The Putin Doctrine
A Move on Ukraine Has Always Been Part of the Plan
IN a notable address at Chicago on March 9, 1926, Secretary Hoover, who has given constant and constructive consideration to the whole problem of waterway development, after a survey of possible outlets from the mid-west to the sea, referred to the difficult situation which has arisen as to the level of the Great Lakes:
"We are well advised at Washington of this fall in lake levels. Protests from our own lake cities and lake States and from Canada, all directed at Chicago; litigation in our courts; bitter denunciation in the press and by public bodies -- all these are showered upon us daily. . . . Quarrels concerning water quickly get from the realm of engineering into the realm of emotion. . . . The real question is to hold more water in the lakes. Lawyers and courts cannot hold it there, but the engineers can. Litigation produces feeling but not water. I have observed throughout the whole country that for some reason quarrels over water questions create more emotion than even land questions. . . . I am in hopes that we may be able to enter upon friendly discussion with our Canadian friends upon these many problems of the Lakes. I believe that upon examination by reasonable men bent upon solution, it will be found that there is complete mutuality of interest between our two countries in these matters, and that we shall be able to propose solutions of cement and steel which will protect all the cities and interests upon the Lakes, whether in Canada or in the United States, including Chicago, and we believe that it can be done by engineers much more effectively than by the courts or international dispute."
Mr. Hoover manifests the traditional scepticism of the engineer regarding the lawyer, or rather the lawyer method. Undoubtedly we need more of the objective, fact-seeking temper of the trained engineer, and not least where international relations are concerned. Yet when facts and solutions are set forth, there may remain questions of rights which must also be settled as an element in the problem. On this very question of boundary waterways difficulties, the United States and Canada have worked out a unique and constructive instrument, the International Joint Commission, which ensures, within its range, that along with the engineers' data the claims of the interested parties will be duly weighed, without the drawbacks of too rigid court procedure. It cannot determine general policy or carry out a program, but it can and does suggest solutions.
The three thousand mile border between Canada and the United States includes vast water stretches. With the thickening of population, the catching up of navigation demands upon water supply, the growth of power and irrigation developments, and the intricate conflict of domestic and international interests involved therein, the need of a permanent method and accepted bases of settlement became apparent. To Elihu Root, Lord Bryce, and Sir George Gibbons mainly belongs the credit of the establishment in 1909, after some temporary experiments, of a permanent joint commission.
The Boundary Waters Treaty of 1909 between His Britannic Majesty and the United States provided for free and equal navigation of all navigable waters on the United States-Canada boundary; gave private parties on one side of the border injured by diversion of waters on the other side the same legal remedies as nationals of the latter country; agreed that further obstructions or diversions of boundary waters affecting the level or flow of boundary waters on the other side of the line should not be made except by authority of the United States or the Dominion and the approval of the Commission; provided against pollution of boundary waters and waters flowing across the boundary, and for the approval of the Commission for any works in such waters raising the natural level of waters on the other side; determined the diversion and division of water above Niagara Falls for power purposes and in the St. Mary and Milk Rivers for irrigation; set up as an order of precedence for water uses, first, domestic and sanitary purposes, second, navigation, third, power and irrigation; provided for an International Joint Commission consisting of three members from each country, with semi-judicial authority as above indicated, and provided further that any border question might be referred to it by either government for inquiry and report, and any dispute whatsoever between the two countries might, with joint consent, be referred for inquiry and decision.
The Commission thus established has never yet been called upon to act as "the American Hague Tribunal" which its founders contemplated, but it has given admirable service on specific boundary issues. A complicated and irritating dispute as to irrigation on the Milk and St. Mary Rivers on the Alberta-Montana boundary, after long inquiry, was adjusted in 1921. Recommendations of the Commission for regulation of the level and outflow of the Lake of the Woods made in 1917 were finally accepted by the two governments in 1925. The interrelated question of storage in the Rainy Lake region is now under inquiry. Provision was made for regulating the level of Lake Superior and the development of power by works at the outlet, under joint control. The deepening of the Detroit and St. Clair river channels and construction of dykes and weirs were passed upon. The very important problem of the pollution of boundary waters by sewage, involving the health of millions of people on both sides of the boundary, was also investigated, and certain definite recommendations made to the two governments. The Commission reported on the question of the St. Lawrence deep waterway in 1921, approving a joint navigation and power scheme, but recommending further inquiry by a Board of Engineers. In the east, developments on the St. Croix and the St. John Rivers have been investigated and solutions approved.
