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The Seaway Project - Details
This is a map of the area affected by the Seaway Project. The reference point is Cornwall in the bottom right hand corner. We are looking up stream to the southwest. The U.S. is on the left and Canada is on the right.
Crossing the river at Cornwall, is the Moses(U.S.)/Saunders(Can) power dam. It's about 3300 feet long and has 32 generator units. 16 are American and 16 Canadian. The international boundary between Canada and the U.S was actually changed so it would bisect the dam and provide each country with an equal number of generators.
A very sobering thought about this dam is that it straddles a known earthquake fault line. The fault line passes under unit 4 on the Canadian side.
In order to create lake St.Lawrence as a headpond for the power dam, a system of dikes had to be built in horse shoe like fashion on both sides of the power dam to help form a northeasterly shore line for the new lake.
The dikes are made out of compacted earth and have a rip rock liner to protect them in various locations. The dike base is probably 80 to 100 feet across and tapers to about 30 feet or so at the top. Special wells are drilled on the downstream side to monitor them for leakage.
In order to accomodate the power produced at the Saunders dam and to get it connected into the Ontario grid, it was necessary to build a transformer station about 4 miles north of the power dam.
Power from the dam is transmitted by high voltage transmission lines to the St.Lawrence transformer station where it is changed to various voltage levels. As well as supplying electricity locally, it feeds power into the Ontario grid and also has tie lines with Quebec and New York.
The tie lines to New York cross the river just below the Cornwall dam. The massive supporting towers are over 300 feet high on both sides of the river and the span between them is 3300 feet.
On the Moses side of the dam, a similar transformer station facility is used to distribute power to New York state customers.
The Snell lock is on the American side of the river and allows ships to navigate around the power dam. The water level differential across the power dam (headpond to tailrace) is more than 60 feet.
A total of two locks is required for ships to make the transistion from lake St.Lawrence to the lower part of the river that flows into lake St. Francis.
Above the power dam is a control dam and spillway known as the Long Sault Dam. This is the only arch shaped dam of the three that were built.
It gets its name from the old Long Sault rapids that were near this section of river but were eliminated due to the Seaway's much higher water levels.
A canal and lock system built in the mid to late 1800's enabled small ships to navigate around the various rocks, shoals, rapids, and shallow areas of the river in a section between Cornwall and Prescott approximately 40 miles long.
Tall tales are told of adventuresome riverboat captains and their passengers who went down river by "shooting" the rapids. The old canal and locks gave them a slower but much safter journey up river.
Seaway flooding caused the old canal and lock system to disappear under water east of Iroquois. However, remnants of the old Cornwall canal still remain east of the new dike, and of the Gallop canal from Iroquois west.
The Long Sault dam helps control the water level of lake St.Lawrence which extends some 25 miles up river to Iroquois. This man made lake made power production at Cornwall possible. Without it, the volume and height (head) of water required to spin generator turbines would have been insufficient for large scale power production.
The power dam must pass many thousands of cubic feet of water per minute as dictated by the International Joint Commission (IJC).
It is the dual responsibility of PASNY (Power Authority of State of New York) and Ontario Power Generation (OPG, formerly known as Ontario Hydro who jointly operates the Moses/Saunders power dam) to see this is done.
If the combined generation at the power dam can't use all the water the IJC has ruled must be passed down river ... then a series of gates at the Long Sault spillway can be opened, allowing more water downstream and bypassing the power dam. The power dam also has a limited capability to spill water if required.
Adjacent to the Long Sault dam is the Eisenhower lock. It allows ships to bypass the Long Sault dam and to start making the transition between the water levels of Lake St. Lawrence and the lower river system.
The pictures show a long narrow channel into this lock as well as the Snell lock. This channel is also man made and was dug through farm land.
About 5 miles up river from Cornwall is the village of Long Sault. It didn't exist before the Seaway was built.
It's the amalgation of the "lost" villages of Mille Roches and Moulinette. The residents of these old river towns were given new homes here and the old villages were levelled, and now are under several feet of lake St.Lawrence water.
Further up river, the villages of Wales, Dickinson's Landing, Farran's Point, and Aultsville once existed ... but no more. They suffered the same fate as Mille Roches and Moulinette. Their residents were relocated to the new town of Ingleside.
