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Part III -The Boon of the Huge Monster Ditch, St Lucie Canal

-Stuart News 50th Anniversary Edition, 1964.Today I will complete part three, the final portion of my transcription of an historic 1964 Stuart News, anniversary edition from my mother’s archives. She actually shared this article with me over a year ago and I was so taken by it that I thought it may be an inspiration for a book. I never got around to it, thus now I am sharing on my blog as part of my 2023 new year’s resolution to write more and learn more about the St Lucie Canal. 2024 is the official 100 year anniversary of the St Lucie Canal according to the Department of Environmental Protection.

Here are links to Parts I and Part II.

~Interesting references in part three of the article are the mentioning of a “release canal,” south to the Everglades, something that never materialized; reference, once again, to cutting edge “scientific water control” and the amazing success of the agriculture industry; 1933 noted as the first extreme discharge year from Lake Okeechobee to the St. Lucie River and damaging effects to fisheries and tourism; and in the final paragraph, a future plan linking a new “C-23 Canal on Martin County’s northern border with a major channel which would extend westward to Lake Okeechobee, with a side link to St Lucie Canal, and another channel from St. Lucie Canal southeastward down toward Pratt & Whitney and the Loxahatchee Marshes;” Gulp!

This is a reference to part of the canal system proposed in the 1948 and many following editions of the Central and Southern Florida Plan that thankfully was never built. This reference also leads me to believe that I was incorrect in part two when I wrote the article was written around 1937 or 1920 in part one. With these references to C-23, the article must have been composed after the great flood of 1947 as it is referring to the Central and Southern Florida Project of 1948.  I am learning all the time as I sludge through this stuff. The St. Lucie Canal has had so many face lifts! It is hard to know what cut they are referring to!

~As we learn, we are more informed and able to change the future of this huge “ditch” that has defined, benefited, and destroyed the region of our St Lucie River.

So here is a transcription of Part III.

I have entitled my post “The Boon of the Huge Monster Ditch, St Lucie Canal,” as both terms “huge” and “monster,” are noted in full article. To me, the canal is a monster continuing to haunt and terrify. And just like in the movies, I know that until I meet this monster face to face, it wont go away. I hope you will encounter it with me.

You can click on images to enlarge.

Begin transcript paragraphs 11-25:

The great hurricane of 1928, which drowned about 4000 persons in the Lake Okeechobee area, resulted in the widening and deepening of both the St. Luice Canal and the Caloosahatchee River as well as major outlets from the lake. The widened and deepened canal was officially dedicated at ceremonies headed by Secretary of Commerce, Daniel Roper on March 22, 1937.

In the intervening years, the canal’s “good and bad” points have been the cause of growth in the agricultural lands of the interior and of damages to the fisheries and resorts on the coast in periods of excessive discharge. Today, as ever since 1933, when the first heavy discharge from hurricane rains was experienced, efforts are under way to so shape the discharge so that the canal’s benefit can be enjoyed without attendant harm. The U. S. Engineer Corp’s plans for a higher lake level by diking the entire lake may result in less necessity for discharge and a long-range plan has been advanced for diversion of excess water to Everglades National Park by means of a relief-valve canal.

However in the half century which has ensued since the canal was approved, one indisputable fact not clearly seen in the beginning has emerged stage by stage to justify it.

It is “scientific agriculture by water control.”

Thousands of pleasure craft and hundreds of barges, shrimp boats, and other commercial craft use the waterway today, but it never did develop into the “thriving artery of commerce” that was predicted in which ocean ships would sail up to Stuart and load the products of the Everglades Empire brought to the coast by the St. Luice Canal.

Nor did a plan advocated during World War II jell out to make it a major barge and oil transport canal to escape the submarines which infested the Straits of Florida, Yucatan Channel and the Gulf Stream.

What did “jell out” was an expansion all along the route of the the scientific water control for agriculture that was  proven at Port Mayaca by that pioneering agricultural beginning in 1925.

G.C. Troup and Troup Brothers at Indiantown on their former 20,000-acre holdings, demonstrated that the combination of irrigation and good drainage would unlock agricultural riches. Today the Minute Maid and Hood corporations are among the huge citrus firms which have planted some 10,000 acres of new citrus and the largest lemon grove in the world on former Troup lands and lands opened to agriculture through water control by P. L. Hinson and others.

On both sides of the St. Lucie Canal, in the entire twenty-five miles of its length, there are spreading pastures, ranches where blooded cattle graze, and the Indiantown area also has some of the country’s largest diaries.

The Bessemer firm that proved it could be done is “in there pitching” with some of the most outstanding modern developments including Westbury Farms 1, 2, and 3, the new Westbury Farms Valencia Groves on the south side of the canal, and the spreading Green Ridge Groves on the north side. George Oliver who manages the giant spread and Michael Phipps of the major corporation are proud of the agricultural and ranching growth but prouder still of St. Lucie Training Park, unique race horse training facility where, “hopefuls” of some of the nation’s top stables get their “running” starts.

They can be found at dawn watching the work-outs on the oval track. Both are skilled polo players.

“Scientific water control with ample supplies from the St. Lucie Canal, and drainage into the canal, is the key to our county’s solid growth,” commented Oliver.

Currently being pushed by Martin County agricultural interests is a new over-all water control plan for the county which would spread the advantages of irrigation and drainage to areas not continuous to the St Lucie Canal.

