In a ceremony presided over by U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower and Queen Elizabeth II, the St. Lawrence Seaway is officially opened, creating a navigational channel from the Atlantic Ocean to all the Great Lakes. The seaway, made up of a system of canals, locks, and dredged waterways, extends a distance of nearly 2,500 miles, from the Atlantic Ocean through the Gulf of St. Lawrence to Duluth, Minnesota, on Lake Superior.
Work on the massive project was initiated by a joint U.S.-Canadian commission in 1954, and five years later, in April 1959, the icebreaker D’Iberville began the first transit of the St. Lawrence Seaway. Since its official opening, more than two billion tons of cargo, with an estimated worth of more than $300 billion, have moved along its canals and channels.
Honoré Mercier Bridge
The Honoré Mercier Bridge in Quebec, Canada, connects the Montreal borough of LaSalle on the Island of Montreal with the Mohawk reserve of Kahnawake, Quebec and the suburb of Châteauguay on the south shore of the Saint Lawrence River.  It is the most direct southerly route from the island of Montreal toward the US border. It carries Route 138, originally Route 4. It is 1.361 km (0.846 mi) in length and contains four steel trusses on its first section. The height of the bridge varies from 12.44 m (40.8 ft) to 33.38 m (109.5 ft) with the highest sections located over the St. Lawrence Seaway. The bridge is named after former premier of Quebec Honoré Mercier.
Unique in Quebec, the bridge is managed by both the federal and provincial governments. The southwest portion of the bridge, over 1,031 metres (1128 yards) from the beginning of the arch bridge (at pile14), is the responsibility of a Crown corporation: the Jacques Cartier and Champlain Bridges Incorporated (JCCBI). The rest of the bridge (902 meters, 986 yards) is owned by the Quebec Ministry of Transport, which is also responsible for the day-to-day operations of the complex, including the federal part.
The bridge has two lanes of traffic in each direction and a total span of nearly two kilometres (1¼ miles). At its highest point, the bridge rises 36 metres (120') above the river. There is a narrow sidewalk on the side headed to Châteauguay that was for use by foot or bicycle, but it has not been open since major repairs began in 2009. The roadway has been characterized by numerous repairs.
It is estimated that an average of 75,000 vehicles use the bridge each day. An estimated 30 million vehicles use the bridge every year. 
1959 St Lawrence Seaway Opened
After a century of efforts the St Lawrence Seaway was opened in 1959 by President Eisenhower and Queen Elizabeth.
As early as the 1890’s proposals were made to create a waterway along St Lawrence to provide access to the Great Lakes from the Atlantic Ocean. In the 1920s two reports were submitted to the US and Canadian governments, both recommending the building of a canal. The concept was to combine the ability to generate power from the water and providing deep water passage. A treaty was signed in 1932 to build the canal, but it could not achieve the 2/3 votes required to be ratified by the US Senate.
After World War II the Canadians who needed the potential power the project could generate threatened to build the canal alone. This spurred the US Congress to agree to build the canal jointly. On May 13, 1954, President Eisenhower passed Wiley- Dondero Seaway Act, which established the Saint Lawrence Seaway Development Corporation. Groundbreaking ceremonies were held in Massena, New York on August 10, 1954. The US Coast Guard Cutter Maple was the first ship to make the passage in early 1959. The project cost $470 million with the bulk being paid for by the Canadian government.
The Lost Villages of Mille Roches, Moulinette, Wales, Dickinson’s Landing, Farran’s Point, and Aultsville the hamlets of Maple Grove, Santa Cruz and Woodlands and the farming community of Sheik’s/Sheek’s Island, were not lost through carelessness, they were disposed of with Government approval “for the common good”. Over 6500 people were displaced in the name of progress for the sake of the St. Lawrence Seaway and International Hydro Electric project. Casualties of progress, the villages and hamlets disappeared beneath the waters of the newly created Lake St. Lawrence, but they stayed alive in the memories of their former residents.
Many of these inhabitants moved into the new towns of Ingleside (New Town #1) and Long Sault (New Town #2), and it was there, twenty years later, that the Historical Society was born. The desire of newcomers to know about the background of these seemingly traditionless towns sparked the desire of residents from the Lost Villages to show and tell the proud heritage to which the new towns were heirs. In 1977, The Lost Villages Historical Society was founded.
Much of the content of these village history pages has been derived from the knowledge of our members. We would especially like to thank our former President and now MPP, Mr. Jim Brownell, for his valued contributions.
BIBLIOGRAPHY Cruickshank, Brigadier-General Ernest A, The King’s Royal Regiment of New York, The Ontario Historical Society, 1931. Special Thanks to: George Anderson, Lyall Manson, and Marion Weatherhead.
June 26, 1959: St. Lawrence Seaway Opens, Brings Invasive Species to Great Lakes
On June 26, 1959, the St. Lawrence Seaway opened for commerce, bringing ocean going ships access to the Great Lakes. Consisting of a series of canals and 15 locks to bypass rapids on the river and Niagara Falls between Lake Ontario and Lake Erie, work on the system was started in 1954, although other canals had been dug much earlier.
Passing about 50 million tons of cargo per year, the Seaway has had tremendous positive impact on the industry and commerce of the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence region. Unfortunately, it has come at an ecological price. Opening passage by water to the Great Lakes has brought numerous harmful invasive species from the ocean and from other waterways throughout the world.
