50 years of the St. Lawrence Seaway
This summer, the St. Lawrence Seaway turns fifty. Over the last half-century, the Seaway has shaped the Great Lakes and its communities in ways perhaps unexpected when it was first opened to international ships in 1959.
The St. Lawrence Seaway carved a 2,340 kilometer stretch through fifteen locks from Montreal to Lake Erie to allow larger international shipping vessels access to the Great Lakes. The original construction project also included the construction of four hydroelectric dams in Ontario and New York State. The dams created a massive flood area west of Cornwall, displacing over 6500 residents, submerging 6 Ontario towns.
The Seaway has changed the environments of the St. Lawrence and the Great Lakes in a number of ways:
- International ships introduced at least 50 different types of invasive species
- Hydroelectric dams and ice breaking activities cause major damage to fish habitat and spawning areas
- The practice of “cargo sweeping” by ships produces a buildup of iron ore and taconite deposits containing mercury and other toxic materials
- Locks and dams manipulate water levels, preventing wetlands from functioning naturally and eliminating nesting, spawning, and feeding areas for birds and fish.
This week, Living at the Barricades looks back on the time before the Seaway with Great Lakes Wake: Before the Seaway. Hear from Jen Nalbone of Great Lakes United, Jane Craig of The Lost Villages Historical Society, Jennifer Caddick of Upper St. Lawrence Riverkeeper, and freelance journalist Alex Roslin about the impacts the Seaway on the people and ecologies of Great Lakes communities.
Listen to this week’s show: