Palm City was once narrow strips of pine flatlands interspersed with hammocks, ponds, wide prairies, sloughs, sawgrass and cypress trees. Today it is a bustling part of Martin County due to the drainage of the C-23 canal on the north, and the C-44 canal on the south. When one attempts to unravel the long history of drainage of Palm City, it is helpful to think in three connected but separate levels: local, state, and federal.
In 1919 the Palm City Drainage District was created. It was established for a local level as a special drainage district by the Florida Legislature with a lifetime of fifty years. It was primarily created to drain newly established Palm City Farms. Miles of canals and ditches were dug to drain into Bessey Creek, Dansforth Creek, and the South Fork of the St Lucie River. Some of these canals and ditches still exist today or have been incorporated into larger canals.
Digging of the St Lucie Canal in the south began around 1915 lasting into 1926. It was dug by the Everglades Drainage District, State of Florida, from the South Fork of the St Lucie River to Lake Okeechobee. After the deathly hurricane of 1928, the federal government authorized widening and deepening the St Lucie Canal to create the Okeechobee Waterway also known as the Cross State Canal from Stuart, across Lake Okeechobee, to Ft Meyers. Doing so allowed the St Lucie Canal to conveniently function as the main outlet for Lake Okeechobee’s flood waters. Later, after the great flood of 1947, the canal became part of the Central and Southern Florida Plan and renamed C-44 becoming part of the giant Central and Southern Florida Flood Control System of the Army Corp of Engineers.
The great flood of 1947 called not just for the widening and depending of the St Lucie Canal and enlargement of its structures, but the federal Flood Control Act of 1948 authorized more canals, levees, and structures to be built by the Army Corps of Engineers throughout southern and central Florida. Among the new canals were the C-23, the C-24 and C-25 canals of Martin and St Lucie counties -all discharging into the North Fork of the St Lucie River. The state asked for and supported this. The C-23 is the border between Martin and St Lucie Counties. Of course there were major unintended consequences that added to the discharges of the St Lucie Canal and the original Palm City Drainage District. This plethora of fresh, dirty water has all but killed the St Lucie River. Improving the health of the St Lucie is the goal of local, state, and federal restoration efforts today.
The video below created by my brother Todd begins in 1966 after all the aforementioned canals were constructed. It is easiest to see in a large format. You can either click on the YouTube image below or use this link to watch this remarkable Palm City time Capsule Flight!
-Below: the federal government’s (ACOE) Central and Southern Florida Flood Control Project authorized by Congress in 1948 included C-23 on the border of Martin and St Lucie Counties, C-24, and C-25,- and enlarging the flood control structure along the St Lucie Canal. Once this system was built out it was turned over the state of Florida’s Central and Southern Flood Control District; however, the ACOE kept the St Lucie Canal now named C-44, for federal flood control. The Central and Southern Flood Control District, a Florida state agency that followed the Everglades Drainage District in 1949, became the South Florida Water Management District in 1977. -Below: A 1973 C&SFP update map, Army Corp of Engineers. Green never built thank God!