One of the most damaging of these invasive species have is the Sea Lamprey, a parasitic primitive eel like fish that killed off much of the native Lake Trout and Whitefish population before pesticides (larvacides used in rivers where they spawn) controlled them somewhat. They came via the Welland Canal , that opened in 1921 and is now part of the Seaway.
Other fish invaders include the White Perch, a smaller cousin of the more popular White Bass that is poorer table fare and is a notorious bait stealer. The Round and Tube Nosed Gobies that cover the lakes’ bottoms eat native fish eggs, reproduce many times per year, are too small to be sport fish and are also notorious bait stealers. Another invasive fish is the Ruffe, a fish from the Black and Caspian sea that grows to only about 5 inches, reproduces at an incredible rate, and is not particularly palatable to game fish.
Non-fish invasive species include the Zebra and Quagga Mussels that are familiar to Great Lakes and other boaters and fishermen as they quickly colonize new waters, covering every available surface, clogging boat motors and water intakes. Their filter feeding habits make the water much clearer, at first giving the impression they are doing some good, but in reality they are robbing baby fish and other native water-life of the tiny foods needed for growth. They also concentrate toxic chemicals, and in turn are eaten by some of the native fish, causing those fish to become contaminated with the toxins.
The Spiny Water Flea is not a flea, but a tiny crustacean with a stiff, bristle-like tail that is similar to a stiff hair. Out-competing native zooplankton, these critters are so rampant that they can coat and foul fishing lines of anglers. Although native fish will eat them, they are a poor food source and compete with newborn fish for food.
Almost everything humans do has an impact on the environment, and in the case of these invasive species a negative impact. Measures to control these invaders sometimes seem hopeless, and can cost vast sums of money. This is why it is better to prevent such problems first instead of trying to deal with them later. Question for students (and subscribers): What non-native invasive species do you find most annoying? Please let us know in the comments section below this article.
If you liked this article and would like to receive notification of new articles, please feel welcome to subscribe to History and Headlines by liking us on Facebook and becoming one of our patrons!
By Naval Institute Archives
June 26, 1959
The St. Lawrence Seaway, a project which transformed the Great Lakes into “The Eighth Sea” is completed.
“The completion of this majestic engineering project exemplifies national sovereignty and national growth at its best and highest.”
In May 1959, Proceedings published an article by Harry C. Brockel, which examined the benefits of constructing a 2,400-mile waterway system through the St. Lawrence River and the Great Lakes. These benefits, which included the harnessing of previously undeveloped water power and the opening up of valuable resources in the Great Lakes region, also extended to national defense. An excerpt of the article describes the difficulties in beginning the project and its expected impact on national defense:
After 35 years of regional struggle and Congressional debate, the Seaway was finally authorized by the United States Congress in May, 1954. President Eisenhower signed the bill immediately, and within a few weeks one of the greatest engineering tasks in the history of the world was under way. It took only 4 1/2 years–from late 1954 until early 1959–for the engineering genius of Canada and the United States to bring into being the second largest power project in the world and a new waterway which will make the Great Lakes into “The Eighth Sea” or “The New Mediterranean.”
When opened to deep-draft ships, the St. Lawrence Seaway will consist of a 2,400-mile waterway system extending from the Atlantic Ocean through the St. Lawrence River and the Great Lakes to the headwaters of the Lakes. Although a joint project was contemplated for many years, the legislation finally enacted by Canada and the United States made a simple and logical division of the work, with each country building the structures and improving the channels within its own territory. . . .
“The New Look” on the Great Lakes embraces not only the tremendous engineering works involved in the Seaway project and the building of an enormous hydroelectric structure, but the engineering marvel of the new Straits of Mackinac Bridge and a multimillion dollar program of new port structures in the lake ports which expect to be the principal terminals for the many new ocean lines now in operation or projected for the Great Lakes. The largest Great Lakes bulk freighters will be able to move freely between lake ports and tidewater. An estimated 80% of the world shipping fleet will find the Great Lakes accessible as a new world trade route. The small ocean ships and small “Canalers” which now link the Great Lakes and Montreal may linger briefly, but the inexorable facts of transportation will no doubt see them quickly replaced by fast, deep, large-capacity ships. One example of the attraction of the new project to shipping will be that an estimated two days–perhaps more–will be chopped off transit time between Montreal and the Great Lakes, with wide and deep canal sections replacing present shoestring canals and with seven tremendous locks replacing 21 obsolete small locks into which ships had to be shoehorned, at great cost in time and frustration to vessel masters.
The Seaway and National Defense
The military potentialities and the national defense aspects of the Seaway have been a major consideration in the prolonged national debate on the project and in international discussion of it. For example, during the defense mobilization, preceding World War II, President Roosevelt sent several special messages to the Congress urging immediate construction of the Seaway to add to the national arsenal for defense. On October 17, 1940, President Roosevelt said, “The development … of the Seaway should be undertaken at the earliest possible … to meet the continuing power requirements of the defense program in essential centers of war material production. The potential power at this site is best adapted to meet the requirements of expansion in certain essential defense industries including aluminum, magnesium, ferro-alloys, chemicals, etc. The project may be considered as an essential part of the program of continental defense.”
