Navigational Hazard in South Carolina: Boaters Beware Watts Cut

As of yesterday, a dangerous navigational hazard has not yet been marked at Watts Cut (AICW mile marker 503). A concrete pole was driven in an angle into the bottomland of the Intracoastal Waterway.,-80.359&z=1

Under certain tidal conditions, the pole cannot be seen above water.  Striking the pole at speed will result in a hole in the hull of many vessels. Under other conditions, striking the pole at an angle at speed may cause passengers to be thrown overboard. The Coast Guard has been alerted.

Of all the coastal counties through which the Intracoastal Waterway runs from Virginia to Florida, clearly the run through South Carolina poses the most risk for boaters on the Intracoastal Waterway.  From navigational hazards like this concrete pole to shoaling so severe a person can actually walk across the bottomland of the Waterway at low tide in some sections, the Palmetto State alone cannot maintain its waterway.  A missing link in a continuous inland waterway defeats the whole purpose of having a continuous waterway for pleasure or commercial purposes.  Congress still has not appreciated the millions of dollars spent by the megayacht and yachting industry.

Under federal law, the Waterway is to be maintained by the federal government through the Army Corps of Engineers.  Generally, the Waterway is to be kept at a depth of 12 feet.  Congress has failed to provide sufficient funds to the Army Corps of Engineers for maintenance. Fortunately, when the federal government assumed control over the old Florida East Coast Canal in 1929, Florida formed a special taxing district, the Florida Inland Navigation District (FIND), to provide the necessary easements and areas for the deposit of maintenance spoil required by the Corps of Engineers.  With federal funds lacking, FIND supplies 80% of the necessary funds to maintain the waterway through dredging in partnership with the Corps. The remaining states along the coast must rely on general state revenues.

In 1999, business interests in Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia and Florida combined to form the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway Association to lobby Congress for adequate funding.  The stimulus program provided some but not enough to fill the long term needs of the Waterway. And the AIWA has made some progress on Capitol Hill, but there is still much work to be done.

Commodore Avylen Harcourt Brook aboard his sloop “Klyo,” in the New River Sound, Fort Lauderdale, Florida

The sloop

On the sloop “Klyo,” in the New River Sound, Fort Lauderdale, Florida, were President-elect Warren Harding (in white pants and white shoes, standing in the middle with cap doffed in right hand) and owner, Commodore Avylen Harcourt Brook (short-statured, standing in the middle of two taller men in the stern with flat captain’s hat (1922)).  Courtesy, Fort Lauderdale (Fla.) Historical Society. The event, or “stunt”, attracted coverage from newspapers across the country, inciting action for a second renaissance in inland waterways construction and improvements.  More than thirty citizen groups coalesced to lobby for waterways throughout the country.


Col. Gilbert A. Youngberg — Florida Chief of Army Corps of Engineers, in 1922

The nation’s third president, Thomas Jefferson, constantly fought Alexander Hamilton, first Treasury Secretary under President George Washington, over Hamilton’s liberal views of the Constitution. Jefferson believed in a strict construction of the Constitution. Adamantly opposed to Hamilton’s support of a standing (permanent) army, Jefferson supported the Military Peace Establishment Act, which founded the U. S. Military Academy at West Point.

Col. Gilbert A. Youngberg, Florida Chief of the Army Engineers (1922). Courtesy, Rollins College, Winter Park, Fla.
Col. Gilbert A. Youngberg, Florida Chief of the Army Engineers (1922). Courtesy, Rollins College, Winter Park, Fla.

Jefferson believed the federal government should train its best soldiers to survey but not build inland waterways, roads, and bridges as army engineers. In fact, because the Academy believed that French engineering produced better infrastructure based on more solid concepts over British engineering, West Point cadets read their engineering textbooks in French in the early years. Moreover, cadets who graduated in the top ten percent of their class were able to choose their areas of military service after graduation.

A crucial appointment by the Chief of Engineers in Washington, D.C., in 1922 led to the appointment of Col. Gilbert Albin Youngberg as Florida Chief of Engineers.  Youngberg emphasized the importance of assembling economic data to support Florida’s case for the federalizing of the privately owned old Florida East Coast Canal and its conversion into the toll-free, federally controlled, Intracoastal Waterway.

Five years later, in 1927, Youngberg put together a strong brief in support of a federal takeover of the East Coast Canal, later incorporated in House Document 586.  Acting on Youngberg’s support, Congress approved federalization as long as the State of Florida turned over to the federal government free and clear the old canal, the necessary right-of-way for enlargement to a depth of eight feet and a width of seventy-five feet, and provide the land for the deposit of spoil.  In exchange, the government would enlarge and maintain the waterway in perpetuity.

Author to be interviewed by Book TV C-SPAN 2, Tuesday, April 21,2015

William G. Crawford, Jr., author of the award-winning “Florida’s Big Dig,” is to be interviewed by Jason Dorman, a graduate of Flagler College, for C-SPAN 2 Book TV.

The interview is to air the month of May, with a special emphasis on a showing throughout the weekend of May 16 through May 17, 2015.

William G. Crawford, jr, Esq., Florida attorney, historian, and author of "Florida 's Big Dig."
William G. Crawford, jr, Esq., Florida attorney, historian, and author of “Florida ‘s Big Dig.”

The story of the Florida link in the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway, “Florida’s Big Dig” won the Rembert Patrick Award in 2008 for the Best Scholarly Book on a Florida history topic given by the Florida Historical Society.

C-SPAN is in the midst of a campaign of focusing on the history of smaller cities and towns and their authors. This weekend C-SPAN has been taping in St. Augustine, Fla.

Even Whiskers likes "Florida's Big Dig."
Even Whiskers likes “Florida’s Big Dig.”