Posted by danielmacfarlane on December 15, 2012
Posted by danielmacfarlane on November 22, 2012
This was originally posted on the The Otter (NiCHE)
Posted by danielmacfarlane on November 7, 2012
Former Governor of Canada James Coyne, famous for the 1961 Coyne Affair (a dispute with the Diefenbaker government about fiscal policy) passed away a few days ago. Here is an article I published several years back on the political aspects of the Coyne Affair – this article came out of a 4th-year undergrad paper and time spent working at the Diefenbaker Center archives: http://ejournals.library.ualberta.ca/index.php/pi/article/view/4227
Posted by danielmacfarlane on October 15, 2012
Who doesn’t look better in profile?: water levels, methods of regulation, and the St. Lawrence River and Lake Ontario
The levels of the St. Lawrence River and Lake Ontario are both regulated by various dams and other works built as part of the St. Lawrence Seaway and Power Project as well as methods outlined by the International Joint Commission (IJC). Over the last few years, there has been ongoing study and public consultation about revising the method of regulation (i.e. the high and low water levels of the water), including the recent announcement to adopt Plan Bv7, I thought I would provide the following post. As part of my forthcoming book on the history of the St. Lawrence Seaway and Power Project, I have researched and written about the evolution of the method of regulation, and the following is an excerpted and somewhat modified version of what currently appears in the book manuscript:
During the construction phase of the Seaway and Power Project a “river profile” – the engineering method of regulating the river and its water levels, as well as those of Lake Ontario – had to be established. The explicit goal was to maintain the water levels at an average that equated to “natural levels” but also to improve on nature by removing the extremes of high and low and flows. “Natural” was defined as that which had existed before the Gut dam was installed in the St. Lawrence in the early 20th century. Yet establishing exactly what constituted a “state of nature” was problematic from the outset, not only because representatives of the two countries disagreed upon the historic impact of the Gut dam, but because it was difficult to find information regarding the natural levels to use as a baseline. The Joint Board of Engineers had set the elevation of 248.1 (feet above sea level) as the high water level in 1926, but there was concern that the geological phenomenon of earth tilt had made this measurement unreliable. Indeed, engineering studies indicated that natural factors played a much larger role in raising water levels than had the man-made factors (i.e. diversions into the Great Lakes basin).
Nonetheless, 248 feet was taken as the extreme elevation since a minimum and maximum range of levels needed to be determined so that the various governmental and construction entities would know the depth to which they needed to dig channel and locks, as the cost to the power entities for dredging would rise several million dollars for each foot the water levels were lowered. By the early 1950s it was apparent to engineers that the existing Method of Regulation No. 5 was only an interim measure until a Board of Control was created to better ascertain the means of controlling the water profile. The 1952 order of approval had also provided that any interests (e.g. shore-front property) would be given adequate legal protection and indemnity in their respective country. Largely in response to the complaints of the Lake Ontario Land Owners and Beach Protection Association, which represented shore owners, the Lake Ontario levels issue was given its own docket in addition to the St. Lawrence project. The Lake Ontario Joint Board of Engineers was formed in 1953, and the Lake Ontario issue became intertwined with the St. Lawrence discussions, as any decision about levels on the river would affect the lake. The corollary of restricting Lake Ontario water levels was the various downstream impacts; for example, lowering water levels by a foot meant the annual loss of 225,000,000 kilowatt hours of power development at the Barnhart dam.
On 1 March 1954, the Canadian and American sections of the Joint Board of Engineers had reached agreement on administrative and operating procedures, and received the first plans for approval in July 1954. As the binational negotiations for a joint vs. solely Canadian seaway reached their pinnacle in 1954, the International Joint Commission (IJC) engineers were busy utilizing models to simulate historical water levels on the St. Lawrence River and Lake Ontario. It became apparent that there had been errors in the calculation of Method of Regulation No. 5, as it would barely lower the maximum levels on Lake Ontario. R.A.C. Henry, one of the Canadian experts on the engineering aspects of the St. Lawrence, commented on the process whereby the engineering representatives of the two countries had established the previous “238-242” levels for Barnhart dam: “In light of the evidence which is available on the subject it appears reasonably certain that the 238-242 range was actually a compromise between two conflicting views and was not based upon any positive and well-defined line of reasoning … .”