In a special message in June, 1941, President Roosevelt said, “I recommend construction of the St. Lawrence Seaway and Power Project as an integral part of the joint defense of the North American continent … your action will either make available or withhold 2,200,000 horsepower of low-cost electric power for the joint defense of North America. Your action … will either open or keep bottled up one of the greatest transportation resources ever offered to people…. Our defense production is a gigantic assembly line transportation is its conveyor belt. The Seaway … will provide a great highway to and from important defense production areas. It will cut by more than a thousand miles the stretch of dangerous open water which must be traveled by supplies to Great Britain and strategic North Atlantic bases. It will increase our capacity to build ships. … The St. Lawrence Project must be expedited. No comparable power, shipbuilding and transportation facilities can be made available. . . . I know of no single project of this nature more important to this country’s future in peace or war.”
When he became president, Harry S. Truman similarly urged the building of the Seaway both for national expansion and to strengthen the country militarily.
As Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and later as President, Mr. Eisenhower, with his experienced military background, became persuaded of the military merits of the project and its value to the national defense. His convictions were buttressed by a report of a special cabinet committee which he had appointed to study the project.
In the final historic debate in the United States Senate in 1954, borderline votes were favorably influenced by a special report by the Joint Chiefs of Staff who, just before the final Senate vote on the Seaway Bill, advised the Senate that the construction of the Seaway with United States participation would:
(1) Afford access of a relatively protected route to additional sources of high-grade iron ore, coal, lead, zinc, copper, titanium, and manganese
(2) Assure joint control … as important from the national security aspect as the Seaway itself
(3) Help in meeting the threat of submarine attack to exposed overseas shipping routes for essential materials
(4) Assure the United States the full benefits . . . in a shorter, more protected overseas route to the British Isles and Europe for transportation of military cargo
(5) Afford access to additional shipbuilding and repair facilities.
In view of the foregoing, the Joint Chiefs of Staff “consider the joint participation in the construction and operation of the St. Lawrence Seaway as necessary in the interests of national security.”
The military minds of the United States have always been conscious of the relatively sheltered location of the St. Lawrence route, with only 2,200 miles of open ocean between the Gulf of St. Lawrence and the Channel ports, as compared to 3,300 miles via the ports of New York, Boston, or Philadelphia. The Gulf of St. Lawrence is much easier to protect against submarine attacks than are the open waters of the North Atlantic, attested to by the terrible losses in men, material, and ships suffered by North Atlantic convoys during the early years of World War II.
From the military standpoint, the Seaway will also open up the extensive shipbuilding resources of the Great Lakes area, which were used only to a minor degree in the last war. Of seventy million tons of naval and merchant shipping built in the United States during World War II, only about 2 1/2 per cent was launched in Great Lakes harbors, because of the difficulty of getting ships to sea via the shallow draft Illinois-Mississippi route or via the extremely limited St. Lawrence route. More than 60 per cent of the total material going into the shipbuilding program, however, originated in the Great Lakes area, and these millions of tons of material–steel, gears, engines, propellers, auxiliary motors, and the like–had to be transported by congested overland routes to shipbuilding centers on the seaboard. A cheaper cost for largescale shipbuilding programs is reasonably indicated by the resources of the Great Lakes region in terms of steel production, water transportation, sheltered harbors, and large reservoirs of manpower, backed up by the machine shops of the continent which cluster on the shores of the lake region. A major report by the National Security Resources Board in 1950 strongly supported the building of the Seaway to buttress the national defense.
Water Power and National Defense
Another significant military aspect of the Seaway Project is the harnessing of the enormous hydroelectric power capacity of the St. Lawrence River in the International Rapids section between Massena, New York, and Cornwall, Ontario. The spectacular but dangerous Long Sault Rapids of the St. Lawrence have already disappeared from view as a result of the building of the second largest hydroelectric dam in the world. Built by the Province of Ontario and the Power Authority of the State of New York, the dam has been named in honor of two famous “Bobs,” the late Robert H. Saunders, Chairman of the Hydroelectric Power Commission of Ontario (an untimely victim of an airplane crash just as his long vision of building the St. Lawrence power dam was about to be realized), and the fiery Robert Moses, oftcalled by the State of New York to handle tough assignments. As Chairman of the New York State Power Authority, Moses has driven the great St. Lawrence Power Project to completion, meeting every target date.
The great new power dam harnesses the 92-foot fall of the St. Lawrence in the 46-mile International Rapids section, where the river runs downhill with great velocity, with an annual average discharge in the range of 240,000 cubic feet per second. It was here that the spectacular Long Sault Rapids formerly terrorized mariners. An occasional venturesome Indian might run these rapids in a canoe and survive, but for conventional navigation only locks and canals would suffice.
The terror of the mariner was the dream of the hydroelectric engineer, and New York and Ontario have long aspired to harness the river at this point, capturing the largest undeveloped source of water power in North America. In July, 1958, the great dam was dedicated, and in September, 1958, the great turbines began to spin. This year the 32 enormous turbines, sixteen on each side of the international boundary, will be in full operation, harnessing 2,200,000 horsepower of energy and producing upward of thirteen billion kilowatt hours of energy each year.
The military and industrial significance of this great new power resource is obvious. Power from this great dam will flow as much as 300 miles from the dam site, sparking new industrial developments in Ontario and eastern Quebec and aiding in developing the great mineral resources of Ontario.
On the American side, spectacular new industrial developments have been stimulated by the new power source. These include a new aluminum plant being built at $100 million cost near Massena, New York, by Reynolds Aluminum Company. This tremendous plant will utilize both the navigation and the power of the St. Lawrence. Ocean ships will carry bauxite ore from distant lands to the plant, and the large concentration of power available at the site will permit the development of the first fully integrated aluminum plant in America, with raw alumina entering the plant on the river side and the finished product emerging from the far end. Significantly also, General Motors Corporation is building at Massena the largest aluminum foundry in the General Motors empire.