As important as the range and success of the Commission's work has been its method. It has emphasized and fostered the collection of regular and comprehensive hydrographic data. It has provided a forum where individuals in either country may bring their claims direct, without the intervention of their government. It has avoided technicalities and sought fair and businesslike solutions. As a permanent commission whose members have come to know and respect one another, and who realize that, unlike arbitrators appointed for a single case, positions they take to-day in one country's claim may come up before them to-morrow in a case from the other side, they have been fortunate in securing unanimity in practically every decision given. Certainly both countries have much ground for congratulation on their success in solving such of the perplexing boundary issues as come within the range of the Commission.
The waterways issues now outstanding in which both countries are concerned are mainly concentrated in the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence system. Some aspects of these questions have already been investigated by the Joint Commission, and others doubtless will be; the settlement of other phases involved questions of general policy and finance as well as of fact or right.
First comes the question of freer access from the ocean to the central west of both countries. In the address already quoted, Mr. Hoover emphasized the double handicap of the mid-west. As regards foreign competition, the great agricultural areas of North America are far inland, while the producers of Argentina and Australia are close to the seaboard. As between domestic areas:
"The Panama Canal has drawn the Atlantic and Pacific seaboards and their back country economically much closer together. We can roughly visualize this if we set up a new measuring unit in the shape of the number of cents which it takes to carry a ton of staple goods at present rates. Using that measuring rod and taking in every case the cheapest route, we find that before the war New York was 1904 cents away from San Francisco, while now it is only 1680 cents away. But Chicago, which was 2610 cents away from the Pacific Coast before the war, is to-day 2946 cents away. In other words, Chicago has moved 336 cents away from the Pacific Coast while New York has moved 224 cents closer to the Pacific Coast. A similar calculation will show that in the same period, as ocean rates remain about the same, Chicago has moved 594 cents away from the markets of the Atlantic seaboard and South America."
Where is the outlet to be found? A widening area of the far west is finding it through the Pacific and the Panama Canal. The United States mid-west may look south to the Gulf of Mexico, through improvements in the Mississippi; the Canadian mid-west may look north to Hudson Bay, through the completion of the Hudson Bay Railway now under construction. But the upper reaches of the Mississippi, however developed, would remain a barge waterway, and ice barriers will limit the Hudson Bay season. There remains, then, the outlet through the Great Lakes and the St. Lawrence, the most remarkable inland waterway system in any continent and already the scene of a commerce which overshadows the Suez and the Panama.
Vast and deep as are these inland seas, natural barriers obstructed free passage between the lakes and to the ocean. In great measure these have been overcome, in the main by efforts on Canada's part. The rapid and shallow St. Mary's River, connecting Lake Superior and Lake Huron, has been supplemented by canals on both sides, and particularly on the United States side. The Detroit and St. Clair Rivers have been widened and deepened, mainly by United States effort. To overcome Niagara's barrier, Canada has built the Welland canal, with fourteen feet depth, and is now building a new ship canal, with twenty-five feet depth in the reaches and thirty feet on the sills of the locks, at a cost of about $100,000,000. Canada has also constructed a series of fourteen-foot canals around the rapids of the upper St. Lawrence, and has dredged and buoyed the lower St. Lawrence to afford a thirty-five-foot channel from the ocean to Quebec and thirty feet to Montreal.
But the St. Lawrence outlet is not yet completed. Three rival schemes are urged to supplement the present development. On the south, following up the old Erie canal and the New York State barge canal, there has recently been a revival of an old project of a ship canal from Oswego on Lake Ontario to the Hudson River; on the north, a project to connect Lake Huron direct with Montreal by the Georgian Bay canal, utilizing the
French River and the Ottawa, is again under public discussion. The Oswego-Hudson route is urged as all-American; it could not be an all-United States route unless a ship canal were added on the New York side of the Niagara river duplicating the new Welland, which if feasible at all, its critics contend, would involve an added $125,000,000. Its critics further emphasize the great expense of the main project, set at $607,000,000, including interest during construction, in a recent federal engineers' report, the scarcity of water on the summit, and the lack of incidental power development. Advocates of the Georgian Bay canal emphasize its shortness, its all-Canadian character, and the great possibilities of water power development; its critics point to the long canalized stretch, and contend that the water powers can be developed independently.
