If you dredge it, officials say, the megayachts will come; Deepening of Intracoastal Waterway begins (Thursday, May 5, 2016)

If you dredge it, officials say, the megayachts will come; Deepening of Intracoastal Waterway begins (Tap on blue twice for news article)

William G. Crawford, Jr., editor

Fort Lauderdale, Fla.–On Thursday, May 5, 2016, the Florida Inland Navigation District (FIND) began a two-year dredging project to deepen the Intracoastal Waterway to a minimum of 10 to 12 feet from the 17th Street Causeway Bridge north to the Sunrise Bridge to attract the burgeoning mega yacht business.

From 1912 to 1929, the Intracoastal Waterway was a privately owned waterway initially owned by St. Augustine investors that  collected tolls from boats crossing six chains at different points from Jacksonville, Fla. to Miami, Fla.  In 1881, the Florida Coast Line Canal & Transportation Company agreed to dredge the waterway for a grant of  3,840 acres of Florida owned land for every mile of waterway dredged to a depth of five feet and a width of fifty feet and the right to collect tolls. 

By 1912, the private enterprise comprised mostly of New England investors received over one million acres of public land along Florida’s Atlantic coast for dredging 268 miles of  waterway according to state specifications. Although more than 80% of the waterway’s length had already consisted of water courses, lagoons, estuaries, and sounds, commercially viable vessels like steamboats could not navigate these waters without some dredging.  In Fort Lauderdale, waterways generally were three to four feet deep and tidally influenced.  

Work in Fort Lauderdale to dredge a course through the New River Sound to create a depth of five feet deep and fifty feet wide occurred between 1893 and 1896.   In the early 1920’s, about a mile west of today’s downtown on the South Fork of the New River, boaters throughout the country regarded the Pilkington Yacht Basin as  the largest covered yacht basin Florida. This basin accommodated almost exclusively flat-bottomed boats and houseboats. In sum, while the city had been known as the ‘Gateway to the Everglades’, most of its waters were non-navigable without dredging.  In 1929, the Federal government assumed control of the waterway. The State of Florida retained ownership of the bottom lands as they existed on the date of statehood, March 3, 1845.  Tolls would no longer be collected on the Florida East Coast Canal upon assumption of control by the Federal government.

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