These are merely illustrative of the industrial developments confidently anticipated in the St. Lawrence River valley, in upper New York state, in parts of New England, and in Ontario and Quebec, powered by the great energy of one of the world’s mightiest rivers. The industrial capacity and the military potential of Canada and the United States are being significantly enhanced.
It is worth noting that the waters of the Great Lakes, as they fall toward the sea, not only will provide a unique combination of inland and ocean navigation, but will be one of the hardest working water supplies in the world from the power standpoint. Power is generated at Sault Saint Marie, at the downfall of Lake Superior toward Lake Huron. It is, of course, generated on an astronomical scale at Niagara Falls. The same water, moving east, will now be harnessed on an astronomical scale at the International Rapids section. Canadian power plants at several points between Massena and Montreal again send this water through their turbines on a significant scale.
Surely these must be considered among the hardest working waters of the world, with the rain droplets which fall into Lake Michigan or Lake Superior finding themselves called upon to serve the industrial and human needs of a great region to serve the quarter billion tons of navigation annually moving on the Great Lakes to be harnessed for power five or six times between Lake Superior and Montreal and finally to serve the unique combination of fresh water and salt water navigation now to be realized with the opening of the Seaway, the deepest extension of ocean navigation into a continental land mass to be found anywhere in the world.
The Seaway and Shipbuilding
One of the more interesting arguments for the Seaway was that it would open up vast new shipbuilding resources, both in terms of merchant marine and naval shipping. Seaway advocates argued, quite logically, that the Great Lakes Basin as the American center of steel production that the machine shops of America lined their shores that the country’s principal reservoir of skilled manpower was to be found in the North Central region. A considerable number of shipyards are in the area, but usually working on a “feast or famine” basis with tremendous peaks of demand in wartime, and with the production curve dragging between wars. The fresh waters of the Great Lakes are conducive to long life for ships. Many of the bulk freighter fleet on the Great Lakes even now are over forty years old. The absence of barnacles and marine growths assures long life to ships in fresh water. The long life of ships on the Great Lakes is perhaps dismaying to shipyards, but of great benefit to ship operators.
In this connection, the durability of iron ships in fresh water is strongly exemplified by the fact that the USS Wolverine, the first iron ship ever built on the Great Lakes, launched in 1844, is still afloat as a museum piece at Erie, Pennsylvania.
During World War II more than 1,100 ships were built on the Great Lakes, a superficially impressive figure. Included in lakeconstructed ships were fleet-type submarines, destroyer escorts, frigates, landing craft, and a host of small auxiliary naval types and small merchantmen. However, few of these ships could get to sea via the St. Lawrence, because of lock size and depth restrictions in the antiquated 14-foot waterway. Most of them reached tidewater via the Illinois Waterway and the Mississippi River at staggering cost. Fully built and tested on the Great Lakes, they would then have superstructures cut off and would be variously ballasted down or pontooned up to get under bridges or through shallow reaches of the inland waterway system. Reaching the Gulf Coast, sometimes in battered condition from a difficult voyage, they would then be rebuilt and re-outfitted at great cost in time and money before they could be sent into action.
The Navy and the Great Lakes
The U. S. Navy and the Great Lakes have a glorious historical association going back to the War of 1812. One of the clean-cut American victories of that war was the Battle of Lake Erie on September 10, 1813, when Oliver Hazard Perry, who had been commissioned to build, equip, and man a fresh water fleet, destroyed the British fleet which had dominated the eastern Great Lakes, won control of Lake Erie for American arms, and handed down to posterity the great naval victory message, “We have met the enemy and they are ours.”
Naval utilization of Great Lakes shipbuilding resources during World War II probably represented the maximum reasonably possible, under the limitations of the waterways which connect the Great Lakes to the high seas.
After the war, the Navy gave consideration in shipbuilding awards to many factors, including cost, the need to maintain a widely dispersed shipbuilding potential, and other national interest considerations. A Navy report in 1954 pointed out that Great Lakes and inland waterway yards had only about 8.6% of the construction and conversion program then under way. This compared to 51.3% East Coast, 28.9% West Coast, and 11.2% Gulf. The Navy utilized lake shipyards for building mine sweepers, destroyer escorts, and auxiliaries, not only to support Great Lakes shipbuilding as a military resource, but because in many instances lake shipyards had a high efficiency rating and were often low bidders.
To rebut the national defense arguments in favor of the St. Lawrence Seaway, the project was invariably attacked by its opponents as being vulnerable from a military standpoint. It was argued that the project would involve strategic points such as major locks and dams which by bombing or sabotage could be taken out of service, and thus make the whole waterway inoperative. Proponents replied that if this line of reasoning were true, the Panama Canal, the Soo Locks, and the other great ship canals of the world should be taken out of service to remove the military threat they presented. It was said that the Port of New York might as well be abandoned because it, too, was militarily vulnerable. The underlying thought was, of course, that mankind does not deny itself the great works of peace because they may be vulnerable in time of war.
The Seaway and the Future
A convincing case can be made that World War II might actually have been shortened had the St. Lawrence Seaway been completed and ready for service before Pearl Harbor. The shipbuilding resources of the Great Lakes could have been used on a larger scale an enormous power resource would have contributed mightily to the national power output, particularly to alumina production for aircraft and a sheltered transportation route would have reduced the hazardous North Atlantic crossing by a thousand miles, with a possible large saving in ships, strategic cargo, and lives.
