A look at the origins of FIND, and the ICW May 21, 2015
Originally envisioned as a transportation highway primarily for efficient movement of commercial cargo in protected waters, the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway has served that need and also become a well-traveled and optional safety route for recreational boat owners navigating the eastern seaboard. The full length of the waterway runs from Boston to Key West. Mariners taking the inside passage have created an economic boost to boating businesses that serve them. Boating activities also have stimulated development of residential properties and additional businesses along the waterways.
In a 2011 study completed by the Florida Inland Navigation District, the waterways were estimated to generate an annual state‐wide benefit of $11.86 billion in business volume, $3.02 billion in personal income, 66,843 jobs, and $540.4 million in tax revenue. Since then, if the ICW had been maintained at its authorized width and depth, revenues, income and jobs all would have significantly increased, by some estimates by 20 percent or more.
FIND was created by the state legislature in 1927 which purchased the canal in 1928, when it became a public waterway. The district consists of the 12 counties along the east coast with a commissioner for each county appointed by the governor. The Board of Commissioners levies a tax on real property within the district’s boundaries to fund its work. In 1988, the ICW became a federal navigation project assigned to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to work in concert with FIND. FIND also partners with other governments to provide access and facilities including public boat ramps, marinas, side channels, parks, fishing piers, boardwalks, navigation aids, derelict vessel removal, shoreline stabilization, and waterway cleanups such as MIASF’s Broward County Waterway Cleanup.
To maintain navigation, the waterways need to be periodically dredged due to shoaling from currents, upland soil erosion, and the movement of offshore sands through the ocean inlets. Shoaling is especially disruptive along the 1,100-mile section from Norfolk to Miami. Dredging, to keep water depths at 10 to 12 feet for navigation and safety reasons for the entire ICW, was projected in 2011 to cost approximately $12 million to $16 million annually during the next 50 years – that projection has now risen to $20 million to $40 million annually. In Florida, FIND says 50 percent of the costs are expected to be borne by property owners in the district.
The District’s primary source of funds for these activities is ad valorem tax revenues from the 12 member counties along Florida’s east coast, Nassau through Miami-Dade.