"THE ST. LAWRENCE SEAWAY"
An Address by THE HONOURABLE LIONEL CHEVRIER Chairman, St. Lawrence Seaway Authority
Thursday, February 3rd, 1955
CHAIRMAN: The President, Mr. James H. Joyce.
MR. JOYCE: In view of the importance of the St. Lawrence Seaway to our country, our province and our own city, we are fortunate in having as our speaker today, a man who has, over the years, been one of the chief protagonists of the Seaway project and who has an extensive knowledge of its many ramifications-the Honourable Lionel Chevrier, O.C.
A fluent speaker in both English and French and an able administrator, the Honourable Mr. Chevrier relinquished his portfolio as Minister of Transport in the federal government on July 1, 1954 to accept the chairmanship of the St. Lawrence Seaway Authority.
Born in Cornwall in 1903, Mr. Chevrier graduated from the University of Ottawa in 1924, after winning medals in debating and chemistry, then attended Osgoode Hall and was called to the Bar of Ontario in 1928.
Elected to Parliament in 1935 at the age of 32 for the constituency of Stormont, Mr. Chevrier was 10 years later appointed Minister of Transport, being one of the youngest men ever to be given a portfolio in the Canadian cabinet.
MR. CHEVRIER: I regard it as distinct honour to be here as the guest of the Empire Club. The compliment paid me by the invitation to speak to this distinguished audience is one I deeply appreciate.
My subject is the St. Lawrence Seaway. It is not a new one. It has had a long and chequered career. Few subjects have received such careful and varied attention from both the Canadian and American Governments. Recently it has taken on new impetus because of Canadian initiative and Canadian action.
This subject has been studied from many aspects. Today I should like to consider it from three angles1. The Treaty Rights and obligations upon the St. Lawrence.
2. The works and facilities to be constructed thereon. 3. Their effect upon the economy.
What rights have the citizens of the United States on the St. Lawrence River?
These rights seem to have been established by treaty over a period of years, and I should like to deal with these briefly.
The St. Lawrence River divides itself into five sections, one of these is known as the International Rapids Section. The boundary line separating Canada from the United States follows the 45th parallel of latitude until it strikes the St. Lawrence River at a point east of the City of Cornwall and then for a distance of 112 miles follows the middle of the stream until it strikes the foot of Lake Ontario. This boundary line was fixed by the Treaty of 1783 ending the War of American Independence. Strangely enough when this treaty was signed Canada owned a preponderant number of islands in the Long Sault area. Following the War of 1812 the British Commissioners were anxious to have what was then called Grand Island, now called Wolfe Island, immediately opposite the Harbour of Kingston, and asked that it be transferred to Canada.
Kingston, of course, was the chief naval base on the lakes, a possible capital, and in fact eventually a capital and it was felt undesirable to have a foreign country owning an island a mile or two out in the bay, so Wolfe Island was traded for certain other islands. That is the reason why the United States owns a greater number of islands at the Long Sault.
Next came the Ashburton-Webster Treaty of 1842, which has one brief reference to the River St. Lawrence, which reads as follows: "It is further agreed that the channels in the River St. Lawrence on both sides of the Long Sault Islands and Barnhart Island . . . shall be equally free and open to the ships, vessels and boats of both parties". That clause was put in because the navigable channels in the Long Sault and in the River St. Clair were on the United States side, and while there was no likelihood that the use of them by Canadian vessels would be barred, it was desirable to have an explicit understanding that they should be open. A similar provision covering the rights of American vessels in the Detroit River and at Bois Blanc Island, where the chief channels are on the Canadian side, was inserted.
Then in 1871 came the Treaty of Washington. It provided by Article 26 that "The navigation of the River St. Lawrence ascending and descending from the 45th parallel of latitude, where it ceases to form the boundary between the two countries, from, to and into the sea, shall forever remain free and open for the purposes of commerce to the citizens of the United States, subject to any laws and regulations of Great Britain or of the Dominion of Canada, not inconsistent with such privilege of free navigation". This is one of the most important provisions of the treaty, that the navigation of the River St. Lawrence ascending and descending from Cornwall to the sea shall forever be open to the citizens of the United States.
In 1909 came the Boundary Waters Treaty, which established the International Joint Commission to deal with matters relating to those waters of common concern to Canada and the United States which either flow along or across the boundary. As a result, questions affecting the level of these waters are referred to the Joint Commission.
In 1932 came the St. Lawrence Deep Waterway Treaty signed at Washington. It provided for the construction of a 27 foot waterway from the head of the Great Lakes to Montreal; for a combined power-navigation project in the International Rapids section of the St. Lawrence River enabling the development under a two-stage scheme for 2,200,000 horse-power evenly divided between Canada and the United States.
Under this treaty power was to be developed in two stages, one at Long Sault near Cornwall, the other at Crysler Island near Morrisburg. There was also to be two canals, one on the American side at Barnhart Island, the other on the Canadian side at Crysler Island. This treaty was defeated in the Senate of the United States.
