Tag Archives: dredging

The Bulkheaded Spoil Islands of Sewall’s Point, SLR/IRL

Isle Addition March 1966. (Photo Arthur Ruhnke via Sandra Henderson Thurlow's book Sewall's Point.)
“Isle Addition” far left. March 1966. Peninsula of Sewall’s Point with roads at High Point are also visible. Looking south at confluence of St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon. (Photo Arthur Ruhnke via Sandra Henderson Thurlow’s book Sewall’s Point.)

Today I am going to share some aerial photographs that showcase development in Sewall’s Point during the 1960s, specifically, Isle Edition and Archipelago. To give reference, I was born in 1964. During this time and before, the bulkheading of spoil islands was fashionable. Due to environmental restrictions that were put into law in the 1970s,  development on such a scale is no longer allowed.

Bulkheading is basically when one creates a seawall. In the case of a some of the  islands off the Town of Sewall’s Point, they were cleared, bulkheaded, filled with sand, and then developed. In some instances the fill is high enough that these islands are not completely in same flood zones as surrounding areas.

To see flood zones of the Archipelago and Isle Addition type in my address: 18 Riverview Drive then navigate east and south along shoreline. (http://mcgov.maps.arcgis.com/apps/webappviewer/index.html?id=4b72b96cb58c4e49bbb25ecb5313f681)

According to my mother’s book, “Sewall’s Point, A History of a Peninsular Community on Florida’s Treasure Coast:”

“High Point’s “Isle Addition” was developed by Bessemer in 1966, during the same years Perry Boswell developed Archipelago. Both subdivisions are on bulkheaded islands that were augmented by dredge-and-fill operations. Since laws no longer allow this type of development, there will never be another one on Sewall’s Point.” -Sandra Henderson Thurlow

This aerial photograph taken in 1960 shows the spoil islands which were to become Isle Addition and Archipelago. (Dillion Reynolds Aerial Photography via Sandra Henderson Thurlow)
Looking north. This aerial photograph taken in 1960 shows the spoil islands which were to become Isle Addition and Archipelago. Archipelago is further north. (Dillion Reynolds Aerial Photography via Sandra Henderson Thurlow’s book Sewall’s Point.)

The islands I am referring to are spoil islands. They are not natural islands. These islands were created by the ACOE. The 156 mile long Indian River Lagoon has 137 spoil islands; they were formed from 1953 to 1961 when the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers dredged the Intracoastal Waterway — the main channel through the center of the lagoon. The Corps left behind heaps of sand on either side of the channel.

Archipelago developed in 1964. Photo courtesy of Sandra Henderson Thurlow.
Archipelago first developed in 1964. Photo courtesy of Sandra Henderson Thurlow.

I am including this video my brother Todd created about the spoil islands from an earlier blog as it is most fascinating as is the coast history of our St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon region. Enjoy!

Spoil Island Time Capsule Flight IRL by  Todd Thurlow: (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sODqzQ8EW9o&feature=youtu.be)

Earlier blog Spoil Islands: (http://jacquithurlowlippisch.com/tag/spoil-islands-irl/)

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Bulkheading: (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bulkhead_(barrier))

DEP Spoil Islands IRL: (http://spoilislandproject.org/about-us/)

Sewall's Point today. Public aerial.
Sewall’s Point today 2015. Public aerial.

Spoil Island History, Martin County, A Time Capsule Flight–Indian River Lagoon

Spoil island history, MC, FL
Spoil island history, MC, FL (A time-capsule  “flight” by Todd Thurlow.)

For today’s post, I am partnering up with my younger brother, attorney, Todd Thurlow. Todd, as all members of my family, is intrigued by history and maps. As he is a technology buff as well, he has learned to use Google Earth Pro (in this case a trial version) to superimpose old maps over today’s Google Earth aerials. The effect is amazing in that one can literally “see” the changes over time in land, shoreline, and in today’s case, IRL spoil islands. The islands that one sees in the IRL are not natural, they are dredge fill from the creation of a channel with its government beginnings in 1881. This includes some islands that are now exclusive neighborhoods, such as Island Edition and Archipelago, in Sewall’s Point. Fortunately, the birds got one too–“Bird Island” now a Critical Wildlife Area, (CWA) or MC2. MC2 is located just north, off the Archipelago.

