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St. Lawrence Seaway: Navigation on Gulf of Saint Lawrence Estuary and the St. Lawrence River

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Document pages: 20 pages

Abstract: The entire Great Lakes watershed drains through Lake Ontario and flows into the St. Lawrence River near Cape Vincent, New York. The St. Lawrence River then flows northeast through Quebec and Ontario and into the largest estuary in the world, the Gulf of Saint Lawrence. The St. Lawrence River, between Ontario, Canada and New York, United States is part of the international boundary. The St. Lawrence Seaway permits ocean-going vessels to go from the Great Lakes of North America to the Atlantic Ocean. Navigation of the St. Lawrence was not possible until canals were built around the Lachine Rapids near Montreal. The canals allowed ships to by-passes the rapids and travel into Lake Ontario. In 1954, the United States agreed to joint development of the international sections of the St. Lawrence River. The St. Lawrence Seaway was opened in 1959 and permits ocean-going ships to go all the way to the southwest corner of Lake Superior near Duluth, Minnesota. During WWII, German U-boats sank several merchant marine ships and three Canadian warships in the lower St. Lawrence River, the Strait of Belle Isle, Cabot Strait and the Gulf of Saint Lawrence. The bottom of the St. Lawrence River is littered with the wreckage of these ships and other ships which were lost during storms. The International Joint Commission recommended that the Canada and United States jointly improve navigation on the St. Lawrence River from Lake Ontario to Montreal. This lead to the signing of the St. Lawrence Treaty. Steel companies supported the treaties since the new St. Lawrence Seaway could get Labrador iron ore to the United States mills in the Great Lakes region. The Seaway’s power dams generate 3.5 million kilowatts of electricity which is provided to industry and to thousands of consumers in the New York State, New England and parts of Canada. The electric power generated by the project would be shared equally. This paper highlights how the geological and landscape properties of the St. Lawrence River watershed were responsible for the successful economic development of this important and historically-rich region of North America. Planned economic and urban development of the St. Lawrence River basin by USACE was blocked by the “Save the River” campaign. Environmental challenges include disposal of treated and untreated wastewater, water pollution, and shore erosion, invasive species and flooding.

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