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.
In 1888, Florida canal company general manager George F. Miles engaged acclaimed Chicago waterway and railway engineer Elmer Corthell to survey the soil, rock, sand, and other material the Company dredges would likely encounter in completing the waterway and to estimate the cost of completion.
In turn, Corthell employed a former Army engineer, Artur [sic] Wrotnowski, to perform the actual on-the-ground measurements between bodies of water, their depths, and distances, with calculations of how much material the Florida canal company would have to move to comply with state requirements. Corthell reviewed Wrotnowski’s survey in detail and reported to the directors of the Florida canal company the amount of material to be moved and the cost to complete the waterway.
Corthell also considered mounting marine vessels on railway cars to transit difficult-to-dredge dry land between waterways but rejected the railway alternative as too expensive to maintain. In conclusion, Corthell endorsed the project on a ‘pay as you go’ basis, starting with minimum depths now, using the waterway to generate revenue to dredge a deeper and wider waterway later. Withal, Corthell thought the Florida East Coast economy robust, more than enough to justify his estimated cost to complete of a little over $1 million in 1889 ($26 million in historic standard-of-living dollars today, 2014). Courtesy, Brown University, Hay Library, Providence, Rhode Island.
As the 1912 deadline approached for the completion of the Florida waterway, George Francis Miles became increasingly disenchanted with his role as general manager of dredging operations. In 1911, Miles and others organized the Florida Coastal Inland Navigation Company to run steamboats on the completed portions of the inland waterway (Florida East Coast Canal).
Shown here is the toll schedule of the new steamer company running the old “Swan,” a light draft flat-bottom sternwheeler that once ran cotton on the Mississippi River. The “Swan” now transported cargoes of winter vegetables and citrus or passengers with their automobiles stowed in the open on the first level. Courtesy, Florida State Archives, Tallahassee, Fla.
The Canadians are coming! The Canadians are coming! In the late 1880s, four Canadians, including Sir Sandford Fleming’s son, Sandford H. Fleming, traveled to the State of Florida to enter into a subcontract with the Florida canal company to perform a portion of the work in the Matanzas-Halifax River Cut joining St. Augustine and today’s Ormond Beach, just above Daytona Beach.
Sir Sandford Fleming had won world-wide acclaim as chief engineer of the Canadian Pacific Railway, the designer of Canada’s first adhesive postage stamp, and the inventor of the 24 time zones around the world known as Universal Time, making it easier for railways to create timetables for arrivals and destinations around the world.
The particulars of the early Florida work performed by the junior Fleming are to date unknown. We do know that after a time the Canadian group failed to complete the work, owing a substantial sum in damages to the Florida canal company. The Canadians wouldn’t be in a position to repay the debt until almost thirty years had passed.
Meanwhile, several officials of the Florida canal company and a Newburyport, Mass. banker, Albert P. Sawyer, formed the Boston and Florida Atlantic Coast Land Company to buy 100,000 acres of the Florida canal company’s state land grant at a dollar an acre for $100,000. Sawyer also created three land trusts to buy more canal company land, restoring the canal venture’s coffers to further dredging work down the Florida peninsula into the Indian River. Soon Sir Sandford Fleming became the largest stockholder in the Boston & Florida land company after company officials made the stock exchangeable in land owned by the company.
Chief engineer of the Canadian and Pacific Railway, Sir Sandford Fleming was also the designer of Canada’s first adhesive postage stamps. In 1892 Fleming and his son, Sandford H. Fleming, as well as several other Canadians became interested in the inland waterway being dredged along the east coast of Florida. In a matter of time, Sir Sandford became the largest investor in the affiliated Boston & Florida land company.
But by 1912, Fleming and his Canadian colleagues had become disenchanted with the enterprise. No dividends had yet been paid on their stock. In a few short years, the Fleming group would soon reap dividends as high as 16% annually on their investment after completion of the Florida waterway and the sales of lands abutting the waterway and Flagler’s railway.
Brigadier General Quincy Adams Gillmore, Second Florida chief of the Army Corps of Engineers. Gillmore graduated first in his class at West Point. He conducted several surveys of the Florida east coast during his command (1869-1884). In later years, Gillmore published several textbooks, including one on underwater concrete, a necessity in waterway and canal improvements. Gillmore recommended improvements in the old Haulover Cut that Wright had constructed in 1854. But Wright, now Gillmore’s superior and Chief of the Corps of Engineers, turned Gillmore down. The Federal Government remained resistant in spending federal dollars for construction of internal improvements. Construction of waterways was left to the states and to private enterprise for work deemed local in importance. In the relatively new state of Florida, its government after the Civil War was bereft of any cash to pay for public improvements. It was again left to private enterprise to finance canals and railways.
In 1881, four St. Augustine investors led by Dr. John Westcott, who also had been Surveyor General of Florida, formed the Florida canal company that would dredge 268 miles of privately-owned waterway by 1912 and earn the company more than a million acres of valuable east coast land from St. Augustine to the tip of the Florida peninsula as well as the right to collect tolls from waterway traffic. Westcott proved invaluable in heading the company. His knowledge of the choice state land available to pay for the company’s work benefitted the enterprise immensely in the years ahead. In 1929, the State of Florida turned over what been the private Florida East Coast Canal to the Federal Government free of charge for perpetual maintenance and enlargement as the Florida portion of the toll-free Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway. Courtesy, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.