Today our channels are managed by FIND, the Florida Inland Navigation District.

I will provide a summary TIME LINE of Todd’s notes below; nonetheless, be sure to watch the video in the link below, so you can “see!” It is amazing: you will feel like you are taking a time-capsule flight right over our beautiful and ever-changing Indian River Lagoon:

Link to IRL/SPOIL ISLAND TIME CAPSULE FLIGHT 1887-1970, by Todd Thurlow: (http://youtu.be/sODqzQ8EW9o)

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Question: “When Did Spoil Islands “appear” in the Martin County Area of the Indian River Lagoon?”

TIME LINE

1881: Florida Coastline Canal and Transportation Company was formed

1887: Aerial shows no spoil islands in IRL

1890: Dredging complete from Haulover Cut in Merritt Island to Jupiter

1892: Locals dig St Lucie Inlet by hand

1920: No spoil islands east of Sewall’s Point. US ACOE recommends dredging 8 feet deep and 75 foot wide from Jacksonville to Miami

1930: ACOE increases recommended width to 100 feet from 75

1935: Work complete-8 feet deep and 100 feet wide channel

1940: USDA map aerial shows spoil islands deposits on east side of Sewall’s Point (these became Island Edition and the Archipelago developments among other things…)

1945: Congress authorizes ACOE to dredge 12 foot deep 125 foot wide channel

1952: USDA map showing spoil islands DIRECTLY EAST of Sewall’s Point

1958: USDA aerial shows “break through/wash through” at today’s Bathtub Beach

1958: USDA aerial still shows no spoil islands on EAST SIDE of channel near Sewall’s Point (these are new islands, not the ones already deposited off of the near east side of SP)

1958: NOAA chart shows Seminole Shore’s, (today’s Sailfish Point) marina is undeveloped

1960: Due to ACOE determination, IRL portion between Ft Pierce to Miami is dredged to 10 feet rather than the 12 feet wanted in 1945

1963: NOAA chart shows new channel but no new islands still on the EAST SIDE of the channel off of Sewall’s Point

1965:  ACOE work complete– based on 1945 and 1960 determinations

1970: Aerial finally does show spoil islands on EAST SIDE of channel off of Sewall’s Point from dredging/channel projects

1970: Aerial reveals, if one looks closely, that the smallest of the spoil islands to the EAST of the channel off of Sewall’s Point has since disappeared….

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Todd Thurlow has given presentations at Stuart Heritage and Florida Oceanographic (http://thurlowpa.com) Call him if your club would like a presentation. Todd and I will be doing more work together in the future!

*I must also credit my dear river activist friend, Ezra Appel, who recently got me interested in spoil islands all over again.  Ezra got involved two years ago with the Indian River Lagoon Aquatic Preserves (IRLAP), when his company adopted a spoil island in Vero Beach. Now he is involved with  a newly formed group “Friends of the Spoil Islands, Inc, ” a 501 (c) non-profit, Community Service Organization working in partnership with the DEP and IRLAP.  Ezra sits on the board as the Treasurer. They have a Facebook page: (https://www.facebook.com/spoilislands) Check it out! Ezra also shares with me aerial photos from INDIAN RIVER BY AIR; they have some great shots of the spoil islands in their neck of the woods: (http://www.indianriverbyair.com/tagged/spoil%20island)

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Prior blog post on Atlantic and Okeechobee Waterways and FIND, the Florida Inland Navigation District: (http://jacquithurlowlippisch.com/2014/06/11/florida-inland-navigation-district-f-i-n-d-maintaining-the-okeechobeeatlantic-waterways-of-the-st-lucie-riverindian-river-lagoon/)