It is, however, the midway project, the deepening of the St. Lawrence waterway itself to the sea, that has attracted most attention, both from advocates and from opponents, and that is now the subject of inquiry by an international board.
Here, it is urged, is the most wonderful asset lavished by Nature upon North America: all that is required to make it fully available is a little vision, a little effort. The St. Lawrence is the natural outlet of the Great Lakes. It is one of the world's great rivers, leading through the sheltered Gulf to what is the shortest sea route to Europe. The present barriers to deep navigation can be overcome by works great in magnitude but unquestionably feasible, and at a cost of perhaps $200,000,000, in addition to the Welland, for a channel of twenty-five feet depth or $250,000,000 for a channel of thirty feet. Through this great waterway could ply ocean vessels -- even a twenty-five-foot channel would carry eight out of nine present-day sea-going ships -- with not more than a single day's locking delay from Montreal to Lake Erie, making Toronto and Buffalo, Cleveland and Detroit and Windsor, Chicago and Duluth and Fort William ocean ports. The bulky grain and ore traffic of the lake regions and their growing industrial plants would alike benefit in low rates and direct accessibility to world markets.
Further, the St. Lawrence is the greatest power river in the world, not only in total available energy, but in seasonal uniformity of flow. The available power reaches the tremendous total of from four to five million horsepower, roughly two-fifths of it in the international section where the river separates Ontario and New York, above Cornwall, and three-fifths in the national section below Cornwall, where Quebec lies on both sides of the stream. This huge power could be developed as an integral part of a navigation-power scheme at low cost and utilized rapidly.
Critics present another picture. The counter advantages of rival canal routes are emphasized. Railways on either side of the border may consider their interests jeopardized. Montreal critics picture ocean vessels sailing by to Toronto and Chicago, making Montreal a way port, while New York finds itself off the route altogether. Stress is laid on the difficulty of distributing costs between power and navigation, and of reconciling not only international interests but the federal and the provincial or state interests on each side of the border. Canadian critics question the necessity of the navigation features, which it is claimed would be overwhelmingly of advantage to United States producers and shippers, and doubt the wisdom of entering jointly upon the construction and maintenance of the St. Lawrence waterway with so overshadowing a partner as the United States.
It is fortunate that ample and authoritative data will soon be available to aid in determining the advisability of a deep St. Lawrence waterway. The Joint Commission presented a report in 1921. It found the plan feasible, from the engineering and the economic point of view, recommended a treaty for a scheme of improving the St. Lawrence, with the new Welland canal embodied in the scheme and treated as part of it, suggested navigable channels of twenty-five feet depth and locks of thirty feet, proposed that navigation costs should be divided in proportion to benefit, power costs borne at the expense of the country in which the works were built, and the cost of works common to both navigation and power, over and above necessary navigation works, divided equally. The cost of the St. Lawrence improvement was set at $250,000,000, including development at this time of 1,464,000 horse-power. It was recommended finally that a further inquiry be made by a joint board of engineers.
In accordance with this latter recommendation, the governments of the United States and Canada agreed in May, 1924, to appoint a Joint Board of Engineers, three from each country, to review the engineering phases of the whole question, checking former estimates and considering alternative schemes; the Board was also instructed to investigate the effect of the proposed works on the harbor of Montreal and the lower St. Lawrence and the effect and possible remedy of lowering of lake levels by existing diversions. The Joint Board has been actively at work for nearly two years, and is expected to present its report early in the present summer. Further, each country has appointed a National Advisory Committee of nine members to study independently the economic and national interests involved. Whatever is done, will be done in full knowledge of the facts.
A minor and more localized difficulty arises in the Niagara river, where conditions have developed which seriously threaten the beauty of the Falls. Niagara Falls is doubtless the world's most famous scenic wonder. In the space of nine miles, from Chippewa to Queenston, in fall and in rapid, the waters of all the upper lakes rushing to the sea drop over three hundred feet. The sweep and force of the cataract, the stupendous roar of plunging waters, the clouds of rainbow-marked spray, stand out forever in every traveler's memory. No natural wonder is so well known abroad or attracts so many visitors from home. Its preservation is a vested right of all future honeymooners, and is no less essential as one of the few spectacles that can strike awe and even reverence into the North American mind. Yet it is threatened.
