St Lucie River Drainage Districts, a Look Back to the Days of “Drain Baby Drain!” SLR/IRL

Economic Survey of Ft. Pierce and St Lucie County, 1936. Shared by historian Sandra Henderson Thurlow.
Economic Survey of Ft. Pierce and St Lucie County, 1936. Shared by historian Sandra Henderson Thurlow.

Looking back at history is such an amazing thing.

It clearly allows us to see “where we have come from,” and “how we got to where we are today”–especially in regards to our St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon region.

In the early decades of the 1900s, Chapter 298 of Florida Statues allowed for Drainage Districts to be created, (most still exist today), by early settlers across the state so they could begin the hard work of “settlement.” These early Floridians often chose areas around rivers for their location, riches and soils.

Nonetheless, “drain baby, drain!” was the mantra.

Drainage of small tributaries of the forks of the rivers such as the St Lucie created rich farmlands and the ability to develop the lands. This was expected of settlers.  During this same era, giant public works projects such as the St Lucie Canal, (C-44), linking Lake Okeechobee to the South Fork of the St Lucie River, were dug through the cooperation of state and federal governments  to create what would become the Everglades Agricultural Area, or EAA, south of Lake Okeechobee.

“The rest is history…”

As we sit here today with news of a substantial blue-green algae bloom in Lake Okeechobee, and cringe as the ACOE dumps it into our estuary, I find this small booklet my mother came across recently “a through looking-glass” —–of the mentality of the times when all this over-drainage was the goal and the repercussions were not understood.

Counties all over our state had such little booklets. As you can read, this one is from St Lucie County connected to the North Fork of the St Lucie River. These hard-working people of the day dug their canal around 1936 so it would “veer to the southeast and then east to the St. Lucie River….” certainly they were not thinking about toxic algae blooms or water quality at this time. It did not even cross their radar. But it does ours….What will our little booklets look like for future historians to read ? Well, that’s for us to decide.

 

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Text
Map for drainage around north fork of SLR
Map for drainage around north fork of SLR
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Florida Statutes Chapter 298:http://www.leg.state.fl.us/Statutes/index.cfm?App_mode=Display_Statute&URL=0200-0299/0298/0298ContentsIndex.html&StatuteYear=2012&Title=-%3E2012-%3EChapter%20298

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