Editorial: Sixty years of progress

It was all in the name of progress. The culminating event of four years of construction and decades of planning came down to one big ‘boom’.

July 1st, 1958, the blowing of the coffer dam near Iroquois on the St. Lawrence River set off the final flooding of parts of the St. Lawrence River Valley to create Lake St. Lawrence. This was a pool of water intended to feed the Moses-Sanders power dam in Cornwall, creating 100 megawatts of hydro-electric power. Progress.

In addition, the St. Lawrence-Seaway began operation a few days later. Much larger ships could now pass the bottleneck on the river between Montréal and Prescott. More progress.

To accomplish this, communities were moved, and people were pushed off their land by the provincial government. Two hundred years of history, and approximately 64,000 acres of land were flooded out of existence. In all, approximately 550 buildings and 6,500 people were moved. At the time this was the largest hydro-electric power project in Canada outside of Niagara Falls.

All this progress was accomplished in the relatively short span of five years. That, in itself, is an impressive feat. However this was a project out of another era. Today, the Seaway project would be unthinkable. The environmental assessment process alone would kill a project of this magnitude.

For those who lived through the project, “progress” was the promise. Many say that promise was never delivered. The manufacturing jobs, the growth, and the prosperity promised to come with the Seaway never fully materialized.

Yet for those who continued to live here and for those who came here afterward, some progress was made.

Name a community other than South Dundas that can boast not one, but four schools within a kilometer of a beach? Or a community with acres of park land for everyone to enjoy?

The Lost Villages gave way to four solid communities which, 60 years after the flood, have many positives going for them. It is important to not lose sight of that in discussing the impact of the Seaway. The rose-coloured glasses of history need not always focus on the negative. Progress, if on a lesser scale, has happened.