If the horror of nuclear war and of intercontinental ballistic missiles can be avoided and if future wars were to follow conventional forms, then the Seaway inescapably will be a vital factor in raw material procurement, power output, military logistics, and added industrial strength. It will have a key role in continental defense considerations.
Assuming that all past patterns of military conflict are to go by the board and assuming the worst in terms of a short and deadly struggle with fantastic weapons, even then one may conclude that the St. Lawrence Project will make a contribution. Its contribution will be to help the United States and Canada build an industrial machine of such strength and magnitude that it will serve as a mighty deterrent to aggressors. The Great Lakes and the St. Lawrence, in this sense, are the arterial stream for the mighty resources of the midcontinent area, embracing steel mills, heavy industries, coal fields, petroleum, the world’s richest farm lands, and great cities of skilled crafts. These are military resources of the first magnitude. These build the total complex of industrial and economic might which towers behind armies and ships.
Finally, modern diplomacy and defense is not limited to fire power. Secretary of Defense McElroy has emphasized that international trade is just as important as military agreements in buttressing America’s allies. Secretary McElroy said that foreign trade strengthens the domestic economy and is essential to the economy of other friendly nations. “If stable, strong allies are important to us, then international trade is important to us,” he stated.
The St. Lawrence is above all a great new mechanism for foreign trade. On its waters will flow vital raw materials from the Dominion of Canada and from many areas of the world to serve the mighty industrial machine of the Great Lakes region. From its ports will move foodstuffs and manufactured goods which, going to friendly nations and allies, will improve their way of life, strengthen diplomatic relationships, and exemplify a peaceful world of trade. From its shipyards will be launched mighty merchantmen and the navies of the future. The completion of this majestic engineering project exemplifies national sovereignty and national growth at its best and highest.
America’s new fourth seacoast–the new eighth sea–the American Mediterranean-whatever we may call it, the new deep water highway to the Atlantic and the symbolic mingling of fresh and salt water in the very heart of the continent is rich with portents for a stronger and better America. It adds some powerful new muscles to national security and continental defense. микрозаймы
The St. Lawrence Seaway – Spring 1950
It is quite appropriate that the Great Lakes Historical Society should be interested in the Great Lakes &ndash St. Lawrence Basin Project because it was in Cleveland that the first impetus to its development was given in September 1895 at a meeting of the International Deep Waterways Association. One of the great advocates of this project was the late George T. Bishop, an officer of the Cleveland-Cliffs Iron Company and later of the Niagara Frontier Association.
Like all major undertakings of mankind, the St. Lawrence Project has had a long and turbulent history. Following the Cleveland meeting of the International Waterways Association in 1895, the President of the United States and the Government of Canada appointed a Deep Waterways Commission to report on all the possible waterway routes which might connect the Great Lakes and the Atlantic Ocean. Reporting on January 8, 1897, this Commission advised the President that both the St. Lawrence route and the Oswego-Oneida-Mohawk canal route were feasible and that construction of either project as quickly as it could be technically planned and economically executed was fully justified. This Commission also recommended deepening of the connecting channels between the Great Lakes and further surveys to determine which one of the two routes should be undertaken. In the next three years Congress appropriated a total of $483,000 to finance further investigation by the Board of Engineers on Deep Waterways which the Secretary of War had established. In the light of unsettled boundary disputes and navigation rights on boundary waters between the United States and Canada, the inclination of the Army Engineers at that time was to favor the construction of a 21-foot all-American canal.
Cedar Rapids, St. Lawrence River
In 1902 Congress took the initiative in requesting the President to establish an International Waterways Commission jointly with Great Britain (for Canada) for the purpose of reporting upon the use and conservation of the Great Lakes. Such a Commission was established in December 1903. The great accomplishment of this Commission was to negotiate and to settle the existing points in dispute between Canada and the United States. These settlements were embodied in the Boundary Waters Treaty of 1909. This treaty clarified navigation rights on the boundary waters, defined the amount of diversion of water each country could take at Niagara River and established an International Joint Commission with broad powers over the control and utilization of boundary waters. With the settlement of these issues, the St. Lawrence route became the preferred channel for the Great Lakes to Atlantic Ocean navigation project.
In February 1914 the United States inquired of the British ambassador as to the views of the Canadian government with regard to a study by the International Joint Commission, established under the Boundary Waters Treaty of 1909, concerning the feasibility of constructing a deep waterway for ocean-going vessels. Due to the great war this was delayed until 1920. In the meantime, Canada had already authorized the construction of the Welland Canal and work on it was started in 1914 but was delayed on account of the war.
The International Joint Commission held extensive hearings throughout the United States and Canada and in 1921 reported unanimously in favor of undertaking the Great Lakes &ndash St. Lawrence Seaway Project.
In the meantime, private interest was very much alive to the advantages of constructing the St. Lawrence project for both navigation and power. In 1919 the Great Lakes &ndash St. Lawrence Tidewater Association was organized as a Council of the States and in the succeeding decade as many as thirty state governments became officially affiliated with the organization, which devoted its sole efforts to public education and promotion of the Seaway Project.
