Tag Archives: scientific water control

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

Part II: The Boon of the Monster Ditch, St. Lucie Canal

Today’s post is the second part of a story. A story from the 1964 50th Anniversary Edition of the Stuart News. Signalizing Half a Century of Growth and Progress in Martin County, Florida.” It is a huge special edition newspaper, 110 pages!

The article I am sharing is on page 6-H and is titled ” St. Lucie Canal Approved in 1914, Is Boon to Agriculture Here. Huge Citrus Growth Along Water Route; Mayaca Groves First.” I feel this remarkable article given to my mother for her history archives by family friend and real estate man, Ronnie Nelson, must be shared. As the 100 year “anniversary”of the St. Luice Canal is next year in 2024. At this time, I must state I am finding many different dates as to the completion date of the canal, but at this point I am sticking with an article from the Department of Environmental Protection, 1916-1924. (Ecosummary 2001, C-44 Canal)

Learning about the St. Lucie Canal can be confusing because it was “rebuilt” or “improved”  and, believe it or not, “celebrated” a few times. I think this article included in the 50th anniversary edition was written as the canal approached its second rebirth in 1937.

There is so much to learn about how the St. Lucie Canal was perceived in earlier times. And it is only through understanding the past, that we can create a better water future for today and for tomorrow.

Part I  Paragraphs 1-4 

Part II, transcription continued, paragraphs 5-11

1964 Stuart News, 50th Anniversary Issue, Thurlow Archives
1964, Stuart News 6-H and 7-H

Transcription begins:

“The completion of this monster ditch will mean much for the Everglades, for south Florida in general, and for Stuart in particular. The improvement of the St. Lucie Inlet and harbor will thus make Stuart the gateway to the Everglades, and millions of dollars worth of agricultural timber, fish, and livestock products will pass through the canal transferring at Stuart onto ocean-going vessels. The canal is, according to contract, to be completed in four years.

First tangible result of the canal for large-scale agriculture was the pioneering effort of the Port Mayaca development back around 1925, created by Bessemer Properties, Inc., a Phipps company which saw the opportunities for agriculture through scientific water control by tapping on to St. Lucie Canal with pumps to provide irrigation in dry spells. At the same time, a series of canals discharged excess water into the canal during wet spells.

Port Mayaca Valencia orange groves today represents the first big-scale successful planting of citrus in Martin County.

Port Mayaca could well be said to be the test plot on which millions were spent to prove, by trial and error, with the best possible scientific agricultural advice, what could be done by enlisting the aid of the man-made waterway.

Paul M. Hoenshel, now a resident of Stuart, was the first agricultural manager in the Port Mayaca development. He was backed by the vision and guidance of such able Phipp’s representatives in Florida as Paul R. Scott and Roy M Hawkins, as was Thomas Gartland when he took over the management in later years.

Port Mayaca was an outstanding “first” because it squarely faced up to the fact that the problems of drainage and water control must be solved if agriculture was to be successful in Martin County. The Phipps interests took the property of several thousand acres and divided it into forty-acre fields separated by drainage ditches, roads, and windbreaks.

About 100 miles of those ditches were dug in the Port Mayaca development, all linked by giant pumps to the life saving waters of the canal. Since Port Mayaca contained both muck lands and sand lands, it was an ideal test tube not only for for its initial 600 acres of Valencia oranges but also for various truck crops, gladiolus- then a major flower crop before chrysanthemums came along- and for experiments in the right grasses and mineral additives to make pasture lands where livestock could thrive…”

~End of transcription. To be continued. JTL

Google Maps 2023 shows Port Mayaca’s location on/near Lake Okeechobee, in Martin County, FL. Blue Dot is area of confluence of St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon leading to St Lucie Inlet.

Article about the history of Port Mayaca and Cypress Lodge by the late historian, Alice Luckhardt.