In 1941 Canada signed another agreement with the United States, this one known as the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Agreement of 1941. It included substantially the same features as the 1932 St. Lawrence Deep Waterway Treaty. It provided for the construction of the remaining links of a 27 foot waterway from the head of the Great Lakes to Montreal; for a combined power-navigation scheme in the International section of the St. Lawrence River; the power to be developed in a controlled single stage project yielding 2,200,000 horse-power divided between the two countries.
According to this agreement power was to be developed under one head at the Long Sault under a plan known as the 238-242 single stage control scheme. The two canals under this scheme in the International section were both in United States territory. This agreement, after eleven years of discussion was neither approved nor rejected by the Congress of the United States.
Following agreement with United States administration, a joint application was made by Canada and the United States in June of 1952 to the International Joint Commission for the development of power in the International Rapids section, and Canada agreed to build all the navigation facilities on the Canadian side from Montreal to Lake Erie. While the application for power was approved in October, 1952 by the International Joint Commission, the issuance of a licence by the Federal Power Commission to the Power Authority of the State of New York was challenged and it was only on June 7, 1954 that the final objections to this licence were overcome in the courts of the United States.
Meanwhile, the Congress of the United States decided to participate in the Seaway. Early in 1954 it passed an Act known as the Wiley-Dondero Act, instructing and directing an American agency known as The Saint Lawrence Seaway Development Corporation, to build all the navigation facilities in the International Rapids section of the river in American territory.
So here was the situation when negotiations took place between the two governments in July of last year. Canada had taken its decision in 1951 and enacted legislation to build facilities and secured the agreement of the United States to this end in 1952. The Wiley-Dondero Act directing the United States to build at Barnhart and Iroquois was passed in 1954. The result: Canada agreed to refrain from building at Barnhart now, but it continuing with all the works including Iroquois in accordance with legislation now on its books for three years. In fact, work is now underway on several of the projects including Iroquois.
The present position is, therefore, that Ontario and New York State are proceeding to develop power through their representative agencies. This could not have been possible without American concurrence. In so far as navigation is concerned, the St. Lawrence Seaway Authority is proceeding to build at Lachine and on the Canadian side at Iroquois. Now how does this compare with what took place under earlier treaties?
Under the 1932 treaty the navigation canal passing Crysler Island Dam was to be built in Canadian territory and that passing the Barnhart Island Dam, in United States territory. In the 1941 agreement the navigation canals passing the Crysler Island Dam and the Barnhart Island Dam were both to be constructed in United States territory. Our position today is that we are building at Iroquois; we hope the Americans will decide not to build there, and we hope the day will come when it will be possible to build 27 foot facilities opposite Barnhart island on the Canadian side.
The works or facilities to be constructed.
Before dealing with the project itself it is well to define certain terms.
What do we understand by the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Seaway as now envisaged?
It is a 27 foot channel extending from the port of Montreal to Lake Erie which will allow 25 foot draught ships to come through the waterway and conversely to permit Lake carriers to come down to the Port of Montreal. Coupled with this is a joint development of power in the International Rapids section of the river by Ontario and New York State in the amount of 2,200,000 horsepower; one-half of which belongs to the United States, the other half to Canada.
What is the Great-Lakes-St. Lawrence Basin?
It is a vast drainage system covering an area of 678,000 square miles, 493,000 of which are in Canada and 185,000 in the United States. Over this drainage system is an average annual precipitation of over 30 inches. It includes Lakes Superior, Michigan, Huron, St. Clair, Erie and Ontario, together with all the tributory rivers and streams, the most important of which are the St. Lawrence, the Ottawa, the St. Maurice and the Saguenay Rivers. You will, therefore, immediately appreciate the economic significance of this vast drainage basin comprising a potential waterway, together with a potential reservoir of white power in the area of Canada where there is no coal or black power.
What does the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Seaway consist of?
The Seaway may be described as consisting of five steps. These five steps are liabilities as far as navigation is concerned, in that facilities must be provided to enable vessels to pass them. But they are also great assets, in that they offer more than 10,000,000 horse-power of electrical energy for the harnessing. The five, steps are:
1. The St. Mary's River between Lakes Superior and Huron, a drop of 21 feet;
2. The St. Clair-Detroit passage joining Lakes Huron and Erie, a drop of 8 feet;
3. The Niagara River from Lake Erie to Lake Ontario, a tremendous drop of 326 feet;
4. The Upper St. Lawrence River from Lake Ontario, to Montreal, another great drop of 225 feet;
5. Montreal to the sea, a drop of 20 feet.
These five steps will develop approximately 10,800,000 horse-power as follows:
Niagara ........... ................................ 5,400,000 h.p. International Rapids ........................ 2,200,000 h.p. Soulanges (Beauharnois) ................ .. 2,000,000 h.p.
Lachine ................................. .......... 1,200,000 h.p.
All of this power is Canadian except 2,700,000 horsepower at Niagara and 1,100,000 horse-power in the International Rapids section.
What is the nature of the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence navigation as we know it today?
