New Accession: Cross Florida Barge Canal Records

In April, the State Archives of Florida accessioned 163 boxes of material from the Department of Environmental Protection documenting the creation, progression and eventual decline of the Cross Florida Barge Canal project. Once received, archivists began working their way through the boxes to ready them for public access. The process involved sorting the records to better understand the kinds of information they contain and how researchers might use them. The materials are now divided into six distinct series: reports, land records, legal records, administrative files, Canal Land Advisory Council records and Cross Florida Greenway records.

Archivists examine a map included in the new accession from the Cross Florida Barge Canal records (2014).

Archivists examine a map included in the new accession from the Cross Florida Barge Canal records (2014).

When dealing with a large group of records across multiple series, archivists typically tackle the series that seems the most straightforward first. This allows the processing archivist to become familiar with the methods used by the documents’ creators to generate and organize the material. It also allows the archivist to learn about the history and evolution of the project or agency, especially when records are of a more professionally specialized nature. This is the case with the Cross Florida Barge Canal records, as many were created by engineers, land surveyors and appraisers, legal specialists, and environmental experts. The reports series was the first to be arranged and described because of its clear and consistent structure. Processing efforts are complete and the documents are now open for research at the State Archives of Florida.

Newly boxed and labeled records on the shelf at the State Archives of Florida (2014).

Newly boxed and labeled records on the shelf at the State Archives of Florida (2014).

The Reports series (S2685) is comprised entirely of reports written in the course and aftermath of the Cross Florida Barge Canal project. The wide variety of topics covered by the series include: project oversight and responsibility; engineering manuals, challenges, inspections and cost estimates; site specific analyses, appraisals, updates and designs; and environmental rehabilitation, restoration and development.

Reports created by the Army Corps of Engineers, Jacksonville District, are the most prevalent. The United States Department of Agriculture and the Department of the Interior also feature prominently. Many state agencies completed studies on the canal project, especially the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and the Game and Fresh Water Fish Commission.

Cover of a report by the University of Florida's Center for Aquatic and Invasive Plants, sponsored by the Army Corps of Engineers (Box 7, folder 24 of Series 2685, State Archives of Florida).

Cover of a report by the University of Florida’s Center for Aquatic and Invasive Plants, sponsored by the Army Corps of Engineers (Box 7, folder 24 of Series 2685, State Archives of Florida).

Many times supplemental studies would occur as a result of the release of comprehensive reports. In some cases, studies were contracted out to private companies in order to get additional perspectives on the findings of past reports. For example, the Army Corps of Engineers performed a large scale restudy of the Barge Canal in the mid 1970s. Many Florida agencies and universities built upon the Corps of Engineers restudies, often narrowing their scope to issues such as the environmental effects on wildlife, vegetation and water quality or local economics. The large number of agencies, universities, independent firms, corporations and public organizations that created reports on the project illustrates the significance of the proposed Cross Florida Barge Canal at both the state and national level.

The land records series is next up for processing. Look for a post on those records in the coming months!