First Board of Commissioners of the Florida Inland Navigation District (“FIND”) (1928)

FIND 1928
The first Board of Commissioners of FIND, included, yacht club commodores, newspaper publishers, landscape architects, real estate developers. Here, pictured also are Al Green, first attorney for FIND; and, Harry Kelsey, current owner of the Florida East Coast Canal (1928). Courtesy, FIND.

Under the 1927 federal legislation authorizing the Corps of Engineers to take control of the Florida East Coast Canal for conversion into the larger Intracoastal Waterway, Congress required Florida to designate a local sponsor. That local sponsor designated by the Florida Legislature was FIND, a special taxing district made up of eleven east coast counties stretching from today’s Miami-Dade County (Miami) north to Duval County (Jacksonville).

Now FIND includes a twelfth county (Nassau County) further north. This district has the power of taxation over all property within these 12 counties, as well as the powers of eminent domain, and all other powers necessary to provide in perpetuity the maintenance spoil areas needed by the Corps of Engineers to deposit spoil in enlarging the waterway to a minimum width of as much as 150 feet in some areas and a depth of twelve feet, as it exists today in Florida.

Here in this photograph are the eleven members of the original board of commissioners, including Harry Seymour Kelsey, who bought the East Coast Canal from George Ł. Bradley’s estate in 1925, and other officials. The majority of the commissioners appointed by Governor David Sholtz in 1927 were yacht club commodores, newspaper publishers, and real estate developers, in addition to others interested in inland transportation.

In 1929, as a result of court delays caused when Dade County State Attorney Vernon Hawthorne challenged FIND’s intention in selling bonds to buy the waterway from Kelsey, FIND sold something over one million dollars in bonds to pay for the old Canal and necessary right-of-way. Title was then vested in the United States of America, the Corps of Engineers assumed control over what Congress would later call the Atlantic Intracoastal waterway, and the old toll chains were eliminated. The old Canal became a free and public waterway of the people of the United States of America.

Postscript. After all was said and done, FIND did not spend all of the bond proceeds. The commissioners “burned” the bonds they didn’t need to sell. One of those noteworthy instances when a public body didn’t spend all of the proceeds of a court-approved bond issue.

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