The St. Lawrence Seaway


By JAMES E. VAN ZANDT, Member of Congress, 23rd District of Pennsylvania

Delivered over the National Broadcasting Company Red Network, April 3, 1941

Vital Speeches of the Day, Vol. VII, pp. 444-446.

GOOD evening Ladies and Gentlemen: For months America has been engaged in the greatest defense effort in the history of this nation. Tonight, we have under arms, 1,400,000 men while our defense industries are working day and night in a gigantic effort to reach peak production so that our National Defense program may be made effective to meet any emergency.

Despite the fact that we are at peace with all nations, Congress has appropriated since September, 1939, approximately 40 billions of dollars in the name of national defense.

While during the World War our actual defense expenditures were only 19 billion dollars. The American citizen is conscious of the fact that the legal debt limit has been raised to 65 billions of dollars to meet the problem of national defense and that it is freely predicted the debt limit may exceed one hundred billion dollars in the near future. It is common knowledge that this increased cost of government will be paid through the medium of taxation.

The American people are proud of their heritage and no sacrifice is too great on their part to insure continuance of liberty and freedom. To those of us who have been elected as Representatives of the people, it is our duty to closely scrutinize every proposal that is labeled as necessary for our national defense.

While we are quick to recognize legitimate defense measures and support them wholeheartedly as revealed by the overwhelming approval given appropriations requested as necessary, we are loathe to put our seal of approval on pet ideas that have been tagged as necessary defense legislation when their alleged usefulness to national defense is an insult to the intelligence of the American people.

Since the beginning of the present war in Europe priority rights have been given numerous projects on the assumption that they were necessary to our national defense. Such measures were recognized as purely domestic and while their relation to national defense may have been questionable, many of us gave our approval because of the resulting benefit to the nation as a whole.

When the President of the United States on March 21, sent a message to Congress telling of his intention to ask approval for the construction of the St. Lawrence Seaway and Power Project, as necessary to national defense, Congress immediately recognized the return of a political pet idea defeated by the Senate in 1934 and now garbed in new regalia—the armor of national defense.

The St. Lawrence Seaway is not a new idea. Since the turn of the century it has raised its head many times only to be subdued by calm deliberation and sound reasoning. OnMarch 19, 1941 after five years of negotiations, President Roosevelt authorized the signing of a treaty with Canada for the construction of a Great Lakes St. Lawrence Deep Waterway and the development of the hydro-electric resources of the International Rapids section of the St Lawrence River.

We are told that the St. Lawrence Seaway Project which cannot possibly be completed and in operation before 1947, six years hence, is a necessary adjunct to our defense of the Western Hemisphere.

In the same breath industries within the Great Lakes region are promised cheap power; Great Lakes shipbuilding yards are promised huge contracts to build ocean-going vessels, inland cities such as Duluth, Chicago, Cleveland and Detroit are to become great inland ports and the Mid-Western farmer is offered cheap transportation rates for his products.

The treaty contemplates that the project be divided in two parts, one for the construction of dams on the St Lawrence River to be used in the development of new sources of cheap hydro-electric power subsidized by the Government, and the other for the construction of a 27 foot channel from Montreal to the head of the Great Lakes, a distance of 1,200 miles, 90 per cent of which is wholly within the Dominion of Canada, and at an eventual cost of $1,200,000,000.

The initial appropriation to be asked from Congress will be applied to the construction program for the International Rapids section. For this section alone the combined cost of both the navigation and power development programs will amount to approximately $267,000,000, the United States paying $206,000,000 since Canada is to be given credit for the cost of construction of the Welland Canal, which will be a component part of the proposed St. Lawrence Seaway.

The average American is being led to believe that the St. Lawrence project is being wholeheartedly accepted by no: only this nation but likewise by our Canadian neighbors. On the contrary, it is common knowledge that not only high government officials in Canada but the people in general have opposed this project for years as being economically unsound.

This is evidenced by the following statement made by the Canadian Minister of Finance to the House of Commons on February 19, 1941 when he said "The St. Lawrence Waterway Project is beyond the realm of financial possibility so far as Canada is concerned."

Canadian opposition to the St. Lawrence Waterway Project has become stronger since the Dominion of Canada became engaged in the present war. They frown upon thisproject since it will be the means of depleting their finances and dividing their efforts to win the war.

Despite the wild assertion by the advocates of the St. Lawrence Seaway that Canada recognizes such a project as necessary to their national defense, let me read you a direct quotation from Dr. Thomas H. Hogg, Chief Engineer of the Hydro-Electric Commission of Ontario, the Canadian Agency which would develop and have at its disposal one-half of the St. Lawrence power. Dr. Hogg stated, "It is quite evident that this development cannot be classed as a war measure for even if it were undertaken tomorrow if would be six or seven years before it could become of use. Yet the project is persistently misrepresented as a war measure which far from helping would actually handicap war work."

We can well appreciate the position the Canadian people have been forced to take on the St. Lawrence Seaway Project. Were it not for the American program of aid to Great Britain our Canadian neighbors would be as militant in their opposition as millions of Americans who recognize this project as a destructive influence because of its devastating effect on the economic stability of both nations.

