Herbert Hoover photo

Statement About Signing the Great Lakes- St. Lawrence Deep Waterway Treaty

July 18, 1932


"The signing of the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Waterway treaty marks another step forward in this the greatest internal improvement yet undertaken on the North American Continent. The treaty must yet be ratified by the legislative bodies of the two governments and is not effective unless this is done.

"The treaty represents to me the redemption of a promise which I made to the people of the Midwest. It provides for the construction of a 27-foot waterway from the sea to all Canadian and American points on the Great Lakes. Such a depth will admit practically 90 percent of ocean shipping of the world to our take cities in the States of New York, Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin, and Minnesota. Its influence in cheapening transportation of overseas goods will stretch widely into the interior from these points. Its completion will have a profoundly favorable effect upon the development of agriculture and industry throughout the Midwest. The large byproduct of power will benefit the Northeast. These benefits are mutual with the great Dominion to the north.

"The waterway will probably require 10 years for completion, during which time normal growth of traffic in the Nation will far more than compensate for any diversions from American railways and other American port facilities. The economic gains from improved transportation have always benefited the whole people.

"Under the engineers' estimates, the total cost will be approximately $543 million, of which approximately $272 million will need be expended by the United States. Some portion of these expenditures has already been made by both countries, and the actual total amount of new funds to be called on from the United States is estimated at about $258 million, and from this sum must be deducted the realization which may be made from about 1 million horsepower on the American side of the international section. The disposal of this power is reserved as a purely domestic question in the United States.

"The question of the effect of the treaty provision covering the diversion of water from Lake Michigan upon the 9-foot waterway from Chicago to the Mississippi has been raised. I may quote the statement I received from General MacArthur, Acting Secretary of War, which clarified this question:

Dear Mr. President:
I am in receipt of your request for a statement from this Department in confirmation of the verbal assurances given to you and to the Secretary of State by the Corps of Engineers, that the provisions in respect to the diversion of water from Lake Michigan in the proposed Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Deep Waterway treaty are sufficient to provide for the maintenance of the 9 foot waterway from Chicago to the Mississippi.

I am glad to confirm that the provision in the Treaty does provide the necessary diversion for this purpose.

Acting Secretary of War

"The Canadian project of a two-stage development in the international section has been adopted instead of the original American project of a single-stage development. The cost is slightly more, but the Canadian officials have felt that the two-stage development is desirable for many reasons, amongst others for the complete assurance of the safety of the city of Montreal.

"The project is of first importance to the whole continent. The many and extremely complex engineering, legal, commercial, and international problems have been worked out by the representatives of both countries in a spirit of cooperation of which all North America can be justly proud."

Note: Secretary of State Henry L. Stimson and Canadian Minister to the United States W. D. Herridge signed the treaty at the Department of State at 10 a.m., on July 18, 1932. In conjunction with the signing ceremonies, the Department issued a statement tracing the history of negotiations back to 1920 and outlining the course of formal negotiations from October 1931.

Herbert Hoover, Statement About Signing the Great Lakes- St. Lawrence Deep Waterway Treaty Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/207224

Filed Under



Simple Search of Our Archives