Yet Henry and his colleagues were not immune from similar errors. Between 1954 and 1959 there were many engineering errors, miscalculations, assumptions, guesses, and partisan positions. Shortly after Henry’s observation, in an internal Canadian meeting, HEPCO General Manager Otto Holden stated outright that they did not know what the natural conditions were. General McNaughton, who reputedly dominated the IJC and was known as a tough Canadian nationalist, emphasized “that the balance of conditions on Lake Ontario is so delicate that he could not feel assurance that the engineers could in fact keep the levels within the 244-248 range.” As a result, they strove to attain levels “as nearly as may be.” However, in public they gave an impression of preciseness and confidence.
To be fair, the planners were in many ways products of their training and societal ideals, and were subject to dominant national and transnational ideas that promoted the collaboration of industrial capital and the state as necessary to maximize the development of natural resources in the name of economic and social progress. They believed they were wisely maximizing natural resources. There was great societal and occupational pressure on the “experts” to provide answers and do so in a confident manner: in addition to hundreds of millions of dollars, many jobs and related economic factors, national and organizational pride, and the role of technology and expertise in capitalist/democratic and communist Cold War tensions, their personal and professional stature was at stake.
The Canadian and American sections of the International Lake Ontario Board of Engineers disagreed about the maximum level of Lake Ontario. The U.S. thought it should be 248 feet, the Canadians advocated for 248.3, with a minimum of 243. A month later, the U.S. side pushed for a range of 243-247. The Americans seemed to be largely motivated by political concerns stemming from the protests of Lake Ontario beach owners, while the Canadian position was largely predicated on protecting Montreal interests, for any lowering of Lake Ontario levels would tend to raise water levels in the western Quebec section of the St. Lawrence. The main users of the Seaway and Power Project – power production, navigation, shoreline property, and downstream interests – wanted different minimum and maximum water levels or varying ranges of stages (i.e. difference between high and low levels) and pleasing everyone seemed impossible. At the various public hearings that were conducted on the lake levels, many people came to voice their concern about the impact of higher water levels, such as shoreline erosion. However, the transcripts show that property owners were worried about their own property value, rather than nature or ecological impact.
Nevertheless, in March 1955 the International Joint Commission told the Canadian and American governments that it was possible to regulate the St. Lawrence and Lake Ontario in such a way as to protect the power, navigation, and riparian interests.A revised method of regulation was arrived at, labeled 12-A-9, but there were problems with that as well: for example, tests showed that under its parameters the seaway would constrict the channel at Montreal. There was discussion about increasing the upper limit marginally from 248.0 to, for example, 248.3, but such precise goals appear, in retrospect, somewhat strange given the uncertainty about the evidence and tests they used – engineers were trying to ascertain the historic conditions on which they based their arguments at the same time they were making their arguments – and the idea of 248 “as nearly as may be” continued to prevail. In July 1956 the IJC issued a supplementary order directing that Lake Ontario levels be maintained between 244 and 248, as nearly as may be. Yet soon after, method 12-A-9 was replaced by another method, 1958-A.
Plan 1958-A remained as the provisional working model throughout the construction phase (1954-1959) of the St. Lawrence Seaway and Power Project, although engineers were clear that it would likely need to be adjusted, and it was superseded by Plan 1958-C at the beginning of 1962, which in turn was replaced the following October by 1958-D. In the longer term, compared to pre-project conditions, the St. Lawrence and Lake Ontario water levels were more predicable and controllable, and the range of water levels were compressed (i.e. extreme highs lower, extreme lows higher). But the method of regulation was not always satisfactory, as there were significant problems with low water levels in the river in the 1960s, and then high water levels in the 1970s (method of regulation 1958-DD, which incorporates 1958-D, was eventually developed to deal with fluctuation conditions). These were attributed to natural supplies of greater variance than had occurred in the 100-year period upon which the engineers had based the various methods of regulation. Additionally, over time it became apparent that steady water levels were detrimental to the St. Lawrence ecosystem, which benefits from natural variability. In 2012, the IJC announced a new method of regulation, Bv7, that allows for more natural fluctuation cycles.
 IJC, Canadian Section, docket 67-2-5:6: Lake Ontario Levels Reference, Meetings, McNaughton, Burbridge, Cote 1953/01/16, Memorandum to General McNaughton re August 29, 1952 meeting, September 2, 1952.
