Navigating the country’s numerous waterways allowed the United States to expand and prosper.

And for 60 years, the St. Lawrence Seaway has been essential to our economic growth. It has linked commercial interests throughout our nation with those in foreign countries. It allows shipping from the Atlantic Ocean to Duluth, Minn., along Lake Superior — a total of 2,038 nautical miles.

The Seaway was begun in 1954 and completed in 1959. During those five years, it required about 22,000 workers to move 210 million cubic yards of earth and rock and pour more than 6 million cubic yards of concrete. The Seaway was made possible by the Moses-Saunders Power Dam, which extends from Massena to Cornwall, Ontario, Canada.

“The Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River have served as major North American trade arteries since long before the U.S. or Canada achieved nationhood,” according to the website for the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Seaway System. “A new era in marine transportation was made possible by construction of the 306-kilometer (189-mile) stretch of the St. Lawrence Seaway between Montreal and Lake Ontario during the mid- to late 1950s. Recognized as one of the most challenging engineering feats in history, seven locks were built, five Canadian and two U.S., in order to lift vessels 246 feet (75 meters) above sea level as they transit from Montreal to Lake Ontario.”

Ceremonies to dedicate the opening of the Seaway were held in June 1959. Vice President Richard Nixon attended one in Massena with Queen Elizabeth II.

To commemorate this anniversary, the St. Lawrence Seaway Development Corp. will host U.S. Secretary of Transportation Elaine L. Chao at 11:30 a.m. Tuesday. She will be joined by other U.S. and Canadian officials at the Dwight D. Eisenhower Lock/Visitors’ Center, 76 Barnhart Island Road in Massena.

“The binational waterway was officially opened in 1959 by Queen Elizabeth II and President Eisenhower. It has been proclaimed as one of the 10 most outstanding engineering achievements of the past 100 years,” according to a news release issued Sept. 10 by the St. Lawrence Seaway Development Corp. “Since its inception, nearly 3 billion tons of cargo, valued at over $450 billion, has been transported via the Seaway. Maritime commerce on the Great Lakes St. Lawrence Seaway System supports over 237,000 U.S. and Canadian jobs and generates $35 billion in economic activity annually.”

The Seaway’s role in advancing international commerce has been enormous.

“More than 80 percent of Seaway traffic includes bulk cargoes like grains, iron ore, coal, chemicals and oil. Manufactured goods of all kinds make up the rest of Seaway cargoes. According to information supplied by the St. Lawrence Seaway Development Corp., a 2018 study documented that maritime commerce on the Great Lakes Seaway System sustained more than 237,000 jobs in the U.S. and Canada, provided $35 billion in business revenues; $14.2 billion in personal income and $6.6 billion in federal, state, provincial and local taxes each year,” a story published April 29 by the Watertown Daily Times reported. “Locally, the St. Lawrence Seaway Development Corp.’s Asset Renewal Program is having a positive and significant impact on the Upstate New York economy. Nearly one half, or about $75 million of the Asset Renewal Program funds obligated during the program’s first 10 years, were awarded within the region. The Asset Renewal Program is also producing about $1 million to $2 million in additional economic benefits to the region each year. Starting in 2009, the St. Lawrence Seaway Development Corp. began its Asset Renewal Program for its navigation infrastructure and associated facilities and equipment. The projects and equipment address various needs for the two U.S. Seaway locks, the Seaway International Bridge, maintenance dredging, operational systems and corporation facilities and equipment in Massena. There are other benefits, too — tourism, which plays a large role in Massena, as visitors watch ships transiting through Eisenhower Lock.”

The St. Lawrence Seaway has bridged merchants from the United States with those in Canada, Europe and other parts of the world.

The partnerships formed have produced many rewards, and we’re proud that Northern New York plays an integral part in the Seaway’s rich history.

Johnson Newspapers 7.1


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(1) comment


I would love to agree with the thrust of this editorial. Unfortunately, the Seaway has never really lived up to the rosy forecasts that accompanied its inauguration.

The main problem is that it was built with lock dimensions, while appropriate for 1930s waterways, quickly made them unusable by most of the world's shipping. Using these compromising designs was part of the price of getting the legislation through congress, and past the objections of railroad and East coast port interests.

Since its completion, shipowners have embraced "economy of scale"--ships grow ever larger, and fewer and fewer of them are dimensionally able to transit the Seaway locks and channels.

With a host of other priorities facing the United States, plus environmental concerns that were nonexistent in the fifties, the likelihood of larger locks being constructed grows dimmer by the day, leaving forecasts for the Seaway's future more and more those of an inland waterway.

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