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St. Lawrence Seaway: Let the flooding begin

In 1535, Jacques Cartier stood on Mount Royal looking down in despair at the Lachine Rapids that barred his further progress inland along the St. Lawrence River. It wasn't until 1954 that a formal agreement between Canada and the U.S. finally made the St. Lawrence Seaway possible. Heralded as a marvel of engineering when it opened in 1959, the Seaway has been hit by environmental problems and hard economic times over the last two decades. What lies ahead for the Seaway?

While the aspirations of the country over the Seaway turn into reality, the individual dreams of thousands of residents will soon be wiped out into obscurity. A handful of communities along the St. Lawrence River will be completely flooded by the damns being built as part of the Seaway. CBC Television travels down the highways, back roads and the tree-lined streets of small town Ontario to find out the story of the people who will soon lose their homes.

Signposts along the way include names of towns like Prescott, Iroquois, Moulinette, Aultsville, Mille Roches and Dickinson Landing. In Morrisburg, a town so small that the local furniture merchant is also the undertaker, a woman complains about having to pack up her fresh-made preserves. Outside the general store in Farran Point, three youngsters are asked what they'll do when the town is flooded. One youth, unaware of the implications of the flooding, innocently answers, "I don't know. Swim, I guess."

One of the cities that will benefit from the Seaway is Cornwall. Dubbed the 'Seaway City', it lies on the edge of the power dam that will harness the 1.1 million horsepower of energy from the International Rapids section of the river. With 2000 unemployed and two of its three mills serving as mausoleums of inactivity, the mayor of Cornwall says he is hopeful that the power phase of the St. Lawrence Power Project will help rejuvenate the city.
• The flooding for the dams began in 1958, as 259 square km (100 square miles) of land along the river was wiped out. The provincial government set aside land in new towns such as Long Sault and Ingleside for the approximately 6,500 displaced citizens. Roughly 550 homes were also lifted off their original foundations and transported to the new towns.

• In a special report, the CBC's Byng Whitteker reflected on his childhood growing up in the soon-to-be flooded region.
Medium: Television
Program: CBC Newsmagazine
Broadcast Date: Aug. 15, 1954
Guest(s): Aaron Horowitz, T. Douglas Whiteside, Frances Wilson, Isaac Wilson
Reporter: Harry Rasky
Duration: 16:28

Last updated: April 25, 2013

Page consulted on December 6, 2013

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