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Cross Florida Barge Canal: Map

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A map of the Cross Florida Barge Canal as planned and built.
The Cross Florida Barge Canal was a canal project to connect the Gulf of Mexicomarker and the Atlantic Oceanmarker across Floridamarker for barge traffic. Two sections were built but the project was cancelled, mainly for environmental reasons. It is now a protected green belt corridor, one mile (1.6 km) wide in most places. Named after the leader in the opposition against the canal, Marjorie Harris Carr, it is known as the Marjorie Harris Carr Cross Florida Greenway.

Route

The planned route of the canal followed the St. Johns River from the Atlantic coast to Palatkamarker, the valley of the Ocklawaha River to the coastal divide, and the Withlacoochee River to the Gulf of Mexicomarker. About 28% of the 107-mile (172 km) project was built—the cross-country section from the St. Johns River to the Oklawaha River, part of the route along the Oklawaha, and a small section at the Gulf of Mexicomarker end up to the dammed Lake Rousseaumarker.

Bridges

All the bridges over the St. Johns River north of the canal are high enough for ships, or have movable sections. High bridges were built over the canal, as well as several over the Ocklawaha River where it was not widened to the canal. The following major roads, railroads, and locks and dams cross the path of the canal:

History

The idea of such a canal was first proposed by Philip II of Spain in 1567. It was repeatedly considered over the years but found to be economically unviable. Secretary of War John C. Calhoun once again proposed a canal in 1818 in order to solve the losses due to shipwrecks and piracy. The Florida Railroad, finished on March 1, 1861, served a similar purpose, connecting the Atlantic Oceanmarker at Fernandinamarker to the Gulf of Mexicomarker at Cedar Keymarker.

In the 1930s, regional politicians lobbied the federal government to fund canal construction as an economic recovery program, and president Franklin D. Roosevelt allocated emergency funds in 1935. Local opponents of the canal protested that the canal would deplete Florida's aquifers, and work was stopped a year later.

Work was reauthorized in 1942 as a national defense project, with dams and locks to protect the underground water supply. Support for the project from Washington was sporadic, and funds were never allocated to USACE to actually start construction.

Planning was once again given the go-ahead in 1963 with support from president John F. Kennedy, who allocated one million dollars to the project. The next year Lyndon Johnson set off the explosives that started construction. Opponents subsequently campaigned against the canal on environmental grounds, and the project stopped again in January 1971. It was officially cancelled in 1991. The right-of-way was turned over to the state and became the Marjorie Harris Carr Cross Florida Greenway, named in honor of the woman who led opposition to the canal.

Project Timeline

  • May 1933 - Canal Authority of the State of Florida was created to construct and maintain a deep-water ship canal across Florida.


  • 1935-1936 – Construction of a ship canal began under the Emergency Relief Appropriations Act of 1935, but work was suspended when Federal funds were depleted.


  • July 1942 – Congress authorized construction of the Cross Florida Barge Canal.


  • February 1964 – The U. S. Army Corps of Engineers began construction of the Cross Florida Barge Canal.


  • 1969 – The Environmental Defense Fund and others filed suit in the U. S. District Court for the District of Columbia seeking temporary and permanent injunction against the construction of the canal.


  • January 15, 1971 – The District Court granted a preliminary injunction halting any further construction activities pending the outcome of the litigation.


  • January 19, 1971 – President Richard Nixon signed an executive order suspending further work on the Barge Canal. When halted, the project was one-third complete and approximately $74 million had been spent on land acquisition and construction.


  • 1979 – Bills filed in Congress to deauthorize the Canal failed to pass.


  • May 22, 1990 - A revised federal bill was filed in the U. S. Senate by Senators Bob Graham and Connie Mack providing, among other things, for a minimum 300-yard wide greenway corridor to be maintained along the former Barge Canal route. This bill was agreed to by the entire Florida Congressional delegation.


  • May 31, 1990 - The Florida Legislature enacted a deauthorization bill conforming to the consensus bill filed in the U. S. Senate. Most of the provisions were not effective until Congress deauthorized the project.


  • October 27, 1990 – Senate Bill 2740 was passed by Congress and sent to the President for signature. The bill deauthorized the Cross Florida Barge Canal project upon acceptance by the Governor and Cabinet of the State of Florida.


  • November 28, 1990 – President George Bush signed SB 2740 into law deauthorizing the Cross Florida Barge Canal project and changing the purpose of the lands to recreation and conservation.


  • January 22, 1991 – The Governor and Cabinet of the State of Florida signed a resolution agreeing to the terms of the Federal deauthorization bill thereby officially deauthorizing the Cross Florida Barge Canal project. This action ultimately led to the creation of the Cross Florida Greenway State Recreation and Conservation Area.


  • 1998 - The Cross Florida Greenway was officially renamed the Marjorie Harris Carr Cross Florida Greenway in honor of the individual who led the fight to stop the Cross Florida Barge Canal project.


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