 Government of Canada, Library and Archives Canada (LAC), RG 25, vol. 6352, file 1268-AD-40, pt 1, St. Lawrence Project: Dredging at Cornwall Island (Dec 1, 1954 to March 25, 1955), Memorandum for the Minister – St. Lawrence Project, January 24, 1955.
 The long term average flow (1860-1954) was determined to be 240,000 cfs, which was about 4000 cfs more than the average used for Method of Regulation No. 5 IJC, Canadian Section, docket 68-5-1: St. Lawrence Project, Miscellaneous Memoranda, March 1954 – Memorandum. Studies showed that the impact of the levels of Gut Dam had been exaggerated and was really about 4 ½ inches, which was approximately half of what had been believed by some. IJC, Canadian Section, 68-2-5:6-1: St. Lawrence Power Application, Minutes of IJC Meetings. 1952/07 & 1962/04, St. Lawrence Power Application: modification of Order of Approval (Executive Session, Boston), April 9, 1954.
 IJC, Canadian Section, 68-3-V2: St. Lawrence Power Application, Correspondence From 1954/01/01 to 1954/12/21, Henry to McNaughton, Re: 238-242 Controlled Single Stage Project, International Rapids Section, May 12, 1954.
 IJC, Canadian Section, 68-3-V2: St. Lawrence Power Application, Correspondence From 1954/01/01 to 1954/12/21, Memorandum of Meeting, July 3, 1954.
 The regulation criteria outlined that the water level of Montreal Harbour would be no lower than would have occurred if the power project had not been built. Bryce, 94; LAC, RG 25, vol. 6778, file 1268-D-40, pt 43.2, St. Lawrence Seaway and Power Project – General File, DEA Memorandum: Lake Ontario levels, April 26, 1955.
 Bryce, 108.
Posted by danielmacfarlane on October 14, 2012
We recently took a field trip for first-year course I’m co-teaching on the history of the St. Lawrence River and Seaway. I’ve written before about the value of field trips, especially for environmental history courses, so I won’t go over that in detail again. Let’s just say I’m a big fan of field trips.
This course is part of the unique First Year Program (FYP) at St. Lawrence University in upstate New York, which I’m teaching at this semester at as part of my Fulbright position. All incoming first-year students are required to take one of the FYP offerings, regardless of the field in which they plan to major. This program is designed so that all the students, regardless of different interests and aspirations in terms of majors and fields of study, all learn the basic skills fundamental to a liberal arts education.
It is also co-taught with someone from a different department, which is a unique pedagogical experience that I am enjoying, and thus really is interdisciplinary. The St. Lawrence River/Seaway makes for a good FYP because there is something in it for everyone – a prospective engineer can study the power dams, a future biologist can examine invasive species, an environmental studies major can look at ecological succession, and a politics/government major can study the congressional process.
The university provided a bus and driver for the whole day, as well as lunches. So two Saturdays ago we all met up at 8am and departed Canton for Waddington, and then followed along the St. Lawrence to the locks and dams at Barnhart Island near Massena. They eye-rolling and ennui characteristic of 18-year olds, only exacerbated by having to get up early on the weekend, began to give way to some excitement as we watched a vessel go through the Eisenhower lock and scouted out the Long Sault control dam and Moses-Saunders powerhouses.
Then it was over the bridge to Cornwall – for several of the students, this was their first in Canada, which required that we stop at Tim Horton’s (only after we were detained an absurdly long time at Canadian customs). After a detour into the Lost Villages Museum, which was in the midst of hosting a wedding, we walked into the river.
That’s right – we walked into the river. The water along much of the shoreline of Lake St. Lawrence, created by the flooding from the Seaway and Power Project, is quite shallow in many places; this means that some of the former communities – the Lost Villages – displaced by the St. Lawrence project are under only a few feet of water.
The remains of the town of Aultsville, for example, are quite easy to find if you know where to look and if the water is low (and easy to see from the air if the water is clear – see the wonderful photography by my friend Louis Helbig: http://www.louishelbig.com/sunkenvillagesst.html)
The remains of the road and sidewalk into Aultsville are quite visible – one can walk around half a kilometer out into the water. One of the students found the year “1918” stamped into a concrete sidewalk.