It is well known that the Falls are continually eroding their crest and receding up the river, excavating the Gorge as they have moved back from the edge of the escarpment at Lewiston to their present position. But this took at least thirty thousand years, the geologists say, so that at first thought further developments seem to the average man something that can well be left to posterity to worry about. But on inquiry it is found that the erosion is a matter of present serious moment. The American Falls, which carry only one-sixteenth of the river's waters but are in some ways more striking than the Horseshoe because of the even flow, are receding very slowly. The Horseshoe or Canadian Falls, however, are eating their way back four or five feet a year, and the apex of the notch is retreating so deeply that the Horseshoe threatens to become a Hairpin -- if the use of either of these antiquated terms really helps to suggest the picture. The edges of the wide crest grow bare, while the main current is concentrated more and more into the notch. "The result of the recession now occurring," declares the United States Corps of Engineers' report of 1921, "is to withdraw water from the end of the Falls and concentrate it at the center. The ends are the parts that are conspicuously visible to spectators. The notch is quite invisible from the most frequented viewpoints and cannot be seen to advantage from any point. Thus the recession is causing a decided decrease in the beauty of the Horseshoe Falls. Also the greater concentration of the flow into the central notch causes a thickening of the darkening curtain of mist and further obscures the spectacle. This effect is cumulative. Increased erosion in the notch causes concentration of the flow there; concentration of the flow in the notch increases the erosion there."
It is difficult to say precisely what has been the scenic effect of the diversion of water for power purposes from above the Falls; probably it has increased the bareness of the edges of the Horseshoe but lessened the rate of erosion in the center. The danger to the Falls from power demands aroused public opinion twenty years ago, and led to the adoption by the United States of a temporary measure, the Burton Act, restricting power development, and to the provision in the Boundary Waters Treaty of 1909 already noted. By Article 5 of the Treaty the two countries agreed that it was "expedient to limit the diversion of waters from the Niagara River so that the level of Lake Erie and the flow of the stream shall not be appreciably affected," and that this object should be accomplished "with the least possible injury to investments which have already been made in the construction of power plants." The diversion was set at 20,000 cubic feet of water per second on the United States side and 36,000 on the Canadian side, approximately the capacity of the plants then built or under construction. A Board of Control, consisting of one engineer from each country, has recently been appointed to supervise the diversion; it reported last year that the treaty limits were being observed on both sides of the river. Of the power developed in Canada an amount equivalent to 12,000 cubic feet per second is exported to the United States, so that much less than half the total developed at Niagara is available for Canadian consumption. The demand for power on both sides is increasing rapidly; it has been met by new installations to make fuller use of the water withdrawn, notably the very efficient new Queenston-Chippewa development of the Ontario Hydro-Electric Commission, by linking up isolated centres, by use of auxiliary steam-plants, and latterly, on the Ontario side, by provision for bringing power from the new developments on the Gatineau river, on the Quebec side of the Ottawa river. Any further diversion at Niagara imperiling scenic values would undoubtedly be met by the strongest opposition in both countries.
In the opinion of competent engineers it is possible not only to preserve the Falls but to reconcile power and scenic interests through a more even distribution of the flow over the Horseshoe crest. Artificial islands, a submerged weir, and other suggestions have been put forward. The United States Corps of Engineers' report of 1921, already cited, summarizes this point of view: "It is confidently believed that the works as proposed would greatly reduce erosion at the crest line, increase the beauty of the spectacle, and at the same time permit increased diversion for power production," -- probably from 56,000 to 80,000 cubic feet per second at the outset.
It appears from recent statements of Secretary Hoover and of the Canadian Minister of the Interior, Hon. Charles Stewart, that the Niagara situation has been under consideration. "Unless the enlargement of the notch is checked," Mr. Hoover declares, "the time will come when Niagara will become a great rapids instead of a gigantic waterfall. It appears from our engineers that remedy is not difficult if undertaken in coöperation with our Canadian friends."
Much more important and more difficult is the problem of maintaining the level of the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence river. That level has been falling steadily for a quarter century with devastating results. The average level is two and one-half feet lower than twenty-five years ago. Every harbor and river channel is damaged. Passage through the Detroit and St. Clair is hampered; vessels drawing less than fourteen feet frequently ground in the present Welland and St. Lawrence canals, and the ship channel from Montreal to the sea last year had at times only twenty-eight instead of thirty feet depth.
