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Ironic Insights ~The Dream of Florida’s Cross-State Canal, by Edwin A Menninger, Stuart Daily News 1937

Stuart Daily News, special  edition, 1937, courtesy of Knight A. Kiplinger.

The year was 1937 and it was a special day…

The opening of the Stuart, Lake Okeechobee, Ft Meyers, Cross-State Canal…

The first sentence of this historic special edition newspaper reads: “Completion of Florida’s one-and-only cross State canal marks the realization of a dream.”

Yes a dream.

Since the other function of the cross-state canal is drainage of Lake Okeechobee, today many of us associate this cross-state canal with a toxic-algae nightmare more than with a “dream come true.” It’s funny how things change over time…

In any case, this rare document gives perspective and insight and is a tremendous history lesson of South Florida development south of Orlando, along the St Lucie River, Indian River Lagoon, Lake Okeechobee, and our sister city, Ft Meyers.

Thank you to family friend, Mr Knight Kiplinger, (https://www.kiplinger.com/fronts/archive/bios/index.html?bylineID=9)
of Washington D.C and Sewall’s Point, who shared this remarkable document with me. It is an incredible read!  So rare! Even my mother, local historian, Sandy Thurlow, had never seen it. And in the following weeks, I will be sharing it with you – transcribing and viewing  its 37 giant pages of aerials, ads, and writings.

Today I will begin with the fairly long, but extremely interesting article gracing front and back, written by famed newspaper publisher, and Stuart flowering tree man, Dr. Edwin A. Menninger (https://www.kshs.org/index.php?url=archives/225898).

Enjoy. Think. Regroup. The best is yet to come!


Completion of Florida’s one and only cross state canal marks the realization of dream. The idea of such a channel to link three great natural waterways ~ the St. Lucie River on the East Coast, the vast expanse of Lake Okeechobee (or Myakka, as it was known half a century ago), and the sweeping Caloosahatchee on the Gulf coast  ~ goes back to the days when white men first settled the south half of the peninsula. But problems that early thinkers never dreamed of, arose to puzzle the empire builders, and the formal dedication in March 1937 of the waterway from Stuart to Fort Myers signalizes in reality the culmination of achievements  stretching over almost fifty years.

It was back in the days of Governor Napoleon B. Broward that first steps were taken to reclaim the Everglades. It was in this years that Isham Randolph was called to make the survey that guided the Glades reclamation project of the next quarter century, and although Broward and Randolph are all but forgotten, their two names stand out as the farsighted leader who started what the rest of us are finishing.

Actually, neither Broward nor Randolph ever gave much thought to the possibilities of cross-state navigation. They were interested in controlling a gigantic lake that has no natural outlet to the sea, and by exercising such control through a series of great canals, they hoped to throw open to cultivation the richest farming land in the United States – the muck lands of the Everglades. The dream of those pioneers was rudely shattered by circumstances far beyond their conception or control, and but for the terrible hurricane of 1928 that drowned 3000 hapless residents of the Glades by literally dumping Lake Okeechobee in their laps the Everglades might conceivably have gone back to the Indians. 

But it was this same great misfortune of danger and death, that focused national attention of the Everglades, put $20,000,000 of federal government funds into the picture to prevent future disasters, and opened the navigable waterways from Stuart to Fort Myers that is to be formally declared in March. With a flourish, Uncle Sam has completed an 8-foot channel, from 80 to 200 feet wide, across Florida from the Atlantic Ocean to the Gulf of Mexico. Dyke protection of the Everglades, plus water control by new methods, may make possible the solution of the State’s reclamation problem, but that is another story. Certainly the Glades have staged a marvelous comeback since Uncle Sam’s intervention, and new leaders are arriving to carry on the traditions of Conners, Bryant & Greenwood, Dahlberg, Sherman and a thousand others who have dreamed of empire.

Construction of the St Lucie Canal began in 1921 when the fact dawned on the Everglades pioneers that canals through muck lands were useless  – they refused to carry water out of the lake. Four of them had been dug, and were utterly worthless. The St Lucie was completed in 1924 and for 13 years has been the only functioning outlet from Lake Okeechobee to the sea.