The new plan would link in C-23 Canal on Martin County’s north border, where huge  citrus planting have recently been made, with a major channel which would extend westward to   Lake Okeechobee, with a side link to St Lucie Canal, and another channel from St. Lucie Canal southeastward down toward Pratt & Whitney and the Loxahatchee Marshes. Private landowners would link in with these new canals by irrigation pumps and drainage outlet as they have done along the St. Luice Canal.

-End of transcript and article JTL

A Look Back to the Orange Groves of Today’s ACOE-SFWMD’s C-44 Reservoir/STA, 1964, SLR/IRL

C-44 canal with Coca Coal's Minute Maid Orange Groves, 1963. Photo Arthur Ruhnke courtesy of historian Sandra Henderson Thurlow.
C-44 canal with Coca Cola’s Minute Maid Orange Groves, 1964. Photo Arthur Ruhnke courtesy of historian Sandra Henderson Thurlow.
SFWMD including C-44 R/STA in blue, 2014.
SFWMD including C-44 R/STA in blue, 2014. This area was once Minute Maid’s orange groves.

The C-44 Reservoir and Storm Water Treatment Area has been in the news over the past few years. Once completed by the SFWMD and ACOE with help funds raised locally, it will clean water from the tremendous and polluting C-44 basin. It is one component of the  Indian River Lagoon South Project that is part of the Central Everglades Restoration Plan. But what was all that land used for in the past? That land was orange groves. Thousands and thousands of acres of orange groves! As far as the eye could see….

Today even with the area’s transformation to STA/Reservoir, “Coca Cola” and “Minute Maid” roads remain as reminders of an all too distant past…when oranges were healthy and the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon was not impaired.

Today I will share eleven incredible 1964 aerial Ruhnke aerials my mother stumbled upon while creating a presentation for the Martin County Property Appraiser’s office. Arthur Ruhnke photographs are so important to our understanding of our history and I thank my mother for sharing these treasures. Art was a well-known photographer in his day and my parents acquired many of his photos.

The following is an exchange with my mother, Sandy, and long time family friend Jack Norris, who was an executive for Minute Maid. In the exchange, they “talk”about these photographs. Their interplay tells the story best, so I have gotten permission to share.

—-Jack, Tonight Fred asked me if I had any images to illustrate the his Citrus Program. These are from a packet of 10 Ruhnke negatives marked Minute Maid Groves, Indiantown, 1964. Surely the canal shown isn’t C-44? Are those workers’ houses? Sandy 


—- Sandy”Hi Sandy – The barn, equipment storage & office are located in the NW  corner of the intersection,  the buildings in the SW and NE  are workers houses, and the buildings in the SE corner are supervisors houses.   The canal running N&S was the main source of irrigation, originating at the St. Lucie at the site of the rodeo bowl. It is now substantially enlarged by the SFWMD to carry water to the new reservoir. The NS canal and l the main drainage canal was owned and operated by the Troup – Indiantown Drainage District.”  Jack 

So then my mother sends this email to me:

—-Jacqui, I am working on my program for the Property Appraisers and thought I needed to say something about western Martin County. I thought I might show the old Minute Maid Grove and say it is now a reservoir. I couldn’t find my aerials. I have finally found them and thought I would share them with you. Understanding them would be an education. Jack Norris was in charge of planting all of those millions of citrus trees.

So I today I am sharing the photos and started researching Minute Maid and the land purchase for the C-44 STA/R; this is what I found: According to a 2011 Stuart News article bout C-44 R/STA by Jim Mayfield:

“The project site, 12,000 acres of former citrus land, was purchased in 2007 for $168 million, $27 million of which came from Martin County taxpayers through the one-cent sales tax for conservation lands, South Florida Water Management officials said. The property is south of the Allapattah Flats Wildlife Management Area near Indiantown. Over the last year, the water management district has spent roughly $5 million to remove trees and rid the topsoil of copper deposits, officials said.” Jim Mayfield

I hope you enjoy these historic photos today. I find these aerials amazing!  It is my hope that one day even more of this agricultural land will be converted to hold water as Nature intended. The C-44 STA/Reservoir is a great start.

Orange Groves and C-44 canal 1964. A Ruhnke.
Orange Groves and C-44 canal. All photographs below taken in 1964 by Arthur Ruhnke and shared by historian Sandra Henderson Thurlow.
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“Here is one of your pictures – here and now”
(Cool video with historic maps and Google Earth fly over by my brother Todd Thurlow: (https://youtu.be/i9h1d1pzfww)
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“Chapter in Citrus to Close,” Orlando Sentinel: (http://articles.orlandosentinel.com/1993-10-30/news/9310300750_1_coca-cola-juice-citrus)

ACOE C-44 final plan showing map and Minute Maid and Coca Cola Roads:(http://www.saj.usace.army.mil/Portals/44/docs/review_plans/Review%20Plan_C-44%20-Final%20Version.pdf)

This ACOE sponsored video gives an artists rendition of what the C-44 R/STA will achieve for water polluted by agricultural runoff once complete:video: (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4BsC0BoIPJ4)

TC PALM 2007: (http://www.tcpalm.com/news/ceremony-marks-start-of-work-on-c-44-project-in)

Former blog post with comprehensive info on C-44 STA/R: (http://jacquithurlowlippisch.com/2015/09/15/reaching-the-finish-line-c-44-storm-water-treatment-areareservoir-slrirl/)

ACOE C-44 R.STA fact sheet:(https://einvitations.afit.edu/attachments/IRL_FactSheet_October2015_webview.pdf)