Generating Station Celebrating 50 Years

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The RH Saunders Generating Station, located in Cornwall, forever changed the geography of southeastern Ontario when it was built 50 years ago. On June 28, 2008 Ontario Power Generation will host 50th anniversary activities to commemorate the opening of this “engineering marvel” that was more than 30 years in the making, involved intense U.S. and Canada negotiations and the relocation of seven United Empire Loyalist Villages and three hamlets from the shores of the St. Lawrence River. These “lost” villages were flooded in order to make way for the St. Lawrence Seaway Project.

The man who was the driving force behind the station’s development was Robert Hood Saunders, the then chairman of Ontario Hydro (Hydro Electric Power Commission of Ontario). Premier Leslie Frost appointed Saunders as head of Hydro because he considered Saunders as someone with drive and commitment who could move the power project along. Saunders, who was also the former mayor of Toronto from 1945 to 1948 and the former president of the Canadian National Exhibition, died in an airplane crash in 1954 and never saw the generating station actually become reality. When the station opened in 1958, Premier Leslie M. Frost named the plant in honour of RH Saunders.

Some interesting facts about the development of the RH Saunders Generating Station: • Ten communities and 225 farms located along 64 km of the St. Lawrence River and lying in the path of the St. Lawrence Seaway Project were relocated to make way for the flooding of 20,000 acres. Affected communities included the former United Empire Loyalist villages of Wales, Dickinson’s Landing, Farran’s Point, Aultsville, Moulinette, Mille Roches, Sheek’s Island as well as the hamlets of Maple Grove, Santa Cruz and Woodlands. Also affected were Morrisburg and Iroquois. • This resulted in 6,500 people sacrificing their homes, businesses and farms in the name of progress. Residents were moved to new communities such as Long Sault and Ingleside where homes, schools, churches, roads and other modern amenities awaited them. The impact of the move was perhaps greatest on the ancestors of the Mohawks of Akwesasne, who, for thousand of years, had called the St. Lawrence River home and had sacrificed their land and ceremonial sites including burial grounds as a result of the project’s development. • Building the RH Saunders Generating Station required the cooperation of the U.S. and culminated 30 years of negotiations. The U.S. passed the Wiley-Dondero Act on May 13, 1954 thereby creating the U.S. Saint Lawrence Seaway Development Corporation. • As part of the St. Lawrence Seaway and Power Project stretching from Prescott to Cornwall, the generating station was called “an engineering marvel and one of the largest projects ever seen in Ontario.” • The RH Saunders Generating Station in Cornwall and the Franklin Delano Roosevelt–St. Lawrence Project in New York cost $600 million to build. The costs were jointly shared between the Hydro Electric Power Commission of Ontario and the Power Authority of the State of New York. At the peak of construction, more than 11,610 people were employed. • On July 1, 1958—Canada’s 91st birthday—a button was pressed to detonate 27 tonnes of explosives. Tonnes of earth and rock shot into the air creating a new diversion and water height for the St. Lawrence River. On July 5, 1958 at 6:39 p.m., the first unit went online. • On June 27, 1959, Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip unveiled the International Boundary Monument, currently located at the generating station at the Canada-U.S. boundary. • Today, the 1,050-megawatt station generates clean, renewable energy that can supply the electricity needs of over 600,000 homes.

There are a number of 50th anniversary activities taking place in the area. On Saturday, June 28, OPG will host day-long activities including a plaque unveiling at the RH Saunders Generating Station. Famed Canadian composer Howard Cable has composed a suite called “Dream of Power–The St. Lawrence Project Suite,” especially for the occasion. It will be played at the commemoration by the Seaway Winds Concert Band on June 28.

Organizations: Ontario Power Generation, Hydro Electric Power Commission, Ontario Hydro United Empire Loyalist Saint Lawrence Seaway Development Corporation The RH Saunders Generating Station Power Authority of the State of New York Seaway Winds Concert Band

Geographic location: U.S., Cornwall, Ontario St. Lawrence River Canada St. Lawrence Seaway Toronto Wales Mille Roches Iceland Maple Grove Santa Cruz Long Sault Ingleside Prescott New York

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