A series of small islands was left along the north shore of lake St.Lawrence between Long Sault and Ingleside after the flooding. These islands were later connected together and to the mainland by a system of causeways. This is now a recreational area known as the Long Sault Parkway.
Some of the homes in the area dated back to early pioneer days and rather than destroy them, they were moved to a location about half way between Ingleside and Morrisburg.
These buildings were later restored, and a complete pioneer village emerged to show life in the mid 1800's. This became known as Upper Canada Village and today is quite a large tourist attraction.
There's a strip of land between county highway 2 and the new river that runs from Morrisburg to Cornwall. This land was designated park land at the time of construction and with one or two exceptions remains that way to the present day.
The section around Upper Canada Village has historic value because the battle of Crysler Farm was fought there in the war of 1812.
This has been developed into a nice park and marina and is now the headquarters of the St. Lawrence Parks Commission that operates Upper Canada Village and Crysler Marina. There is also a Wild Goose Sanctuary east of the village. A bicycle trail has recently been installed along this strip. It runs from the sanctuary to the east end of Cornwall, a distance of 15 to 20 miles. In addition, a few camping grounds and recreational areas are sprinkled in here.
Because of the relocation of the St.Lawrence shore line between Iroquois and Cornwall, several infrastructure changes had to be made since the main highway and railroad also ran along the old river.
A new highway (2) was built to reconnect the villages strung out along the new shore line. About a mile north of the highway a new Canadian National railway line was also built, complete with telecommunications facilities.
Power lines were moved and new local power distribution systems created for the towns. New sewer lines and sewage treatment plants were built. Water towers, water piping systems, and water treatment pumping stations constructed.
The recent invention (1950's) of shopping centers quickly appeared in these new towns. New churches, schools, and town halls were constructed. Post offices, gas stations, and other service facilities were required.
A four lane highway (401) was eventually built north of the railway and connected Toronto to the Quebec border. A similar section into Montreal (40) greatly speeded up commerce between the two cities.
Dozens or perhaps even hundreds of farms were partially destroyed or totally destroyed as farmland by the Seaway.
The farms were laid out in narrow strips adjacent to one another and running in a north/south line back from the river.
Each concession road was a mile apart, and often farms ran from one concession to another. The concession roads, highways, and railway, all ran parallel to the river.
Therefore, the farms were cut in two or even worse by these new services that ran at right angles across the properties.
When the farms were expropriated, there was no provision made so that the farmer could keep farming the land severed by the roads and railway. The authorities weren't interested in buying just rights of way. They took all the land north of where they actually needed the right of way.
This eliminated the need and the expense of providing the farmer with a means to move his animals and equipment across (probably under) the highways and railway if he had retained posession of this property.
The whole block of land was therefore expropriated and severed. The farmer was paid for it according to some formula ... and that was that.
There were literally hundreds of farms cut up this way. Quite often, this severed land was never farmed again and grew back into bush.
Usually the house and barns were located at the front of the property, so often that part was retained by the farmer and he still had his home. He was luckier in this regard than a lot of others.
The net result was that hundreds of farmers were forced out of business because the land they were left with was just too small to earn a living from.
Many found jobs as construction workers during the Seaway. Their way of life was changed forever. Some felt they were better off because of the Seaway ... others never got over the loss.
Morrisburg survived the Seaway more or less intact. The houses along the front streets closest to the old canal had to be relocated to survive the flooding required to create lake St. Lawrence. A section of the old town still remains, but most of the town is new.
At the top end of lake St. Lawrence, is Iroquois. This place really got worked over by the Seaway.
There was a section of land here jutting out into the river that acted as a natural pinch point and was a great place to put a dam ... so they did. The Iroquois control dam controls the water level between lake St. Lawrence and Lake Ontario. A distance of about 70 miles.
Where you have a dam, you must also have a lock so ships can get around it. The Iroquois lock is right next to the dam. This section of land was known as Point Iroquois before the Seaway. The new canal bisected it and actually created an island between the lock and the dam. A cantilever style bridge spans the lock to give access to the Iroquois dam.