The Caloosahatchee River was connected to Lake Okeechobee by two linking canals fifteen years ago, but these proved inadequate to discharge water, and the Caloosahatchee itself was so crooked that it held the water back instead of discharging it. Tedious progress was made in boom days by the Everglades Drainage District, tying to open some tiny ghost of a channel into the Gulf outlet, but when taxes ceased to be paid in the first depression years, the efforts collapsed.

In 1930 Congress was induced to cooperate in a flood control program, and it was contemplated that $3,000,000 of federal funds would be spent. Before folks really understood what was happening, the government had tackled the problem, had achieved as much for the cause of navigation as for the cause of flood control, and had spent more than six times the originally contemplated budget.

The end is not yet. Improvement of the harbor facilities at both ends of this gigantic waterway are inevitable corollaries of the farsighted improvement program that has been car-

ried forward to today. Tomorrow’s projects will include the St Lucie inlet (at Stuart) and Fort Myers harbor improvement on far-reaching-scales. This great cross-state waterway that is a reality, not a dream or a blueprint, crosses the East Coast canal at the St Lucie inlet, and this cross-roads is destined to be a focal point in the future development of Florida’s East Coast.

A thousand men have had a part in the promotion of the canal project between Stuart and Fort Myers, over a period of many years. Thousands will cheer next month as this waterway is opened to craft of all kinds drawing up to 6 feet, with a two-day celebration that will carry a watercade from Stuart to Clewiston and then on to Fort Myers.

Yer standing out, head and shoulders above all the others who have given part of their lives to the realization of this waterway dream, stand two great figures in the daily life of South Florida. The “Stuart Daily News” pays tribute of admiration and respect to these two pioneers-

Commodore Stanley Kitching of Stuart.

Honorable W. P. Franklin of Fort Myers.

Those two men symbolize the cross-Florida canal achievement, and today’s special issue of this newspaper is dedicated to them, in recognition of loyal and untiring service to the terminal cities they call home. Hats off to both of you!

Today’s issue of the “Stuart Daily News” presents a panorama of this magnificent waterway, following a geographical sequence from the Atlantic to the Gulf.  An airplane photographer has captured for you a series of  pictures that starts at Stuart, carries you 150 miles through the Everglades communities, and on to Fort Myers. Such a graphic portrayal to the canal permits the reader to understand what this waterway is, what it means, what it does. Copies of this book go to every member of Congress, to yachtsman everywhere who are interested in this aid to navigation, and to others who see in this canal another great forward step for Florida.  And if this book carries to these readers a message of progress, it has served its purpose.

I am particularly indebted to my faithful assistant, Ernest Lyons, and to an understanding photographer, Lowell Hill, for the effectiveness of the edition.

To be continued….

Over-Drainage and Overlooking the Obvious, Florida Legislature 2015, SLR/IRL

Cartoon Everglades Drainage, 1916 "Back to Broward,"http://historymiamiarchives.org/online-exhibits/everglades/glades.htm. (Shared by Sandra Henderson Thurlow)
Cartoon Everglades Drainage, 1916 Swamp Land Act of 1850 transferred swamp federal lands to the states.(http://historymiamiarchives.org/online-exhibits/everglades/glades.htm.) (Shared by Sandra Henderson Thurlow)

The 1916 cartoon says it all, doesn’t it? “You can have all these lands, if you drain and develop them….”

How does the saying go? “Be careful of what you wish for…”

We sure got what we wanted and more. We’ve gotten so much we’ve killed it, or are in the process thereof….Uncle Sam gave us a gift in the Swamp Land Act of the late 1800s and we, the State of Florida, have killed it–the Swamp that is…and even with the “retched swamp mentality” of the 1800s, no one, not even Governor Napoleon Broward himself, envisioned real estate surrounded by putrid, polluted water…

This year our state legislature did not seem to recognize the sense of urgency in Florida regarding clean water and the health of the state’s natural resource’s as reflected in their decisions made, or not made, this 2015 legislative session. Amendment 1 was all but ignored. But from north Florida’s springs, to the estuaries of the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon and Caloosahtchee, to  Biscayne Bay the people of the state still recognize this urgency. And this urgency is not just answered by money. It can be answered by beginning to have real discussion state-wide on these issuers. Florida voters know our past and we know what we want for the future.

