Officials mulled extending Seaway to Watertown

Algoterra, a bulk carrier flagged out of Canada, makes her way down river, approaching the Thousand Islands International Bridge on March 22, as seen from Collins Landing Road in Alexandria Bay. It was opening day for St. Lawrence Seaway shipping season. Sydney Schaefer/Watertown Daily Times

WATERTOWN — The St. Lawrence Seaway System, a series of locks, canals, and channels in the U.S. and Canada that stretches for 2,340 miles, is a technological marvel.

Work on the project began in 1954, and the first vessel to transit the system was in 1959. But before then, when the Seaway system was on the drawing board, there was talk of extending the system to Watertown.

“The approaching canalization of the St. Lawrence river recalls again the century-old discussion of a ship canal connecting Watertown with the lakes and the feasibility of such a project is again being brought forth with considerable vigor here,” the Watertown Daily Times reported in its files. “The present rapidly materializing sentiment for the St. Lawrence ship canal and the again recurring proposals that a canal be constructed from this city to Sackets Harbor in anticipation of the completion of the former canal brings to mind that in the early 19th century when canalization plans swept the country.”

The Times noted such discussion recalled the construction of what was known as Camp’s Ditch from Huntington’s Mills in Watertown to Sackets Harbor in 1830.

“One school of thought holds that in view of the probable completion of the St. Lawrence ship canal in the near future, Watertown should anticipate its effect and begin to consider a ship canal connecting the city with the lakes in order that the city may not be left out of this program,” the Times reported. “This school maintains that the route between the city and Sackets Harbor paralleling the state highway is ideal for such a canal and that it is at lake level.”

Two possible bases, or harbors, were eyed to furnish the terminal of the canal in the city:

“The first would be in the lower Arsenal street section and on the west side of the railroad tracks in Haney street. The other site for a basin would be in Black river near the Van Duzee street bridge and would permit ships to come into the center of the city.”

At Sackets Harbor, the basin would be near the Standard oil docks.

The canal’s distance was estimated to be about 12 miles.

“The canal, according to this school of thought, would be closely patterned after the Welland Canal with the difference that it would not be necessary to cut through rock,” the Times reported.

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