And foundations of houses and building are quite visible. I’ve also gotten a kick out of exploring these, and some of my more adventurous students did as well.
After we most of got wet, we headed to Morrisburg and Iroquois before heading back to Canton. In class the following week, it is clear that the field trip not only whetted their appetite for the topic, but helped them better conceptualize the scope and nature of the St. Lawrence Seaway and Power Project.
Posted by danielmacfarlane on October 9, 2012
Posted by danielmacfarlane on August 31, 2012
I am co-editing with Lynne Heasley (University of Western Michigan) a book on the history of Canadian-American water relations. This is part of the NiCHE-UCP environmental history series, and this series provides for a workshop to discuss chapter drafts. The workshop for this project is set for August 18-19 in Kingston, Ontario. In addition to actually discussing the drafts, we will be taking a cruise of the Thousands Islands/St. Lawrence!
This edited collection brings together a number of great scholars from both sides of the border. It features several sections with 3 contributions (with one exception due to a withdrawal) which is prefaced by an introduction. Here is the draft schedule for those who are interested:
Working Outline For
Border Flows: A Century of Canadian-American Water Relations
An Edited Volume on the Environmental History of
Water Along the Canadian-U.S. Border
Preface: Alan MacEachern
Introduction: Lynne Heasley and Daniel Macfarlane
Part One: Water Diplomacy and Tenure
Prologue: Dave Dempsey
Chapter One: Emma Norman and Alice Cohen (water governance)
Chapter Two: Noah Hall (IJC, Great Lakes, and environmental law)
Chapter Three: Andrea Charron (Northwest Passage and water sovereignty)
Part Two: Constructing Water: Power and Politics at the Border [theme, not title]
Introduction: David Massell
Chapter Four: Daniel Macfarlane (Niagara & St. Lawrence Seaway)
Chapter Five: Frédéric Lasserre (Water transfers)
Chapter Six: Jeremy Mouat (Columbia River Treaty)
Part Three: Ecological Agents of Change [theme, not title]
Introduction: Jim Feldman
Chapter Seven: Jennifer Read (sustainability & science of aquatic processes)
Chapter Eight: Nancy Langston (intersection of climate change, logging, and pollution in Lake Superior)
Chapter Nine: Jay Taylor (maritime ecosystems and historical processes)
Part Four: Ideas, Culture and Ecology of Place [theme, not title]
Introduction: Jerry Dennis
Chapter Ten: Lynne Heasley (IJC-anticipatory or iron ranges and seascapes)
Chapter Eleven: Sarah Hill (like oil and water)
Afterword: Graeme Wynn
Posted by danielmacfarlane on August 11, 2012
As part of the environmental history seminar I’m teaching this spring/summer, I have included a few field trips. Field trips are fun and beneficial ways of engaging with landscape and place, putting history into practice, and engaging with one’s immediate environment.
The first two field trips took place over the past few weeks. The first was a tour of the Rideau Canal and I had the help of Will Knight (a Carleton PhD candidate and co-developer of a great app for the history of the Rideau Canal). The canal bounds one side of the Carleton campus and we were able to easily walk from our classroom. Hartwells locks are just out the door, and it was an easy walk to other parts of the canal that significantly altered the landscape: Dow’s Lake and Hogsback Dam/Falls.
We started at Hartwells and Dow’s Lake – the latter was actually a huge swamp when the canal was constructed, but was turned into a lake by bounding the swamp. The class then headed for Hogsback, and was met by some heavy rain – luckily we made it to the pedestrians tunnels on either side of the dam and under the road in time.
The students were tasked with exploring the landscape of the dam and Hogsback Falls, to try and distinguish between what was “natural” and what was “manmade,” what was first nature and what was second nature. Indeed, most people are surprised to find out that the falls, generally seen as one of Ottawa’s great natural gems, was actually carved out of the riverbank in the 1820s as part of the construction of the canal. Additionally, the former path of the river, and the dam that blocked it, are overgrown and unknown to many visitors.
