples of Everglade
soils, taken in 1912, in duplicate by the representatives

of the U. S. Department of Agriculture, and the State of
Florida, being practically concordant.
"These analyses, together with many others made by
the U. S. Department of Agriculture, the Florida Agri-
cultural Experiment Station and the Florida State Lab-
oratory, show that the 'sawgrass' muck land of all parts
of the State, in their original unreclaimed condition, or
soon after being unwateredd,' and previous to cultivation;
those of the upper St. Johns and Oklawaha Rivers (Lake
Apopka sawgrass), the Kissimmee Valley, the Ever-
glades, and similar soils in all parts of the State, in large
and small bodies, are of similar chemical composition;
that when properly drained, aerated and oxidized, by
plowing and proper cultivation, become a 'fine soil of
wonderful productiveness,' producing large crops of corn,
cane, rice potatoes and similar farm crops, without the
addition of commercial fertilizers, when planted in the
proper season and properly cultivated. Also that the in-
telligent use of commercial fertilizers, particularly potash
and phosphoric acid, hastens decomposition, quickens ni-
trification, and hastens the maturity of early truck or
vegetable crops, greatly adding to the market value of
the same."
An average of thirty-four representative muck samples
taken throughout the Everglades shows by chemical analy-
sis the following content of plant food: Ammonia, 3.10% ;
Phosphoric Acid, 0.18%; Potash, 0.08%.
The drainage will not become thoroughly effective, and
lands in the glades cannot be cultivated with entire
safety against damage from overflow until the large canal
for controlling Lake Okeechobee shall have been con-
structed, and the main drainage canals traversing the
Everglades are well on toward completion. Conditions
gradually improve as the work progresses.
The health of the men residing and working in the Ever-
glades is good.
The Everglades must be seen and studied to be under.-



stood. There is no other body of lands like it in the United
States. Opinions of persons who have never made an ex-
tended examination of the Everglades should not be ac-
cepted until verified.
In the drainage of this great inundated prairie there
is being developed the most valuable natural resource
which the State of Florida possesses. The Everglades
Drainage Project is the greatest work of reclamation be-
ing carried on in the world to-day.

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