A large section of the point that extended out in the river was judged to be too restrictive to the water flow through the dam so it was dredged out of existence.
The dredges operating in this section of river to create the 40 foot deep shipping channel had to have some place to dump their sludge. A strange looking device called a sand sucker was used. It created sort of a slurry from the river muck scooped up, and pumped it through a huge pipe back to shore. There it was dumped in piles.
Much of the area around the Iroquois locks was built up using this material. An island or two in the middle of the river up stream from Iroquois were made into dome shapes using this stuff. They now rise high above the river, and no trees grow on them to this day.
Finally, the town itself disappeared. A gigantic house moving operation took place and over 500 homes were moved about half a mile north to the "new" village of Iroquois. New houses were built to replace the ones that couldn't be moved.
The major employer in old Iroquois was Caldwell Linen Mills. The buildings were demolished to make room for the Seaway and the business moved to a new building north of town.
The old town was then razed and levelled. Fill was brought in to raise the level of the land the old town used to set on by several feet. Today, this is mainly parkland, golf course, and airstrip.
The remarkable thing about all this was that these individual construction projects were all done simutaneously and completed within four years.
There was a great deal of coordination and sequencing required to get everything done at the right time so the project could move to the next stage.
As you look through the pictures you will see lots of cofferdams had to be constructed, and then removed, to complete the various dams and locks. There were many interim steps required to complete each project. Slowly each smaller project merged together to create the big one.
The cumulation of all this work was one brief push of a button that started a series of explosions that blew out parts of the cofferdam at Cornwall.
The mountain of water that had been held back by these cofferdams suddenly burst through, sweeping away anything in its path and quickly washed away any remnants of a cofferdam.
This setup the process of controlled flooding. By operating gates on the various dams, lake St. Lawrence slowly began to fill and establish its new shore line over a period of about two weeks.
Sea going vessels of up to about 730 feet in length and 80 feet in width could now enter the heartland of North America and visit ports as far north as Duluth and Thunder Bay.
Power began to flow, and the Seaway was open for business. The dream was now reality.
The winters are quite harsh here and the river freezes over during the months of January, February, and into March. The river closes for navigation usually from Christmas to early April.
During this time "ice booms" are strung across the river in the Odgensburg NY & Prescott Ont region (about 15 miles above the Iroquois dam) to help with the formation of an ice cover on the river.
These booms consist of Douglas Fir timbers about 2 feet wide and a foot thick. They are about 40 feet long and are connected end to end by heavy chain to form booms several hundred feet long.
Each fall they are towed across the river and anchored into position by burying huge anchors into the bottom of the river. This scheme of anchors, chains, and timbers, can restrain hundreds or thousands of tons of slush ice from randomly flowing down the river, and thus cause the river to freeze over faster.
It's a punishing task and by each spring the booms have been pulled downstream, timbers are damaged, chains are broken, and anchors need repair. Everything is hauled up, repaired during the summer, and the anchors are once again repositioned and buried in the bottom of the river next fall.
This improves the power production for the dam at Cornwall because the water levels aren't affected by wind and abnormal ice build ups once an ice cover forms.
The future of the Seaway ... what does it hold?
Who knows? The traffic seems to vary up and down depending on economic conditions. There are periodic quarrels between the Americans and Canadians over what the shipping tolls should be.
Some studies have been done to determine the feasibility of keeping the shipping channel open year around. Apparently, it is technically doable but will the extra costs generate sufficient revenue to make it practical?
The river keeps generating power and apparently that part is working well although after 40 years the power dam is being rehabilitated to some extent.
The economic boom a lot predicted for the region as a result of the Seaway doesn't appear to have happened.
Was it worth it? Depends on who you talk to I suppose.
Tourists come here and think its great and how lucky we are to have lived here and seen all this.
Boaters run up and down the river in expensive cruisers.
Lots of people have found good jobs with the Parks Commission, Seaway Authority, or Hydro.
People living here got all new infrastructure at little monetary cost to themselves ... but at a huge cost emotionally. They lost their homes and property. A house can be replaced, but not a home.
The young people say ... but look how good you have it now. Those old towns you feel so badly about losing would be pretty crappy places to live in today.
Farmers ... mostly I think would give it a big thumbs down.