The most spectacular and controversial factor in this lowering, even if not the most important factor measured objectively, has been the policy of the Sanitary District of Chicago in abstracting nearly 10,000 cubic feet per second from the Great Lakes.
The origin of this abstraction lay in the need which Chicago shared with other large and growing cities for finding means of disposing of its sewage without contaminating its drinking supply. Lying on low ground at the stagnant end of a lake, with its population increasing at a tremendous rate, with huge slaughtering houses and distilleries turning their refuse into the same little Chicago river into which the civic sewers were poured, the city administration never was able to push the intake for drinking water far enough into Lake Michigan to escape contamination from the sewage carried out by the river and other outlets. Sewage disposal works or filtration plants were apparently held too impracticable or too expensive for consideration.
The opportunity for a unique solution was in Chicago's strategic geographical position at the junction of the St. Lawrence and Mississippi basins. The city lies in a low, narrow, crescent plain skirting Lake Michigan, southernmost of the lake-basins of the St. Lawrence system. Through this plain meander two small streams, the Chicago and the Calumet, on their way to the lake. The plain is bounded by a low range of hills, the Valparaiso moraine; beyond the hills flows the River Desplaines, which forms the north fork of the Illinois and through it joins the Mississippi. At one point a depression in the hills brings the summit of the divide between the waters of the St. Lawrence and the waters of the Mississippi down to ten feet above the level of Lake Michigan.
Chicago seized the opportunity. With the elemental simplicity and magnificent audacity which characterize all great achievements, Chicago decided merely to pierce the divide and turn the Great Lakes into the valley of the Mississippi, that in their passage they might flush Chicago's sewers. The idea of cutting a canal from Lake Michigan through to the Desplaines was of course not new. It is one of the little ironies of history that a year after that sturdy Canadian, Louis Joliet, with his companion, Father Marquette, returning from the first white man's voyage down the Mississippi, had put Chicago on the map, it was another Quebecker, Father Dablon, the chronicler of their voyage, who first pointed out that it would be possible to go from Lake Erie "to Florida in a bark, and by very easy navigation, by cutting through but half a league of prairie from the foot of the lake of the Illinois (Michigan) to the river Saint Louis (Desplaines)." Projects, statutes, tentative experiments followed the founding of Chicago in the nineteenth century. In 1848 the Illinois and Michigan canal was opened through the portage gap in the hills, fed from the Desplaines and Calumet rivers and by a lift wheel from the Chicago river; later it was utilized to dispose of some of the city's sewage.
In 1889 the State of Illinois created the Sanitary District of Chicago, including a wide suburban area, and empowered it to build a drainage canal with a minimum flow of at least three and one-third cubic feet per second for each thousand persons tributary to it. Construction of the main channel was begun in 1892, extending from the Chicago river, along the route of the Illinois and Michigan canal, with controlling works at Lockport, to the Desplaines river above Joliet. This channel, thirty-four miles long including the improved Chicago river, was opened in 1900; an auxiliary canal, known as the Sag channel, was built later to connect with the Calumet, and cross-channels, conduits, pumping stations added from year to year. The building of these canals not merely reversed the flow of the Chicago and the Calumet, turning their waters into the Mississippi instead of into the lake, but drew from Lake Michigan a great and growing stream. The canal was essentially a drainage channel; no navigation except by the Sanitary District's barges developed, but in 1907 the canal was extended four miles down the Desplaines to take advantage of a sharp fall in the river bed, giving an average head of about thirty-five feet, from which hydro-electric power was developed -- about 35,000 horsepower -- transmitted mainly to Chicago.
The Sanitary District operated under powers granted by the State of Illinois, but its activities inevitably came under review by federal authorities -- executive, judicial and legislative in turn.
The federal executive, and particularly the Secretary of War, charged with control of navigable waters, began a long series of regulations by the issue in 1896 of a permit for deepening the south branch of the Chicago river, subject to a proviso against the creation of a current. In 1899, in response to an application for permission to open the canal when completed, the Secretary granted a permit, temporary and revocable at will and subject to such action as might be taken by Congress. Repeated modifications were made until the permit of January 17th, 1903, which set the maximum withdrawal of water at 4,167 cubic feet per second. An application by the Sanitary District in 1912 for authorization to withdraw 10,000 cubic feet per second led to a full inquiry, with strong representations from the Canadian Government as well as from lake navigation interests.
