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Corps projects bear watching

Editor: Ever suspicious of government bureaucracy, I must call a matter to consideration by every citizen in Citrus County. Not long ago there was a one-shot news report. Commissioner Skip Hudson was calling upon the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to dredge out "shallow" areas of our rivers. If this request has been made, and if this is being studied by the Corps in its usual stealthy way, this is what can be in our future.

The Cross State Barge Canal began under much the same circumstances pushed at the outset by a greedy few for personal advantage.

Fifty-million dollars (1960 dollars), President Nixon brought that boondoggle to a standstill on Jan. 19, 1971. Nineteen years later after many millions more, Congress may be getting around the putting the final death blow to a comedy of errors.

The channelization of the Kissimmee River began under similar circumstances even earlier. Few people with any knowledge of Florida fail to recognize what horrendous mistakes were made during the next years by the Corps of Engineers. Right now the taxpayers of the state are facing expenditures estimated as high as $1-billion to remedy what has turned into an environmental nightmare increasingly affecting half the state's population.

During the same era, a beautiful river, the St. Lucie, was drawn into the Corps engineering. The north and south forks of the St. Lucie fed a wonderfully fecund estuary that flowed into the Indian River, hence to the Atlantic, through the St. Lucie inlet. The estuary was a semi-tropical paradise that supported diverse forms of aquatic and land life - a renewing resource that was famed worldwide for its recreational and commercial fishery, shellfish, shrimp, crayfish, scallops, etc.

At the time, property values along those reaches were the highest of anywhere outside of metro business areas in the state. The Corps took none of this into consideration and began canaling, dredging and damming. To make a long, sordid, sorry story short, the St. Lucie, the estuary, the Indian River now are barren, dead waters. Property values that once were shining treasures growing in value by leaps and bounds, are now comparatively worthless.

The Skip Hudsons of this world may not look at history for lessons, but the good people living along our rivers better, as had every Citrus resident who benefits from irreplaceable resources. Once the Corps of Engineers is turned loose on even minor irritants in our environment, disaster lurks in their wake, for to them any project is reason to recreate a Panama Canal when the job could be done better by a kid with a stick.

To dredge out the natural channel of any of our spring-fed rivers to allow a few larger boats passage, or fill in a few acres of wetlands for development, is crass stupidity of the worst kind. But you can bet they're working toward it somewhere.

Don't say you haven't been warned.

L.C. Alexander Inverness