By Capt. Ralph Allen
There are hundreds of miles of artificial canals in Southwest Florida. Most of them were built in the 1950s and ‘60s, and they helped to fuel Florida’s real estate boom by creating thousands of waterfront lots which developers sold to buyers who were mostly from “up north” and who were eager to buy a piece of waterfront property in the Sunshine State. Huge, sprawling developments sprang up around the canals of Punta Gorda, Port Charlotte, Cape Coral and elsewhere. The resulting mazes of narrow, house-lined waterways wind inland for miles, requiring resident boaters in some of these areas to undertake quite lengthy slow-speed journeys to reach open water.
Most of the canals in Southwest Florida were originally dredged fairly deeply. This was not done because the developers were concerned about the ability of boats to navigate the canals safely at low tide. Most of the canal systems were dredged in wetlands or other low-lying areas, and the dredge spoil was needed as fill dirt to raise the elevation of the adjacent lots to heights suitable for construction. Trying to stack wet, sandy dredge spoil alongside deeply dug ditches was problematic because the muck would tend to slip back into the canals whenever it rained, so construction of the concrete retaining walls that we know as seawalls became a standard practice in many canal systems. The small city of Punta Gorda maintains approximately 115 miles of seawall (no, that is not a misprint), there are approximately 165 miles of canals in Port Charlotte, and the much larger city of Cape Coral is estimated to include over 400 miles of canals. Staggering as though these numbers may be, they do not include many, many more miles of canals in smaller developments all along our coast.
You are currently not logged in
By logging in you can see the full story.