Sometime in 1888, the Florida canal company engaged acclaimed Chicago-based railway and waterway engineer Elmer Lawrence Corthell to undertake a complete survey of the cost of the work to be done in completing what would become the Intracoastal Waterway from St. Augustine to Miami, Florida. In turn, Corthell retained Arthur F. Wrotnowski, an experienced civil engineer who had laid out the town of Clermont, Florida, to do the actual on-the-ground survey work.
Interestingly, Wrotnowski had been born in Clermont, France. Nine months later, in May 1889, Corthell reported to Florida canal company directors that 87% of the 326-mile distance consisted of watercourses, lagoons, estuaries, and sloughs, with the balance in dry land. For the most part, and this cannot be overemphasized, the waterways were less than 5 feet deep and largely non-navigable except for canoes and rafts. The State’s contract with the canal company called for a waterway not less than 5 feet deep throughout the entire distance of the waterway. In the case of the thirty-mile stretch of dry and muck land between the Matanzas and Halifax rivers (St. Augustine and Ormond Beach), the work would take thirty years. Corthell estimated the total cost at $1,080,671.00, including the cost of three locks, each 300 feet long.