At the same time private companies interested in the development of St. Lawrence power and the utilization of this power in the reduction of aluminum were engaged in acquiring riparian rights upon the shores of the St. Lawrence River. As early as 1896 private interests had acquired leases from the State of New York by special legislative act to utilize some portion of St. Lawrence River&rsquos water power in northern New York. It was under such a lease that the present Massena power canal was constructed and still utilizes a part of the flow of the St. Lawrence River in northern New York for the production of power to be used in the plant of the Aluminum Company of America. The history of private efforts to secure licenses for the development of power on the St. Lawrence River has been checkered with political controversy ever since 1907 when Governor Charles Evans Hughes took a hand in the definition of a water conservation policy in New York State. This controversy has at times been very lively and has involved Governors Miller, Alfred E. Smith, Franklin Roosevelt, Herbert Lehman and Thomas E. Dewey. In the end, however, the state finally decided by legislative enactment to retain the right of utilization of St. Lawrence power as a public domain and to hold it in trust for the benefit of the people of the state as a whole.
The most ambitious program of development of the St. Lawrence Project was proposed to the International Joint Commission in 1920 by the great American engineer Hugh L. Cooper, who appeared before the Commission on behalf of his clients, namely, the Aluminum Company of America, the General Electric Company, and the Dupont Company, to propose a privately financed program of developing water power resources of the St. Lawrence River from Ogdensburg to Montreal, where there are potentially over five million kilowatts of undeveloped resources. An interesting part of Cooper&rsquos program, which called for the private expenditure of $1,300,000,000, was the proposal that his clients would make a gift of the joint works that would be useful in the creation of navigation facilities, to the two governments, in exchange for the right to utilize the water power of the river. This program, as well as other similar private offers, did not reach a stage of maturity because of political opposition in New York State and because, being an international project, Canadian consent was necessary, which could not be obtained for private exploitation of the river. It is an interesting footnote that Hugh L. Cooper, having failed to develop this greatest of the domestic water power sources, soon was engaged by the Russian Soviet Government to supervise the construction of the Dnieper Dam, which was the major symbol of the first five-year plan. The successful construction of this project made Cooper the &ldquodarling&rdquo of the Soviets. It is also a matter of record that an American manufacturer, who was also interested in the St. Lawrence power development, supplied the generating equipment for the Dnieper Dam.
The first sustained effort to secure agreement with Canada for the development of the St. Lawrence Project was initiated and carried through to completion under the Republican administrations of Calvin Coolidge and Herbert Hoover, while Andrew Mellon was Secretary of the Treasury and Charles Evans Hughes and Henry L. Stimson were Secretaries of State. In July 1932 President Hoover finally announced the signing of a treaty with Canada and the Senate Foreign Relations Committee immediately undertook, under the chairmanship of the late Senator Borah of Idaho, to hold hearings. The political campaign in which the St. Lawrence Seaway was an issue between candidate Franklin Roosevelt and President Herbert Hoover and the subsequent period of economic crisis, delayed Congressional consideration of the treaty until March 1934. At that time the treaty came to a vote and it was defeated although it had a majority of Senate votes, it failed of the required two­ thirds endorsement.
Lachine Rapids, St. Lawrence River
During the following six years, Secretary of State Cordell Hull made repeated overtures to Canada to renegotiate a new agreement. Because of certain political conditions in Canada, no definite progress was made until 1940. Then, under the impetus of the national defense preparedness program, the two governments resolved to proceed expeditiously for the construction of the project. An agreement was, therefore, signed on March 19, 1941, which immediately became the subject of hearings before the House Committee on Rivers and Harbors, and after seven weeks of hearings the Committee voted 17 to 8 to report the measure to the House. This was delayed until November 22, 1941. Two weeks after the measure reached the House floor, the tragedy of Pearl Harbor set aside major projects of long range significance, as the attention of the country was immediately focused on winning the war with all available weapons.
President Roosevelt, however, was convinced that power from the St. Lawrence Project and also the navigation works might ultimately be useful in the prosecution of the war, for he more than anyone else realized that the war would be long, hard, and bitterly fought. In the spring of 1942 he attempted to interest Speaker Rayburn and Chairman Mansfield of the House Rivers and Harbors Committee in reviving the St. Lawrence Seaway legislation, but received advice that because of its long range character, there was no chance of its being approved at that time.
President Roosevelt did not give up hope of pushing the project forward. Relying upon the precedent that such other major projects as the Panama Canal, Muscle Shoals, Bonneville and Grand Coulee had required strong executive action, sometimes of an unorthodox character, to start them on the way towards ultimate realization, President Roosevelt resolved to initiate the St. Lawrence Project by Executive Order under his war powers. This is an episode that is not generally known and is buried deep in the files of the late President. To begin construction of the St. Lawrence Project by Executive Order, the President needed funds. He determined that the first allocation of funds should be so substantial that the further construction of the project could not be stopped, as were the Passamaquoddy Project and the Florida Ship Canal, because such large investment would be involved that the Congress would be disinclined to abrogate Presidential action. He, therefore, called upon his budget officers to find fifty million dollars for the initiation of work on the St. Lawrence. His budget officers, however, could locate only about sixteen million dollars of unencumbered funds. To secure the rest the White House had to go to the War Department, or more specifically to Undersecretary of War Robert Patterson, who was then in control of War Department expenditures. War Department appropriations during the war provided flexibility within ten percent of total appropriations which permitted diversion of funds from one use to another depending upon the exigencies of the war.