The will of the people will be done.

Repressed desires only get stronger….

We all know that there are many ways to help, and we must do all we can, but in the long run there is only one way to change the “big picture,” for South Florida.

There must be a  third outlet south of Lake Okeechobee as discussed since the earliest days of water management…we  must stop wasting 1.7 billion gallons of water to tide every day, stop creeping development into the remaining Everglades, and most important, the agriculture community in the EAA must actively become part of the land acquisition solution for reconnection of Lake Okeechobee to Everglades National Park.

Drainage canal being dredged Davie 11913.
Drainage canal being dredged Davie 1913.
Map showing Everglades National Park boundaries as well as Water Conservation Areas north of the park and other areas. (Map courtesy of Backroads Travels website, 2013.)
Map showing estuaries– now drainage ditches, Everglades National Park boundaries as well as Water Conservation Areas north of the park and other areas. (Map courtesy of Backroads Travels website, 2013.)
West of the red lines shows the edge of what was once the Everglades in South Florida. Development has crept and continues to creep over this edge. (Photo/map courtesy of Chappy Young,/GCY Surveyors, 2014.)
West of the red lines shows the edge of what was once the Everglades in South Florida. Development has crept and continues to creep over this edge. (Photo/map courtesy of Chappy Young,/GCY Surveyors, 2014.)
EAA below Lake Okeechobee. (Public map.)
EAA below Lake Okeechobee. (Public map.)

This excerpt is from SOFIA, USGA web site. They are a scientific, arm’s length division of the Federal Government: (http://sofia.usgs.gov/publications/fs/61-99/)

“Drainage and development of south Florida has had major environmental consequences in the Everglades. Saltwater intrusion into freshwater aquifers has extended as far as 6 miles inland from the coast in some areas. The land surface has subsided as much as 6 feet in some agricultural areas because of lowered water tables, oxidation of drained peat, and subsequent peat fires.

Mercury contamination of fish has resulted in a ban on the consumption of fish from the central part of the Park, WCA-2, and WCA-3 and is implicated in the deaths of endangered Florida panthers. Populations of wading birds have decreased by almost 95 percent from 1870 to 1973. In high-nutrient areas, cattails are replacing native sawgrass.

Plant and animal communities in the Everglades have been altered by changes in timing and duration of inundation; invasion of exotic plants as a result of drainage and land clearing, nutrient, and (or) contaminant-enrichment of water that flows into Everglades from agricultural and urban areas; and loss of habitat…”

Dead panthers from eating fish full of mercury?

This is not what we will leave our children…is it?

Toxic Algae bloom washes up  along the shoreline, St Lucie River, Riverside Drive, Stuart, Florida. (Photo Jenny Flaugh, 7-13)
Toxic Algae bloom washes up along the shoreline, St Lucie River, Riverside Drive, Stuart, Florida. (Photo Jenny Flaugh, 7-13)
Sign with Seminole in canoe 1913, Tamiami Trail. (Public photo)
Sign with Seminole in canoe 1913, Tamiami Trail. (Public photo)
Original flow everglades. http://seawifs.gsfc.nasa.gov/jason/HTML/EXPEDITIONS_JASON_7_croc_model.html )
Original flow Everglades. http://seawifs.gsfc.nasa.gov/jason/HTML/EXPEDITIONS_JASON_7_croc_model.html
Drainage today via canals.
Drainage today via canals.
Sofia map 2015.
Sofia Everglades drainage map 2015.
Our flag.
Our flag.


EPA 2011 Review: Source for 1.7 billion gallons of wasted water to tide:( http://www.epa.gov/gcertf/pdfs/1120amintersectionoffl.pdf)
Early AOCE documents referring to a third outlet south of the lake: http://jacquithurlowlippisch.com/2014/07/29/the-history-the-future-of-plan-6-and-sending-water-south-st-lucie-riverindian-river-lagoon/)