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Letter to Committee Chairmen on the St. Lawrence Seaway and Power Project.

April 19, 1952

My dear Mr. Chairman:

I am writing to urge that your committee act favorably at an early date on legislation approving the 1941 Agreement between the United States and Canada, and authorizing the United States to join with Canada in constructing the St. Lawrence seaway and power project.

As I informed the Congress in January, the question before the Congress now is not whether the seaway should be built, but whether the United States should share in its construction, operation, and control. The Canadian Government is ready and willing to build a seaway from Montreal to Lake Erie on the Canadian side of the boundary, if the Congress does not authorize the United States Government to participate in building the joint Canadian-U.S. seaway agreed to in 1941. It would be extremely unwise and unrealistic for the Congress voluntarily to abandon the opportunity for the United States to jointly control a waterway so vital to our security, our commerce and industry, and our relations with our Canadian neighbors. And yet, if the Congress does not act soon on the legislation before it, that will be the result, for we cannot ask the Canadians to delay much longer.

In addition to the seaway, the St. Lawrence project will yield very large benefits in hydroelectric power. The same dams that create a navigation pool in the International Rapids section of the St. Lawrence River, will yield 12.6 billion kilowatt hours of electric energy per year--half to each country-energy that is badly needed in both countries. In order to build these works, if the Congress does not enact the legislation now before it (or other appropriate legislation), it will be necessary for the United States and Canada jointly to apply to the International Joint Commission--a body set up under the Boundary Waters Treaty of 1909 with authority to approve such projects. In accordance with an exchange of notes early this year, copies of which were transmitted to the Congress in January, preparatory work has been proceeding on such a joint application.

On Monday of this week, Mr. Lester B. Pearson, the Canadian Secretary of State for External Affairs, together with other Canadian and United States officials, met with me here in Washington. Mr. Pearson expressed the desire of the Canadian Government to proceed rapidly with the construction of the project--both the seaway and power phases. The Canadians agree with us that the quickest and most desirable way to get started on the project is for the Congress to approve the joint development plan now before it.

In order to lose no time if the Congress does not act, however, we agreed at Monday's meeting that the application to the International Joint Commission will be completed and filed at an early date. Thus the arrangements are nearly completed for proceeding with the St. Lawrence project by an alternative means if the Congress fails to act soon on the 1941 Agreement.

I hope that these alternative arrangements will not have to be followed through, because it is so obviously to the advantage of all our people--including the railroad and port interests that have been opposed to the project in the past--for the United States to participate fully in the construction and control of the project. That can only be done if the Congress acts. I cannot believe the Congress will let the opportunity pass to safeguard and advance the vital interests of our people in the St. Lawrence River.

We need the seaway and the power. We need them as soon as the necessary works can be built. The best, the simplest, and the quickest way to get them is through legislation by the Congress. Full hearings have been completed before the appropriate committees of the Senate and the House. I strongly recommend that your committee and the Congress promptly complete action on this vital matter.

Very sincerely yours,


Note: This is the text of identical letters addressed to the Honorable Tom Connally, Chairman of the Senate Committee on foreign Relations, and the Honorable Charles A. Buckley, Chairman of the House Committee on Public Works.
See also Items 23, 189.

Harry S. Truman, Letter to Committee Chairmen on the St. Lawrence Seaway and Power Project. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/230558

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