Harry S. Truman photo

Special Message to the Congress on the St. Lawrence Seaway.

October 03, 1945

To the Congress of the United States:

As a part of our program of international cooperation, expanding foreign trade, and domestic progress in commerce and industry, I recommend the speedy approval by the Congress of the Agreement of March 19, 1941 between the United States and Canada for the development of the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Basin. When approved, the two countries will be able to harness for the public benefit one of the greatest natural resources of North America, opening the Great Lakes to ocean navigation, and creating 2,200,000 horsepower of hydroelectric capacity to be divided equally between the people of the United States and Canada.

The development, utilization and conservation of our natural resources are among those fields of endeavor where the government's responsibility has been well recognized for many generations.

During the war we were forced to suspend many of the projects designed to harness the waters of our great rivers for the promotion of commerce and industry and for the production of cheap electric power. We must now resume these projects and embark upon others.

The Congress and the people of our country can take just pride and satisfaction in the foresight they showed by developing the Tennessee and Columbia Rivers and the rivers in the Central Valley of California. Without the power from these rivers the goal of 50,000 airplanes a year--considered fantastic only five short years ago, but actually surpassed twice over--would have been impossible. Nor could we have developed the atomic bomb as early as we did without the large blocks of power we used from the Tennessee and Columbia Rivers.

The timely development of these rivers shortened the war by many years, and saved countless American lives. We must ever be grateful for the vision of the late President Franklin D. Roosevelt and the wisdom of the Congress in urging and approving the harnessing of these priceless natural resources.

One of the great constructive projects of the North American continent, in fact, one of the great projects of the world, which was delayed by the exigencies of war, is the St. Lawrence Seaway and Power project.

For fifty years the United States and Canada under both Republican and Democratic administrations, under Liberal and Conservative governments, have envisioned the development of the project together, as a joint enterprise.

Upon the expectation that we would join with them in completing this great engineering project, Canada has already built more than half its share of the undertaking.

We, however, still have our major contribution to make.

Every engineering investigation during the past fifty years, every economic study in the past twenty-five years has found the project feasible and economically desirable. The case has been proved; the plans are ready.

The St. Lawrence Seaway will make it possible to utilize our war expanded factories and shipping facilities in the development of international economic cooperation and enlarging world commerce. New and increasing opportunities for production and employment by private enterprise can be expected from this cheap water transportation.

It is the kind of useful construction which will furnish lucrative employment to many thousands of our people.

The completion of the Seaway will bring many benefits to our great neighbor and ally on the North. The experience of two wars and of many years of peace has shown beyond question that the prosperity and defense of Canada and of the United States are closely linked together.

By development of our natural water power resources, we can look forward with certainty to greater use of electricity in the home, in the factory and on the farm. The national average annual consumption of electricity by domestic consumers has almost doubled in the past ten years. Even with that increase, the national average is only 65 per cent as high as in the Tennessee Valley where electric rates are lower. Increase in the consumption of electricity will mean more comforts on the farms and in city homes. It will mean more jobs, more income and a higher standard of living. We are only on the threshold of an era of electrified homes and mechanical aids to better living. We can encourage this trend by using the bounty of nature in the water power of

our rivers.

If we develop the water power of the St. Lawrence River, the United States' share of that power will be available for distribution within a radius of 300 miles. This will include most of New York State and its neighbor states to the East. Public and private agencies will be able to pass on to the consumers in that area all the advantages of this cheap power.

Under the leadership of Governor and later President Roosevelt, the State of New York created the framework of a state power program. I have always been, and still am, in favor of that program.

Under it, the power facilities are to be constructed by the Federal Government and turned over by it to the State of New York. The terms of allocation of costs to the State of New York have been agreed upon in a memorandum of agreement dated February 7, 1933, recommended for execution by the United States Army Corps of Engineers and the Power Authority of the State of New York. This basis of allocation is fair and acceptable.

It has always been understood by the responsible proponents of this development that the water power project should become the property of the State of New York, and that the electric power should be developed and handled by the State. That should continue to be the policy, and I recommend that it be so declared by the Congress.

Any agreement with the State of New York to this end must protect the interests of the United States as well as the interests of neighboring states; and will, of course, have to be submitted for approval by the Congress before it can become effective.

I urge upon the Congress speedy enactment of legislation to accomplish these objectives so that work may start on this great undertaking at the earliest possible time.


Harry S Truman, Special Message to the Congress on the St. Lawrence Seaway. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/230353

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