On January 8th, 1913, the Secretary of War announced his finding: the question of sewage disposal in Chicago was not so much one of health as of comparative costs; the construction of the Illinois and Michigan canal afforded no federal warrant for the present diversion; the protests of Canada, backed by treaty provisions, should be given weight; the withdrawal of 10,000 cubic feet per second would "substantially interfere with the navigable capacity of the Great Lakes and their connecting rivers." The application was therefore denied.
But the audacity which had defied nature and disregarded the commandment, "Thou shalt not remove water from thy neighbor's watershed," was not daunted by an order from the United States Government. The Sanitary District calmly went ahead diverting as much water as it pleased and expanding its policy to include power development as well as sanitation. The average yearly diversion, measured at Lockport, was later admitted by the Sanitary District to have been 4,971 cubic feet per second in 1903, 5,116 in 1907, 3,458 in 1910, 6,445 in 1911, 7,105 in 1914, and 7,786 in 1917--figures which the Corps of Engineers declared were from five to twelve percent too low.
With its authority thus flouted, the Federal Government in 1908 sought an injunction from the District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, to restrain the construction of the Calumet-Sag canal, and in 1913 an injunction to prevent diversion of more than 4,167 cubic feet per second. The two suits were consolidated. What followed may be summarized in the words of the brief of the United States of America, appellee, presented to the Supreme Court in October term, 1924:
"This case was subjected to the unprecedented delay of over fifteen years in the Court below. Six years (1908-1914) were consumed in the taking of testimony; for six years more (1914-1920) the case was held under advisement by Judge Landis; for three years more the case was pending on appellant's motion for a modification of the terms of an injunction which Judge Landis indicated he would enter but never did. Against this delay the Government continuously protested. . . . The pendency of the war, his understanding that there was a possibility of a compromise, and his indisposition as a citizen of Chicago to have microbes in his drinking water, were his assigned reasons."
Had Judge Landis, as National Baseball Commissioner, withheld for six days a decision upon the status of a member of the White Sox or Athletics, the country would have risen in arms, but a delay of six years in a decision on rights involving half a continent and vital economic and international interests was taken almost as a matter of course. Finally, in 1920, Judge Landis delivered an oral judgment, granting the injunction. The Sanitary District at once made a motion for reconsideration. Three years later Judge Carpenter, to whom the case was assigned on Judge Landis' retirement in 1922, confirmed the injunction. Appeal was taken to the Supreme Court in October, 1924. The decision of the Surpeme Court, delivered in January, 1925, required the Sanitary District to limit its withdrawal to 4,167 cubic feet per second, subject to any fresh permit which might be issued.
The law was clear, the Court held: the United States was asserting its sovereign power to regulate commerce and to control navigable waters. It had a standing right not only to remove obstructions to interstate and foreign commerce, "but also to carry out treaty obligations to a foreign power bordering upon some of the lakes concerned:" the 1909 treaty with Great Britain "expressly provided against uses affecting the natural level or flow of boundary waters without the authority of the United States or the Dominion of Canada within their respective jurisdictions, and the approval of the international joint commission agreed upon therein." The authority of the United States to remove obstructions to commerce was superior to that of the States for the welfare or necessities of their inhabitants. Withdrawal of water on the scale directed by the Illinois statute threatened the level of the lakes, and that could not be done without the consent of the United States even if no international covenant were involved.
The next step was a hearing by the Secretary of War to determine whether a temporary increase beyond 4,167 cubic feet per second should be permitted. On March 3rd, 1925, a new permit was issued, permitting the Sanitary District to withdraw 8,500 cubic feet per second until December 31st, 1929, provided that there should be no unreasonable interference with navigation, that the District should install sewage disposal works to provide for a population of 1,200,000 by 1929, should post a bond as guarantee for payment of its share of the cost of regulating or compensating works to restore lake levels, and should prepare control works to prevent the discharge of the Chicago river into Lake Michigan in storms; the permit was revocable at will, and could be revoked without notice if proportionate progress was not made in the sewage disposal works at the end of each calendar year or if the City of Chicago failed to carry out a stated program of metering its water service.