The second field trip was the Lebreton Flats and Chaudiere mills area. I had Phil Jenkins, author of a wonderful book on the history of Lebreton flats called An Acre of Time, lead the tour. Starting at the Canadian War Museum, we walked to Pooley’s Bridge, and across the Chaudiere Bridge, ending at the Mill Street Brewery. Phil told about us about the history of the flats, particularly how it was transformed via industrialization, and then expropriated and razed in the 1960s. Also discussed were the decades of planning to “develop” the area, all of which came to naught (e.g. aquarium, HQ of National Defence, etc), until the War Museum and the high-rise condo developments.
We also applied our previous readings about sawmills, lumber, and hydro-electricity to consider the landscape and waterscape of the Chaudiere region. Interestingly, just before leaving home for this tour, I saw on the news that Hydro Ottawa had bought the hydro plants owned by Domtar. This is unfortunate, as the area could easily become an Ottawa equivalent of Granville Island or the like – imagine a great tourist area on islands in sight of the national capital buildings! The view of Chaudiere Falls is all but blocked by industrial buildings (those driving across the bridge will get a quick glimpse if they look to the west at just the right time), but perhaps this is best since the grandeur of the falls were many years ago reduced to little more than a cement weir and some rocks.
Posted by danielmacfarlane on June 21, 2012
Last week, I left for southern Ontario for five days of research and conferences. I would leave Ottawa, spend a day in Niagara Falls, then on to CHESS in Guelph and CHA in Waterloo. The time at Niagara Falls would involve some research and scouting for my ongoing research on the history of the transnational waterscape of Niagara Falls; CHESS, the acronym for the Network in Canadian History and Environment’s (NiCHE) annual summer school, is a yearly highlight; and Waterloo was the Canadian Historical Association’s annual meeting, part of the yearly Congress.
Since I was going to Niagara first, I decided to drive through New York rather than down the 401 highway in Ontario. Not only is the New York route from Ottawa to Niagara a bit quicker according to Google Maps, but I have done the 401 many times and going through New York provided some different sights. I stopped for three chief subjects reflecting my interest in water, canals, and hydro-electricity: Erie Canal, Love Canal, and Niagara Falls.
On a trip to New York City a few years ago, I had taken note of places to easily get of the interstate and see the Erie Canal. So I stopped at Lock #23 just outside of Syracuse (see pic). I had written about the Erie Canal in my work on the Welland Canal and St. Lawrence Seaway. Completed in the 1820s, it connected Buffalo and Albany, and spurred development of the Welland Canal as a competitor. The Erie Canal was subsequently enlarged several times, but its limited depths meant that it would emerge in the early 20th century as a barge canal rather than a serious competitor to the St. Lawrence and Welland route. It now chiefly serves pleasure boaters.
Later that day I made it to the vicinity of Niagara Falls; but rather than turning left after the Grand Island bridge, I made a right to find one of the most notorious places in American environmental history: Love Canal. What is now just a fenced-in field (see pic) was in many ways the birthplace of the environmental justice movement. A failed canal dating back to the late 19th century was filled with toxic chemicals by a company, which then sold the property (disclosing the contents). Houses and a school were built over top, but the chemicals eventually began affecting people, and a State of Emergency was declared in the 1970s.
After Love Canal, I followed the path that most tourists take to Niagara Falls. The adjoining picture shows Terrapin Point – it focuses more on the land, which some might find surprising given that an upward tilt of the camera would have better taken in the great cataract. But that was a purposeful choice because Terrapin Point is in many ways emblematic of the remaking Niagara Falls in the 20th century.
A transnational 1950 treaty (see my recent Active History post on the subject, and a video I did last year for EHTV) that simultaneously sought to increase diversions from the Niagara River above the Falls (up to 2/3s of the water during non-tourist hours), while constructing remedial works to reshape the Falls to hide this increased siphoning off of water. As part of this process, Terrapin Point was extended by reclaiming land from the waterfall, thus pushing the northeastern end of Horseshoe Falls out of American territory.
Turning to the hydro-electric element, another picture shows the Canadian and American hydro dams some miles downstream from their intakes above Niagara Falls. The Canadian side involves two dams, Sir Adam Beck 1 and 2, with Beck 2 built in the 1950s, followed soon after by Robert Moses Dam on the U.S. side. I took tours of both power projects, though the Moses plant doesn’t really let one inside, but has a nice visitor centre (see below for pic inside of Beck #2). All in all, a pretty good way to break up half a day of driving!
Posted by danielmacfarlane on June 3, 2012