Like anything else, there are winners and losers.
As each year goes by, fewer and fewer of the old timers that remember the way things were before the Seaway, are left to tell their story. Perhaps the pictures and thoughts expressed here will help to keep things in perspective for those who are too young to remember, or are not familiar with what happened here over 40 years ago.
I've lived in the area all my life. I've listened to the old folks talk about the old towns. I saw my grandfather weep when they sliced up our farm. I saw my father adapt from the life of a full time farmer to that of an employee and part time farmer. He could never give farming up.
I was just old enough to remember what the old town looked like before it vanished ... and how the new town slowly appeared.
On Sundays, my father would drive mother and me around the new town project in a big ole truck showing us what he was working at.
I remember him showing us once a sewer line that was being buried in the new town. He showed us the rocks that were being dumped on top of the pipe as the hole was back filled.
He said it was suppose to be inspected but the construction company was paying the inspector to "look the other way" so they didn't have to spend time picking the rock out of the fill.
Sure enough, right after the streets were paved, they began digging them back up to replace the broken pipes.
As kids coming home from school, we were fascinated to look at the TV picture in the back of a station wagon. The pictures were from a camera they dragged through the sewer pipes to locate where the pipes were broken.
My friends and I spent several summers swimming in one of the ponds dug in the middle of a field where ground had been dug to build an overpass.
This section of the country is covered with ponds like this. They also make great ice rinks, if you're not too lazy to shovel the snow off in the winter time.
I saw the Seaway being built through young eyes. I was there the day they blew the dike at Cornwall. I remember seeing the queen board the royal yacht in the Iroquois lock after she opened the Seaway in 59.
I remember my mother and grandmother feeding what seemed like an army of men twice a day as they worked at filling new lake St.Lawrence.
Looking back ... it all seems like so long ago. The pictures here brought back a lot of memories and feelings.
I remember going fencing in the spring with my father and grandfather to the back of the farm with a wagon and team of horses. We always tossed a spear in the back of the wagon along with the fence posts. You see, the pike were running in the creek. We'd stand on the bridge over the creek and spear a few.
Politically and environmentally incorrect today ... but for some reason they are fond memories now. Today, the 401 passes through that bush and I drive through it a lot, but I haven't set foot in it in over 40 years.
I remember my aunt and I going with the horse and buggy to fetch the cows from the bush for milking. The buggy became unhitched in the middle of a stream we were crossing and the horse bolted. She had to go and get the horse back and then rehitch the buggy in the middle of the water.
Then there was the day I was poking a stick into a hollow tree stump. The bees attacked and I was running and howling. My uncle scooped me up and outran the bees. I think they counted something like 16 bee stings in me.
The Seaway took some of these things away, but at the same time gave me an excellent job and a good living later in life.
Like most people I have mixed feelings about the whole thing. It seems to boil down to money. Those with the most money tend to get what they want in our society. In this case they bought a Seaway ... but a lot of other people paid the real price.
It's sorta like war. Some political type starts one, but they aren't going to risk their own life. They inspire somebody else through the gift of the gab, power and position, propaganda, and mental gymnastics to go in and get their hands dirty and risk getting killed to shoot all the bad guys for them.
The soldier, even if he wins the war, is only left with bad memories.
I once worked with a fellow who had been a soldier with the Vandoos regiment in WWII. One day he had a confrontation with a fellow worker who had emigrated to Canada from Germany after the war. My friend finally blurted out ... "They use to pay me two dollars a day to shoot bastards like you".
My point is this ... Leaders like Hannibal and Alexander The Great were able to amass great volunteer armies for their conquests by promising each soldier a share of the spoils. Men were willing to risk their lives and futures for big enough stakes. Their leaders were also willing to take the same risks.
The farmers and other locals around here that lost their property, livelihoods, homes (not houses), and way of life, didn't get to share the spoils. That only went to the business guys and the politicians who were personally detached from it all, and risked little.
It seems to me the locals were the two dollar soldier. They didn't volunteer or ask to do this ... but got to do the dirty work anyway for what seemed like good money at the time.
Now for those left after 40 years, they just have the memories to think about. I wonder if they'd do the same thing over again??
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