As the navigation system is presently constituted it divides itself into four sections as follows:
1. From the Gulf of St. Lawrence to Montreal, a distance of 1,000 miles, with controlling navigation channels of 35 feet in depth;
2. From Montreal to Lake Ontario, a distance of 180 miles with controlling navigation channels of 14 feet; 3. From Lake Ontario to Lake Erie, a distance of 200 miles with controlling navigation channels of 25 feet; 4. From Lake Erie to the head of the Lakes, a distance of 970 miles with controlling navigation channels of 25 feet downbound and 21 feet upbound.
Now then, what additional or new works are proposed? Most of the new works would be in the second section I have just mentioned, namely, the St. Lawrence River from Prescott to Montreal. This is known as the upper St. Lawrence River and falls naturally into five divisions: The Thousand Islands, the International Rapids, the Lake St. Francis, the Soulanges and the Lachine sections, and major works are necessary in three of the five. The first is the International Rapids section. It is here that the most extensive and costly works are required. The plan agreed upon by the engineers is the 238-242 single stage control scheme. It is the plan approved by the International Joint Commission and its main features are as follows:
1. An upper control dam near Iroquois
2. A main dam and powerhouse near Cornwall 3. Side canals past each of the two dams
4. Dykes where necessary to retain the pool level
5. Channel enlargement to reduce current velocities in some stretches
6. Relocation of some railways and highways
7. Rehabilitation of the communities along the front.
The second of the three sections is Soulanges. Here the basic power development already exists at Beauharnois and the power canal incorporates a 27 foot canal. Little more is required than the provision of a short side canal with two twin locks in flight to pass vessels from the power canal to Lake St. Louis. Thirdly, in the Lachine section, the minimum development will be for navigation alone. This would involve considerable channel enlargement and a ten mile canal with two locks. But a largescale power development is possible in this section too. The Provincial Government has given no indication that it intends to develop power jointly with the construction of navigational facilities, so the Seaway Authority is proceeding on the basis of a navigation development alone. That covers the three sections of the St. Lawrence River where major works are required. Comparative minor channel work is required in the two remaining sections, the Thousand Islands and Lake St. Francis in order to achieve Seaway standards for navigation.
What effect will these facilities have upon the economy of Canada?
Studies made by Engineeers, economists and statisticians indicate that the benefits flowing from the improved transportation facilities and the power development are staggering.
The first and most important will be the removal of the 112 mile--14 foot bottleneck between Lake Ontario and Montreal which will permit the extension of the peculiar characteristics of the Great Lakes navigation system. The potentialities of this area which have been restricted in the last 50 years are bound to afford opportunities for industrial development because of the availability of 27 foot navigation.
The Seaway will open up a much larger market for ore from Labrador than could otherwise be reached. This mining development is going ahead now with the initial goal of shipping 10,000,000 tons a year. But with the Seaway and after paying any likely level of tolls, this ore could compete in virtually the whole Great Lakes market. The mining interests see an immediate sale of at least 20,000,000 tons a year, just double the present goal and a growing market thereafter.
Another Seaway benefit would be the savings in the costs of transporting grain, flour, coal, machinery and other commodities. The savings would be great enough if it were just a matter of allowing cargoes to move in large and economic vessels throughout the Seaway without trans-shipment. It promises to be all the greater because upbound vessels with ore and other cargoes will find it of advantage to carry grain and other downbound cargoes making for a greater economy in the use of the vessels. It is estimated that this saving will amount to $30,000,000 a year.
Completion of the Seaway will bring benefits from coast to coast. Very few projects in our history can make such a claim.
I have no need to emphasize to a group such as yours what the project will mean to southern Ontario and particularly south-eastern Ontario. The importance of the new reserve of low-cost power can hardly be overemphasized. Much of the energy generated may come to be used in the eastern part of the province near the development site. But at the same time the new facilities will be able to take some of the load now falling on other power sources, and hence release ample reserve supplies throughout the southern hydro system. This project will be an important factor in inducing continued industrial growth in the area.
Toronto and other communities on the waterfront will not only benefit from the improved power position, they will have the advantage of access to new water routes offering low-cost transportation. These two factors are important in determining the location of many industrial plants, and I am sure that in combination they spell a great future for your city.
The benefits to be derived from navigation and power have ramifications which are not only regional, but national and international. It has been estimated that the Seaway will bring savings to the Canadian economy of somewhere in the neighbourhood of $100,000,000 annually.
Look at the map of North America and you will see that the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Seaway is almost in the centre of the continent. This region will be opened up to the commerce of the world. When one realizes that more yearly tonnage passes through the locks at the Sault in the Upper Lakes region than through the Panama and Suez canals put together, one gets some idea of the traffic likely to go through when the project is completed.
The prosperity of Canada is to a large extent dependent upon industrial production and the latter is impossible without modern transportation facilities and without power. Hence the benefits of this great project to both Canada and the United States are incalculable.
After many years of hesitation Canada and the United States have decided to act together on the Seaway. This action will endure to the benefit of both countries. Together we shall go on to better things.
THANKS OF THE MEETING were expressed by Mr. Donald Jupp, the Third Vice-President of the Club.