President Franklin D. Roosevelt
Judge Patterson had a singleness of purpose at that time&ndashto use all available resources of manpower and materials which could have demonstrably a direct and immediate impact upon the war and, be opposed to long range projects, even though they might help in the prosecution of the war at some future time. He, therefore, visited President Roosevelt in August 1942, in company with the Chief of the Services of Supply, General Brehon Somervell, and strenuously opposed the allocation of any War Department funds for the St. Lawrence Project. President Roosevelt was unconvinced and still insisted that he wanted the project initiated. Judge Patterson was equally adamant and two weeks later, early in September, he again went to see the President, this time in company with a Vice Chairman of the War Production Board, opposing the initiation of the St. Lawrence Project. The President had no choice then but to yield to the deep rooted conviction of his Undersecretary of War and made announcement on September 15, 1942 that the St. Lawrence Project would have to wait the termination of the War. After this decision it was obvious that there was no easy way of building the St. Lawrence Project but to secure Congressional approval. Even before the end of the War, Senator George Aiken of Vermont initiated action in the Senate in 1944, but his attempt to attach the St. Lawrence Project as an amendment to the Rivers and Harbors Bill failed by a wide margin on December 12, 1944.
The defeat of Senator Aiken&rsquos motion revealed certain aspects of the St. Lawrence legislation that are of paramount interest to the residents of the Great Lakes area. First, it became obvious that the agreement of March 19, 1941 encompassed many issues that went beyond the mere construction of the Seaway Project, it contained provisions concerning navigation rights on boundary waters, connecting channels and the lower St. Lawrence. It contained provisions relating to additional diversion of water at Niagara River. It contained provisions for the arbitration of damages arising from diversion of water from Lake Michigan via the Chicago Canal. Some of these provisions raised serious questions concerning the constitutional authority of the Senate to approve treaties by two-thirds vote whereas the proposed agreement called for a majority vote of both Houses of Congress.
During the first part of 1945, at the initiative of Senator Arthur Vandenberg, the State Department undertook revisions of the 1941 Agreement with the consent of the Canadian Government. These revisions were incorporated in Senate Joint Resolution 104, introduced by Senator Alben Barkley, then Majority Leader, on October 1, 1945. This resolution was the subject of extensive hearings before a sub­committee of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, of which Senator Hatch of New Mexico was Chairman. This resolution was reported by the sub-committee and it was approved by the full committee by a vote of 14 to 8, but was not considered by the full Senate because it was near the end of session in 1946, an election year.
Republican victory at the polls in the 1946 election raised the whole issue of economy in Federal expenditures. As a concession to this feeling and as an improvement in the development of such a great natural resource as the St. Lawrence, Senator Vandenberg took the initiative in introducing the concept of making the St. Lawrence Seaway Project self-liquidating by the charging of tolls. It was my privilege to assist Senator Vandenberg in formulating and securing acceptance of this idea by many organizations throughout the country. The Canadian Government and our own State Department readily acceded to this program. Senate Joint Resolution 111, which Senator Vandenberg as Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee introduced on May 8, 1947, embodied this concept. Although there has been much controversy about this idea, it is a fact that the Boundary Waters Treaty of 1909, Article I, specifically authorizes each country to charge tolls in boundary waters, with the proviso that any regulations or charges on boundary waters must apply equally to the citizens and the vessels of both countries.
Senate Joint Resolution 111 came to a vote in the Senate on February 27, 1948. It was subject, as usual, to bitter controversy between eastern and middle western Senators. In the course of the debate the St. Lawrence Waterway became a &ldquoleeway&rdquo the St. Lawrence project which has been the subject of study and endorsement by innumerable governmental and private engineers was attacked as the pipe dream of woolly­-minded liberals and the project which had the support of the Joint Chiefs of Staff was labeled as a military liability, the folly of misguided enthusiasts.
Senate Joint Resolution 111 was, therefore, recommitted to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee by a vote of 56 to 30, but like all great undertakings that appeal to the imagination, the project will not die an unsung death, for in the 81st Congress, Senate Joint Resolution 111 reappeared as Senate Joint Resolution 99, this time sponsored by Majority Leader Scott Lucas of Illinois with 18 other bi-partisan Senators, willingly and eagerly putting their names to the Bill.
There it rests now, still subject to controversy between the east and the middle west and between the south and the north. The only new element in the picture that gives added significance to this controversy is the growing realization of middle western industry of the danger inherent in the rapid exhaustion of iron ores. What will happen to this project from now on depends upon how quickly the country at large, and the Great Lakes area in particular, come to realize the seriousness of the depletion of natural resources and their impact upon the long-range strength and security of this country.
This article first appeared in Inland Seas in Spring 1950: A paper given at the Annual Meeting of the Great Lakes Historical Society, May 19, 1949
St. Lawrence Seaway opens for season
C anada’s Transport Minister made history when he hosted his U.S. counterpart Pete Buttigeg and others for the 63rd Saint Lawrence Seaway opening Monday morning – and why not, given the Seaway contributes some $9 billion to the Canadian economy every year?
“For more than 60 years, the Saint Lawrence Seaway has been one of the fundamental aspects of the Canadian economy, thanks to the creation of thousands of jobs for the middle class and the economic benefits,” that go with those jobs, said federal Transport Minister Omar Alghabra when the Seaway officially opened to seasonal traffic with a ceremony that day, adding the Seaway will help North Americans in their economic bounceback from COVID-19.
“This is a precious trade partnership and this commercial route will play a crucial role in our rebuilding toward a strong economic recovery,” he said.
