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Letter to the President of the Senate and to the Speaker of the House Regarding the St. Lawrence Seaway and Power Project.

July 01, 1952

My dear Mr.________:

I am transmitting herewith, for the information of the Congress, the Application to the International Joint Commission, dated June 30, 1952 of the same date, between the Canadian Government and our own concerning the St. Lawrence project.

These documents mark the official commencement of a procedure for getting the St. Lawrence project built if the Congress fails to approve the legislation which is before it for that purpose. Under this procedure, the seaway will be built by the Canadian Government, and the power phase of the project will be built by the Province of Ontario and a United States entity authorized by the Congress or by the Federal Power Commission to do the United States share of the work.

This procedure for building the St. Lawrence project is entirely feasible. At the same time, as I have informed the Congress in January and again in April of this year, from the standpoint of the national interest of the United States, this procedure is only second-best--and a poor second-best at that-to the procedure which has been awaiting Congressional approval for so many years.

It is second-best because engineering considerations make it more costly to build the seaway on the Canadian side of the River.

It is second-best because, as the attached documents make clear, the power consumers will have to repay all the cost of the main dams and control structures, instead of sharing that cost with the seaway users.

Most important, it is second-best because under the legislation which is before the Congress, the United States would participate equally with Canada in the management and control of the seaway, while under the arrangement described in the attached documents, Canada will have the sole management and control.

Every top official--civilian and military-with responsibilities for the defense of our country has testified that the St. Lawrence project is of exceptional and direct value to our security. Eighty or ninety percent of the traffic through the seaway will probably be United States traffic--including sizeable amounts of badly needed iron ore. The seaway will be built along our common boundary with Canada, where cooperation is obviously of vital importance to the future relations of our two countries. The cost of both the seaway and power phases of the project will be repaid, with interest.

And yet in the face of these facts, certain local and special interests in our country who fancy they would be adversely affected, have until now succeeded in blocking Congressional approval of United States participation in this project. I know of no more glaring example of short-sightedness in the history of our Nation's development of natural resources. Here is a self-liquidating investment, of great importance to our security and to our economic progress--and yet the Congress, principally at the urging of certain railroad and private power interests, so far seems willing to turn the whole seaway over to Canada.

The attached documents serve notice that the eleventh hour has struck. In a matter of months, in all probability, the proceedings before the International Joint Commission and the Federal Power Commission will have been completed. Until then, if the Congress acts rapidly, we can still join, as we should, as a full partner in building, managing, and controlling this project.

I urge the Congress to reject the narrow and selfish arguments of those who oppose the St. Lawrence project. It is going to be built, one way or the other. It is a plain matter of national self-interest for us to join in its construction.

It seems inconceivable to me, now that this project is on the eve of accomplishment, that the Congress should allow any local or special interest to divest our country of its rightful place in the joint development of the St. Lawrence River in the interest of all the people of the United States.

I strongly recommend, therefore, that the Congress promptly complete action on legislation to carry out the 1941 agreement for joint construction of the St. Lawrence seaway and power project.

Very sincerely yours,


Note: This is the text of identical letters addressed to the Honorable Alben W. Barkley, President of the Senate, and to the Honorable Sam Rayburn, Speaker of the House of Representatives.

The Application and the exchange of notes are printed in House Document 528 (82d Cong., 2d sess.).
See also Item 102.

Harry S. Truman, Letter to the President of the Senate and to the Speaker of the House Regarding 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/231105

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