As was established by an exchange of correspondence between the United States and Canadian Governments, through the British Embassy at Washington, this permit virtually continued the existing diversion of 9,700 cubic feet per second, as the 1,200 cubic feet per second withdrawn for the City of Chicago's water supply and discharged through the canal was to be added to the Sanitary District's 8,500 cubic feet per second. The Secretary of State, however, in a note of November 24th, 1925, in response to a communication from Canada, declared that by December 31st, 1929, the gross flow might be reduced to 8,000 cubic feet per second, and probably to 6,700, and that the sewage treatment program of the Sanitary District had been arranged to make possible a reduction to 4,167 cubic feet per second by 1935 or earlier.
The next move on Chicago's part was to change the venue to Congress. The project for a nine-foot waterway from Lake Michigan to the Mississippi was revived, and bills introduced into Congress authorizing a diversion of 10,000 cubic feet per second through the Sanitary Canal for this waterway. The support of a number of Mississippi States was enlisted, but the lake States other than Illinois held to their opposition. Competent engineers had made it clear that a 1,000 cubic feet per second diversion would suffice for a nine-foot waterway, so that the sudden change of base from sanitation to navigation was greeted with profound scepticism. During March and April, the Rivers and Harbors Committee considered the project, with considerable difference of opinion manifested. A compromise proposal was brought forward, to pass the appropriation for deepening the Illinois river but to add a rider that this should not in any way validate or affect the status of the Sanitary Canal diversion.
The neighboring States have not been idle. On the day the canal was opened Missouri sought an injunction against the pouring of Chicago's sewage down the Mississippi, but without success. At the present time Wisconsin, joined by Minnesota, Ohio, and Pennsylvania, is seeking an injunction against any permanent diversion from the Great Lakes, aside from an amount reasonably required for navigation, while Michigan is denying the right either of Congress or of the Secretary of War to impair the great natural highway of the Lakes. Both cases are set for the October, 1926, term of the Supreme Court.
The Government of Canada naturally has been even more concerned than the lake States. Its position, whatever government was in power, has been one of opposition to this unprecedented and unwarranted diversion. Protests emphasizing economic loss and national and treaty rights have repeatedly been communicated to the Government of the United States through the British Ambassador in Washington. The communications between the two governments published from time to time indicate a consistently courteous attitude upon the part of the United States. If the concrete results thus far are not as satisfactory as Canadians would wish, the issues have evidently been clarified and a settlement advanced by the discussion.
To Canada, and particularly the regions tributary to the St. Lawrence system, the menace of the Chicago abstraction has been of vital and absorbing importance. While the Chicago situation was investigated and discussed from many angles before the signing of the Boundary Waters Treaty, it has attracted increasing attention since that date. It came to be recognized that the withdrawal was no temporary plan for dealing with a sanitary emergency, but a deliberate, permanent and indefinitely expanding policy. The St. Lawrence basin grew rapidly in population, in agricultural, mining and industrial development and in its reliance upon lake traffic. Lake levels fell, lake freighters grew in size, water power became increasingly essential.
Navigation is seriously hampered. The withdrawal of nearly 10,000 cubic feet per second from the Great Lakes lowers Huron, Erie, Ontario and the upper St. Lawrence from 5 to 7 inches, and the harbor at Montreal 9 to 10 inches. Lake vessels are built and loaded to take advantage of every inch of depth; in every inter-lake channel, every shallow river stretch, in every harbor, the reduction of levels brings difficulty, danger, and loss. A loss of one inch in water levels reduces the carrying capacity of the typical lake freighter by from 75 to 100 tons: the whole lake fleet suffers a loss amounting to one complete trip each year.
To the layman the term "10,000 cubic feet per second" does not convey much meaning. It may be visualized by comparison with the American Falls at Niagara. Every one has in mind a picture of that wonderful cataract sweeping in tremendous volume and irresistible force over the crest in an unbroken line a thousand feet from bank to bank. Yet the total water pouring over the American Falls is only 9,000 cubic feet per second.
Less pressing hitherto, but now of increasing urgency, is the loss in power development. The water which is now pouring down the drainage canal could be made to develop over 300,000 horsepower at Niagara and about 200,000 horsepower on the St. Lawrence, as against a maximum of 112,200 horsepower from the development of the proposed Desplaines-Illinois waterway. The use of lake water to develop one horsepower south of Chicago, when it could develop four and one-half horsepower at Niagara and the St. Lawrence, could not be defended on economic grounds, but even if it were so defensible, the users of power on both sides of the lower lakes and the St. Lawrence are not in a mood to make objective computations upon water which is a part of their rightful heritage.