The virtual opening of the trade season was the first in history for the Seaway, which saw a staggering 38 million tons of cargo travel its waters on its way to its final destination. The convenience of maritime transport cannot be understated, said the president and CEO of the Saint Lawrence Seaway Management Corporation.
“The availability of the Seaway contributes greatly to the strength of and the competitiveness of the maritime transport system on the Saint Lawrence Seaway and the Great Lakes,” said Terence Bowles, adding the network around the Seaway and its ports offer many options for logistics and transport of goods. “The Seaway offers privileged access to industries, ports, throughfares and road and rail networks,” he said.
Locally, MCK’s Public Safety Division sent out a warning last week, asking community members to stay off the ice because it is no longer safe to be out there. The first ship to go through the Seaway this season, was an icebreaker sent through to clear the way for marine traffic on Friday, MCK said in a statement
“The ice in the bay by Onake is melting and the water is moving in the Seaway. Community members are reminded to use caution and remain off the ice during this time. PSD will be posting Caution Signs in key areas in the coming days,” the statement said.
The St. Lawrence first opened in 1959 after five years of construction, which displaced families and homes through expropriation that would forever change the landscape in Kahnawake.
St. Lawrence Seaway
The St. Lawrence Seaway is an engineering marvel that also represents close political cooperation between the United States and Canada. A complex series of locks, canals, and waterways, it provides a link between the Great Lakes and the Atlantic Ocean. While the ultimate version of the seaway was constructed in the mid-20th century, its origins can be traced back to the 17th century, when the French attempted to build a canal to bypass the rapids at Lachine near Montreal, Quebec. While the effort failed for technical and economic reasons, the effort was based on the same objectives that would motivate future projects — producing power and improving navigation. A canal at Lachine was finally completed in 1825 and remained in operation until 1970, when it closed due to the success of the St. Lawrence Seaway. While many individual locks and canals permitted waterborne traffic to transit between the Great Lakes and the Atlantic, the St. Lawrence Seaway was envisioned as a means to ensure uniformity so that very large ships could make the journey without undue delays. The need for such a seaway was acknowledged by both countries in the St. Lawrence Deep Waterway Treaty, or what also is called the Hoover-Bennett Treaty, in 1932. No action, however, was taken until well past the end of World War II because of opposition from groups in the United States and the attack on Pearl Harbor. Because of fears of invasion from the Germans and Japanese, the St. Lawrence River was closed to traffic during the war. After the war, more challenges forced the delay of construction until 1954. It was a formidable task that included moving more than two hundred million cubic yards of earth. It replaced a waterway with a depth of 14 feet with one that ran 27 feet deep and reduced the number of locks from 30 to 15. A lock is a section of waterway that the level can be adjusted either higher or lower, depending on the section after it. Construction required a considerable amount of flooding of populated areas, and around 6,500 people, mostly Canadians, were relocated to new towns. In addition to improved navigation, the seaway enabled both Ontario Hydro and the New York State Power Authority to develop hydroelectric facilities. The seaway was officially opened in 1959. The cost of US$470 million was shared between the two national governments, with Canada paying $336 million and the United States $134 million. To recognize that disparity, revenues from operations are shared in that proportion. The seaway's opening was officiated by Queen Elizabeth II and President Dwight D. Eisenhower. As of 2005, it handled around 200 million tons annually. Most of the tonnage is such bulk commodities as grain, iron ore, coal, and steel. Finished goods are now primarily shipped in containers, and shipments inland from Montreal are handled more economically by rail.
Rideau Canal and Ottawa River
Officially opened in 1832, the Rideau Canal is the oldest continuously operated canal system in North America. The War of 1812 made clear the need to have a navigable waterway connecting Lake Ontario to the Ottawa River, because traffic on the St. Lawrence River was vulnerable to attack. The huge undertaking provided a secure supply route from Montréal to Kingston that avoided the St. Lawrence.
The Rideau Canal locks provide wonderful boat-watching opportunities. Around many locks, onlookers often watch in fascination as the locks move the vessels along. The George Ayoub fonds includes many excellent photos, taken over the years, of boats passing through the locks.
Korab in front of the National Arts Centre, Rideau Canal, Ottawa, June 14, 1971. Credit: George Ayoub/Library and Archives Canada/George Ayoub fonds/e011213400. Copyright: Copyright assigned to Library and Archives Canada by copyright owner the Estate of George Ayoub
St. John’s Fire Boat (Gatineau Boom Company) at a dock near Hull, Quebec, November 19, 1967. Credit: George Ayoub/Library and Archives Canada/George Ayoub fonds/e011213403. Copyright: Copyright assigned to Library and Archives Canada by copyright owner the Estate of George Ayoub.
Sailing yacht Wild Harp pulled by tugboat TANAC V-222, September 10, 1972. Credit: George Ayoub/Library and Archives Canada/George Ayoub fonds/e011213404. Copyright: Copyright assigned to Library and Archives Canada by copyright owner the Estate of George Ayoub.
Templeton in the Rideau Locks, Ottawa, April 17, 1964. Credit: George Ayoub/Library and Archives Canada/George Ayoub fonds/e011213405. Copyright: Copyright assigned to Library and Archives Canada by copyright owner the Estate of George Ayoub.
Canada’s affinity with water is shaped by our vast and beautiful shorelines. Ship watching continues to be a major tourist attraction for many communities along waterways. From busy shipping routes to quiet, peaceful lakes, Canadian waterways truly help us live up to our motto, “a mari usque ad mare”: “from sea to sea.”