Seaway flooding was not worth it: Speaker
LONG SAULT — The council chamber at the South Stormont Township Hall was packed Wednesday evening with attendees eager to get an in-depth history lesson on the St. Lawrence Seaway and Power project.
Daniel Macfarlane, an assistant professor at Western Michigan University, delivered a presentation on the project that affected the lives of many when the Lost Villages and surrounding areas were wiped out after planned flooding to build the Moses Saunders Power Dam. The presentation was part of the Science and Nature on Tour by the St. Lawrence River Institute.
Though many in the area are familiar with the events that took place, Macfarlane provided information in regards to the more political and economic factors that went into the project.
Macfarlane also noted how both Canada and the United States dealt with the movement of the people who would be affected by the floods.
“In Canada, these new towns were going to be built (Ingleside and Long Sault) and people would have the opportunity to live in these communities that had all of the modern amenities,” he said. “Whereas in the United States, those who would have to move were basically just given a couple thousand dollars and told to find somewhere to go on their own.”
While there were benefits to moving locations of people’s homes, it wasn’t welcomed.
“It was a very traumatic experience for some. The older generation didn’t like to talk about the seaway project until decades after it took place with the creation of the Lost Villages Historical Society,” he said. “The younger generation had an easier time adjusting, because of the modern amenities that came in the new towns. The older folks had to leave the towns and houses that they spent their whole lives in.”
Macfarlane also dove into the fact the project didn’t deliver all it was promised to be. The flooding and creation of the seaway was supposed to be a huge impact for the economy, but it failed to be just that. The new creation of the seaway was predicted to turn the Cornwall, Long Sault, Ingleside and Iroquois areas into thriving economic areas as boats would pass through every day.
When looking back on the project through his research, Macfarlane determined it to be a failure as a whole.
“The flooding of these villages was not worth the economic values that ended up being generated,” he said. “Environmentally, the construction of the dam had a huge negative impact. It left the river to be very heavily polluted and wildlife was affected.”
When asked about his interest in the seaway project, Macfarlane said it stemmed from his educational background.
“I studied Canadian and American relations along with environmental issues,” he said. “If you put the two together, you get what the Seaway project was. Even today, a lot of issues between Canada and America are around tar sands, oil, greenhouse gases and other environmental topics.”
Daniel Macfarlane delivers his presentation on the St. Lawrence Seaway project to a packed room at South Stormont Township Hall on Wednesday.