Revival of the St. Lawrence Project

March 8, 1941

Report Outline
Revival of St. Lawrence Project
Governmental Efforts to Promote Seaway
Economic Aspects of Seaway-Power Scheme

Revival of St. Lawrence Project

Expected Announcement of Revised Pact With Canada

Resident Roosevelt will shortly seek authority from Congress to begin construction of the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence seaway and power project as a joint Canadian-American defense measure. A treaty for development of the project was rejected by the United States Senate in 1934. Negotiations were subsequently resumed, but a draft treaty submitted by this country in 1938 met strong opposition in Ontario and Quebec and negotiations were suspended until several months after the outbreak of the war. Early in 1940, industrial expansion resulting from the national defense programs undertaken in both countries brought the St. Lawrence project again to the fore, and, at Canada's suggestion, new discussions were initiated. Negotiations were recently completed, and a new agreement will shortly be signed by representatives of the two governments.

Arrangement for Diversion by Canada at Niagara Falls

Agreement on the St. Lawrence project was made possible by the conclusion last October of an arrangement under which the United States consented to additional diversion of water at Niagara Falls by the Province of Ontario for generation of power by the publicly-owned Ontario Hydro-Electric Commission. In 1938, this country refused to discuss such an arrangement except as a part of a general agreement dealing with the entire St. Lawrence development. In a statement at Ottawa, October 14, 1940, Prime Minister Mackenzie King said that “to assist in providing an adequate supply of power to meet Canadian defense needs,” the United States had agreed to the present arrangement “pending the conclusion of a final Great Lakes-St. Lawrence basin agreement.” Consent of the United States was made contingent, however, on diversion of water into Lake Superior from the Hudson Bay watershed in an amount equal to that diverted at Niagara, thus to preserve water levels in the Great Lakes.

In a message to Congress, October 17, 1940, President Roosevelt announced that he had allocated $1,000,000 from his special defense fund to the Army Engineers Corps and the Federal Power Commission to finance preliminary engineering surveys of the International Rapids section of the St. Lawrence River, as a basis for future navigation and power development in that region. A St. Lawrence Advisory Committee, headed by Chairman Olds of the Federal Power Commission, was appointed to direct the survey and to cooperate with a similar committee set up by the Canadian government. The President said the preliminary investigations involved “no actual construction or commitment to construct,” but he expressed his conviction that “the development of the International Rapids section of the St. Lawrence River should be undertaken at the earliest possible date … to meet the continuing power requirements of the defense program in certain essential centers of war material production in the northeastern states.”

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
St. Lawrence Project
Mar. 14, 1951  National Security and the St. Lawrence Project
Jul. 02, 1947  St. Lawrence Seaway and Power Development
Mar. 08, 1941  Revival of the St. Lawrence Project
Aug. 03, 1932  The St. Lawrence Seaway-Power Project
Bilateral and Regional Trade
Regional Political Affairs: Canada
Waterways and Harbors