A subject we’ve discussed a little bit in the past but never on its own, the Cross Florida Barge Canal and the movement to stop it are among the biggest environmental issues in the history of a state that is marked by huge environmental issues. Promoters of the canal sought to bisect Florida from Fernandina to Cedar Key, connecting the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico for the purpose of shortening trade routes. Opponents pointed out that such a project risked destroying the Floridan aquifer, disrupting the primary source of drinking water for millions of Floridians.
The canal was long a goal of local politicians in north central Florida and a canal authority was created in 1933. However, the New Deal program never got off the ground thanks to local opposition. But by the early 1960s, the project was back on as John F. Kennedy authorized the project in 1963. The next year construction began.
Environmentalists cried foul and constructuction was halted by President Nixon who signed an Executive Order in early 1971. Marjorie Harris Carr was particularly instrumental in this as she was with many other environmental issues during the awakening of the late 1960s on green issues. Carr’s campaign and the growing environmental awareness nationally led Nixon to act.
About 28% of the canal was built and the rest of right-of-way purchased to build it was converted to a Greenway named for Carr in 1998, a year after she passed on.
In the coming weeks we’ll continue highlighting the politics and policy of Florida’s natural resources and water — an issue Democrats stand to gain from enormously in the coming decade if they handle it wisely. For now, check out this excellent trailer for a film on the proposed canal, From Waterway to Greenway, currently in post-production.