Public opinion in Canada, as in the United States lake regions injured by the diversion, is prepared to recognize that it could not be halted over-night without serious menace to the health of the community which has come to depend upon this method of sewage disposal. The endeavor, however, to have the diversion legalized under cover of a waterways project, the certainty of further increases if the present system of dilution under the ratios set by the Illinois statute were continued, an increase which would reach 21,083 cubic feet per second by 1940, and not least, the fact emphasized by Newton D. Baker, the former Secretary of War, that one-third of the water abstracted is used solely for disposal of the refuse and sewage of the Chicago stockyards and packinghouses, do not make for acquiescence. The sanitation question is not a question of possibilities, it is only a question of comparative cost. Other lake and river cities, Milwaukee, Detroit, Cleveland, Buffalo, Toronto, Montreal, have built or are building sewage disposal plants or filtration plants or both. Chicago, it is urged, can do the same. It is understood that a beginning has been made on the sewage purification works called for in the last permit of the Secretary of War.
Chicago contends that it is not responsible for more than one-sixth of the fall in lake levels. John R. Freeman, member of a consulting board of engineers engaged by the Chicago Sanitary District, recently stated that of 30.7 inches fall below the normal of twenty-five years ago, a rainfall five to ten percent below normal and larger evaporation caused 13 inches of the lowering, retention by storage in Lake Superior 3 inches, lessened frequency of ice jams 2 inches, enlargement of the outlet channels of Lake Huron 4 inches, the Welland and Erie canals 1 inch, and the tilting of the earth's crust 2.5, leaving only 5.2 inches to be debited against Chicago. The bearing of several of the factors listed above and the accuracy of the figures are of course challenged; possibly the report of the St. Lawrence Joint Engineering Board will bring forward objective and conclusive data.
In any case, it is not admitted that a wholesale abstraction from the St. Lawrence system, made without consent, can be put on the same level with improvements within that system or with the vagaries of Jupiter Pluvius. Even were Chicago's responsibility less than it is, the consideration that the abstraction is avoidable and that it has been made arbitrarily and with a bland disregard of neighbor interests is an essential factor in the psychological reaction. A personal injury rankles more than an impersonal one.
It is further to be noted that the Sanitary District has offered to make a proportionate contribution to the cost of compensating works to restore lake levels, and has deposited with the United States Government a bond of $1,000,000 for this purpose. Various projects for compensating works at the foot of Lake Huron and of Lake Erie have been advanced. Apparently these proposals have not been considered officially by Canada or by the lake States. In general discussion it has been held that the possibility of constructing compensating works which would not involve obstacles to navigation or danger from ice jams has not yet been demonstrated; that in any case it is doubtful if they could restore more than half the lost levels; and that compensating works such as proposed would not raise the level of Lake Ontario or the St. Lawrence or make up for the loss of hydraulic power.
The dispute has been long and keenly contested. Fortunately it has not been wholly or even predominantly an international dispute. It has been rather a difference between economic areas, between geographical watersheds. The interests of Canada and of the lake States other than Illinois have been almost identical, so that the dispute has not brought any cleavage at the border line.
Fortunately also there has been recently a distinct measure of progress toward settlement. The 1925 decision of the Supreme Court clarified the legal issues, making plain the sovereign authority of the Federal Government and the direct interest of Canada in the diversion; in the cases set for this autumn the rights of the parties will doubtless be further determined. The federal ex cutive has taken a firm stand, calling for a definite reduction of the diversion year by year. The attitude of Congress is as yet undetermined, but it seems improbable that it will grant Chicago's demand for a legalization of its present abstraction. Chicago itself, it may be surmised, is now convinced that it cannot permanently thwart the rest of North America, and those of its critics who considered it responsible for every inch of fall in the lake level now recognize that other factors are at work.
During the coming summer the report of the Joint Engineering Board is to be presented, and will doubtless offer a comprehensive and authoritative survey of river and lake conditions. The way should soon be open for a settlement of all outstanding boundary waterway issues, and the ending of another chapter in a record of friendly and businesslike border policy.