(4.2) HISTORY - Presidents Kennedy, Johnson, and Nixon about the Cross Florida Barge Canal and the Ocklawaha River

Presidents Kennedy, Johnson, and Nixon

About the Cross Florida Barge Canal

And the Ocklawaha River

An Information & Sources Report

Compiled by

Ocklawahaman Paul Nosca

Created: 20 September 2013

Last Revised: 29 May 2015

Presidential candidate John F. Kennedy (October 1960):

“I know of your persistent work for the early construction of the Cross Florida Barge Canal. If I am elected president, I will be glad to cooperate with you in making this project a reality. I regard it not only as important to Florida but to the economy of the entire country, which must fully utilize all our natural resources if we are to achieve necessary economic expansion.”


President Lyndon B. Johnson (February 27, 1964):

"God was good to this country. He endowed it with resources unsurpassed in their variety and their abundance. But in His wisdom the Creator left something for men to do for themselves.

"He gave us great rivers, but He left them to run wild in the flood, and sometimes to go dry in the drought--and sometimes to rain when we have a celebration. But He left it to us to control these carriers of commerce.

"He gave us great estuaries and natural locales for harbors. But He left it to us to dredge them out so we could use them with modern ships.

"He gave us the shallow waters along most of our coastline, which form natural routes for protected coastal waterways. But He left it to us to carve out the channels to make them usable.

"Today we accept another challenge. We make use of another resource. We will construct a canal across northern Florida to shorten navigation distances between our Atlantic and our Gulf coasts. When this canal is completed, it will spark new and permanent economic growth. It will accelerate business and industry to locate here on its banks. It will open up new recreation areas.

"The challenge of a modern society is to make the resources of nature useful and beneficial to the community. So this is the passkey to economic growth, to sensible and to valid prosperity; to create a value where none existed before is to enlarge the hoard of Nature's bounty and to make it serve all of our citizens.

"This new ribbon of water will enable barges to move across the Florida peninsula a few years from now, bearing commerce between the two seacoasts. In a sense, this new canal symbolizes the essential unity that makes a nation out of regions.

"To your great Governor, Farris Bryant, to the Members of your great Florida delegation, of whom there is no better delegation in the Congress, must go the gratitude of all the citizens of Florida for the work that they did in making this barge canal possible, and, more importantly, for making the American apparatus of freedom go forward to new dimensions and to new boundaries.

"I am relieved that we are finally going to press the button and push the switch that starts this great canal, because I remember every time I went to the House, Billy Matthews would catch me by the lapels of my coat, and George Smathers couldn't leave a leadership meeting without talking to me about it. I thought Spessard Holland was going to have a heart attack the last time he talked to me because he told me if this money was not in for the Florida Cross-State Canal, there was going to be trouble when my budget got to the Congress. So to these good and great men who make up this wise delegation, I want to say that I am proud to stand here by your side today, to be a part of this new undertaking.

"Governor Bryant, as I throw this switch detonating an explosive charge to break ground for this canal, let me commend the Army Corps of Engineers who will build this canal, as they have built them so wisely and so many times before. I wish all of you and this new canal Godspeed."


President Richard M. Nixon (January 19, 1971):

"I am today ordering a halt to further construction of the Cross Florida Barge Canal to prevent potentially serious environmental damages.

"The purpose of the canal was to reduce transportation costs for barge shipping. It was conceived and designed at a time when the focus of Federal concern in such matters was still almost completely on maximizing economic return.

"In calculating that return, the destruction of natural, ecological values was not counted as a cost, nor was a credit allowed for actions preserving the environment.

"A natural treasure is involved in the case of the Barge Canal--the Oklawaha River--a uniquely beautiful semi-tropical stream, one of a very few of its kind in the United States, which would be destroyed by construction of the Canal.

"The Council on Environmental Quality has recommended to me that the project be halted, and I have accepted its advice. The Council has pointed out to me that the project could endanger the unique wildlife of the area and destroy this region of unusual and unique natural beauty.

"The total cost of the project if it were completed would be about $180 million. About $50 million has already been committed to construction. I am asking the Secretary of the Army to work with the Council on Environmental Quality in developing recommendations for the future of the area.

"The step that I have taken today will prevent a past mistake from causing permanent damage. But more important we must assure that in the future we take not only full but also timely account of the environmental impact of such projects--so that instead of halting the damage, we prevent it."


REFERENCE AS: Nosca, P. 2015. "Presidents Kennedy, Johnson, and Nixon about the Cross Florida Barge Canal and the Ocklawaha River" webpage report. "Ocklawahaman Paul Nosca reports" website. Paul Nosca, Eureka, FL.


Email: ocklawahaman1@gmail.com