They built the Seaway

As the St. Lawrence Seaway celebrates its 50th birthday, this seems a fitting time to look back at what it took to transform the Great Lakes into a conduit for international trade.

A new book due for release in May shares the stories of 53 engineers, carpenters and laborers who helped build the Seaway. It’s called The St. Lawrence Seaway and Power Project: An Oral History of the Greatest Construction Show on Earth ($34.95, 328 pages, Syracuse University Press). The book reveals the hazards of the project, the challenges that confronted engineers and workers, and the sheer scope of the undertaking.

“Up until now, very little has been written about this phenomenal feat of engineering,” said author and editor Claire Puccia Parham in a promotional press release.

“Fifty years have passed since the Queen Elizabeth II dedicated this project on June 26, 1959. However, workers in both countries [the U.S. and Canada] remain passionate about their achievement. This book is a fitting tribute to the hard work and dedication of the project’s 22,000 workers,” she said.

Between 1954 and 1959, Canada and the U.S. invested $1 billion in the St. Lawrence Seaway and Power Project — the largest waterway and hydro-power dam project ever tackled jointly by two nations. It involved building seven locks, widening numerous canals, taming rapids and constructing the 3,216-foot-long, 195.5-foot-high Robert Moses-Robert H. Saunders Power Dam.

During its life, the Seaway has been used to deliver 2.5 billion tons of cargo with a combined value of more then $375 billion.