Under a state pilot program, St. Augustine enacted an ordinance requiring boats to moor at least fifty feet from the navigable channel of the Intracoastal Waterway. One man who has lived aboard his sailboat for eleven years filed suit challenging the law in federal court.
Under federal maritime law, the federal government has the right to establish mooring rights within the Intracoastal Waterway and its tributaries. The federal supremacy clause makes federal law the supreme law of the land.
Generally, regulation of the use of the Intracoastal Waterway depends upon whether or not the federal government has preempted state and local law by enacting federal law over various uses of the waterway. However, the State of Florida owns the bottom lands of the Waterway by right of sovereignty under federalism. Unless the federal government intervenes in various uses, local governments may set speed limits for marine vessels, for example, transiting the waterway.
Court watchers await the final decision of the United States Supreme Court if the matter reaches that level of judicial authority. The author of this blog believes the federal government will prevail. In the absence of a uniform federal law on mooring, the author envisions scores of municipalities each with a confusing mishmash of differing mooring laws along the waterway.
The first inland waterway in America was the canal built at Ipswich, Mass., in 1636. All other waterways were built with private or state funds through a variety of schemes, including the use of a lottery, for two centuries more until the 1850’s. Constitutional constraints still prohibited Congress from financing canal construction. Still, Congress freely financed surveying projects throughout the country for national defense purposes.
Eventually, reliance upon the Constitution’s ‘Commerce Clause’ emboldened Congress to engage in matching funds with the states and outright grants of smaller projects such as the minuscule Haulover Canal at Titusville in 1852 for a total of $1,200.
Just before the outbreak of the Civil War, Congress begrudgingly bought stock in private canal stock companies and engaged in a number of indirect methods to assist canal companies just as the railroad came into wider use as a faster and more economical means of transporting fruits, vegetables and other perishables as well as iron ore, lumber, and oil.
The construction of the wildly successful Erie Canal in the State of New York set off a new era of canal construction across America. For the first time, an inland waterway provided a connection between New York City on the Atlantic coast and cities along the shores of the Great Lakes like Chicago. The link allowed New York City to surpass Baltimore as the largest city in the United States.
A strict construction of the Constitution rooted in the Constitutional Convention. at Philadelphia limited Congress’s powers to construct “post-roads” and undertake specific tasks set forth with particularity. Federal financing of inland waterways was not one of them. In fact, a bill to engraft the power to build inland waterways failed to pass in Philadelphia. The restraint against federal financing left New Yorkers with little choice but to build the Erie Canal with state and local funding as well as private financing and the implementation of tolls as a means of maintaining the Canal.
The Chesapeake Bay is an estuary lying inland from the Atlantic Ocean surrounded by the states of Maryland and Virginia. Encompassing over 4,479 square miles, it is the largest such body of water in the United States. More than 150 rivers and streams flow into this estuary.
The Bay has become environmentally challenged by the agricultural economies surrounding it. Over the past several decades, run offs from chemicals used in farming have dramatically reduced oyster and crab populations and lost a generation of “watermen” whose livelihoods have depended on this food source for centuries.
Click the underlined link above for a five-minute video of a tour of the Chesapeake Bay from the air.
At the turn of the last century (1895-1920s), something of a renaissance occurred in the political will of the Nation in the demand for inland waterway transportation. More than thirty citizens groups coalesced from all over the country to demand waterway construction to challenge not only the confiscatory tariffs charged by the railways but also to address the shortage of railway cars available to ship freight and carry passengers across the country. Among these citizen groups were the National Rivers and Harbors Congress (NRHC) and the Atlantic Deeper Waterways Association (the ADWA), both of which formed in the early 1900’s.
A first-term Republican congressman representing Philadelphia, Joseph Hampton Moore sought funds to deepen a portion of the Delaware River. His colleagues voted the bill down. So resolute was Moore in finding some way to acquire these funds that he spearheaded the organization of the ADWA in Philadelphia in 1907. Five hundred governors, congressman, other political leaders, as well as business leaders, and chamber of commerce representatives attended. Instead of each state along the Atlantic seaboard separately applying for scarce funds under the Rivers and Harbors Act, Moore advocated a ‘one for all, all for one’ lobbying approach. No longer would states be pitted against each other by governmental bureaucracies distributing funds for improvements. Within weeks, Moore introduced a bill in Congress to authorize the Corps of Engineers to survey a continuous inland waterway from Maine to Beaufort, N.C.
A few days later, North Carolina Democratic Congressman John Humphrey Small introduced a bill to authorize the extension of the survey southward from Beaumont, N.C. to Key West, Fla. It would take until 1935 for the federal government to acquire and enlarge the largely privately owned inland tollways into a continuous, federally controlled, toll-free Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway from Miami, Fla., to Trenton, N. J., with the exception of a few miles.
The New Englanders and the bank administering Bradley’s estate finally saw a way out of the Florida waterway’s never-ending maintenance problems and the slow sale of Florida land. They could sell the Florida East Coast Canal en masse to the federal government. It was only a matter of time.
Completed in 1829 during the first great Canal Era when arguments over Constitutional restraints kept Congress from using Federal taxpayer money to fund inland waterway construction, a private company completed the 17-mile waterway between the Chesapeake and Delaware Bays.
The original waterway was a tollway ten feet deep and sixty-six feet wide, with a boat channel thirty-six feet wide. It had four locks, each 110 feet long and 22 feet wide, later enlarged to 220 feet long and 24 feet wide. The canal system later gave way to the faster and more economical railway by the time of the Civil War.
Today, the Canal has 5 fixed bridges and one lift bridge. The four locks have been removed. The Chesapeake and Delaware Canal serves as an important inland link in the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway from Boston to Miami.
To see a short film of a boat transiting the Canal, Tap on this:
The oldest working canal still in existence, the Dismal Swamp Canal transits through naturalistic views of North Carolina and Virginia. This short video captures a history of the waterway three centuries long, beginning with some of the founders of the Nation making plans for a waterway between North Carolina and Virginia. [Tap the following to play video]