It is not difficult for us to agree with our Canadian neighbors that the proposed St. Lawrence Seaway is of little value and cannot be justified as a national defense measure. Since we as a nation are building our own defenses and engaged in a super-human effort to aid Great Britain the digging of an international ditch and putting the government of the United States in the power business on a larger scale and at a cost of over one billion dollars is not only ridiculous when Great Britain needs ships and implements of war, but it is likewise an undreamed of folly.

It has been repeatedly pointed out that this Seaway and Power Project will require at least a period of seven years before it can be placed in operation. During the construction of the locks, dams, and generating plants and after completion the entire project both from a power and seaway standpoint will prove an easy target for enemy bombers or Fifth Columnists. Even the ships using the Seaway would be open to attack from the air.

Little has been said of the gigantic task facing the United States in defending the St. Lawrence Seaway and Power Project. Military experts predict that it will cost over a billion dollars to erect and maintain suitable defenses since the St. Lawrence Seaway from the mouth of the St. Lawrence River to Duluth, Minnesota at the head of the Great Lakes will require military posts at strategic points. Keeping in mind that this so-called national defense project will require at the utmost six years of intensive effort to insure completion let us consider the argument that our defense industries are in immediate need of additional electric power.

If we are in immediate need of electric power, tomorrow may be too late. At this moment the Adams Electric Plant at Niagara Falls, New York is standing idle because of a treaty between Canada and the United States regarding the diversion of water. Revision of this treaty can make possible the operation of the Adams plant over night, and immediately generate 307,000 kilowatt hours of electricity. At Oswego, New York, a plant is being constructed to provide 80,000 kilowatt hours which is capable of being increased to 160,000 kilowatt hours within a year.

It is beyond contradiction that existing water and steam generating plans both on the American and Canadian side of the Niagara River can be expanded within a two-year period to enable generating three million kilowatt hours of electricity. In addition steam generating plants can be constructed within a period of two years adjacent to coal mines in coal producing States, such as Pennsylvania, at one-thirdthe cost of hydro-electric plants and not only provide millions of kilowatt hours of electric power but likewise give steady employment to thousands of good Americans.

To further prove that the St. Lawrence Seaway as a national defense project is a myth, let me call your attention to the fact that this Seaway which is intended to provide a 27 foot channel from the head of the St. Lawrence River to the head of the Great Lakes will be closed to navigation for five months of each year since the St. Lawrence River is ice-bound and the surfaces of the Great Lakes are solidly frozen.

This Seaway will cost the American taxpayers millions of dollars and will be open for navigation only seven months of each year. During this seven month period foreign tramp vessels manned by foreign crews and paid a scale of wages far below the standard of American shipping will carry their cargoes to inland ports instead of discharging them at Baltimore, Philadelphia, New York and Boston as is the present custom. Thus millions of tons of traffic will be diverted from the American transportation systems.

As previously mentioned industries within the Great Lakes region are promised cheap power; Great Lakes shipbuilding yards are promised huge contracts to build ocean-going vessels; inland cities such as Duluth, Chicago, Cleveland and Detroit are to become great inland ports; and the mid-western farmer is being lulled into silence by glittering promises of the rich harvest he will reap in cheap transportation rates.

Were these fanciful dreams to come true, the non-benefitting citizens of our country will pay 85 per cent of the cost of this project which I have already stated will be in excess of one billion dollars. In addition the annual maintenance cost will be $15,000,000 on the Seaway alone, which will mean that every ton of freight estimated by the advocates of the Seaway will be subsidized by the Government at a cost of $2.50 per ton.

Do you realize that from the reports of American life insurance companies, it is revealed that one-fourth of the assets of these companies are invested in American Railroad Securities and other utilities and as a result the St. Lawrence Seaway will affect every life insurance policyholder in the United States?

Yes, there is much idle talk about these so-called benefits from this St. Lawrence Seaway and Power Project. On the other hand, there is a strange silence over the thousands of American citizens who will be driven to the relief rolls of the nation by the destruction of their jobs.

What is to become of the coal miner whose job will be destroyed by hydro-electric power and the importation of cheaply mined foreign coal?

How about the railroader whose job will vanish when millions of tons of freight are carried to Great Lake cities by foreign vessels?

What about the plight of the American seaman whose ships will be idle while foreign tramp steamers carry cargoes diverted from American vessels?

What about the employees of the shipyards on the East, West, and Gulf Coasts of our country, who with thousands of stevedores in times of peace have always found it difficult to exist because of part-time employment?

What about the men employed on the great iron range of Northern Minnesota and Michigan whose jobs will be destroyed by the importation of cheap ore from foreign countries?

Time will not permit me to enumerate the number of related industries destined to feel the devastating effect of this economic monstrosity known as the St. Lawrence Seaway.

Ladies and Gentlemen, this attempt to saddle the American taxpayers with an unnecessary expenditure of public funds is a direct challenge to every American citizen.

In the name of those men whose jobs are destined to be abolished as a result of the St. Lawrence Seaway and Power Project, I ask you to join with us in Congress in opposition to this politician's golden dream and the taxpayer's hideousnightmare. Your assistance can best be rendered by joining us in revealing this project in its true light as economically unsound.

A letter to your Congressman and Senator stating your opposition to this project will merit the prayers of thousands of men, women and children whose means of livelihood will be seriously jeopardized.