60 Years Of Harnessing Clean Renewable Hydropower in Cornwall

August 24, 2018
By Bob Peters

Cornwall Ontario – Ontario Power Generation and New York Power Authority renewed a 15-year partnership for management of the Moses-Saunders Dam between Cornwall, Ont., and Massena, NY.

It came as both sides are celebrating 60 years of generating low-cost, clean and renewable hydropower on the St. Lawrence River.

OPG - RH Saunders Generating Station

Officials from the New York Power Authority and Ontario Power Generation re-signed the Joint Works Agreement ensuring 15 more years of cross-border collaboration.

“The St. Lawrence Seaway and Power Project was a massive undertaking that transformed the river in the 1950s,” said Greg Rickford, Ontario Minister of Energy, Northern Development and Mines. “This magnificent dam that spans the border between Canada and the U.S. will ensure future generations of Ontarians will continue to benefit from low-cost, clean hydropower.”

Dignitaries gathered at the middle of the dam at the International Friendship Monument to renew the partnership commitment between the two countries. The monument was first unveiled in a ceremony attended by Queen Elizabeth and U.S. Vice President Richard Nixon on June 27, 1959 – about a year after power production began.

“Both the St. Lawrence Seaway and the Power Project presented great challenges for the engineering capabilities of the day.  It also had negative impacts on the lives of many area residents, including the Mohawks of Akwesasne” said Bernard Lord, OPG Board Chair. “Our company has been engaged in respectful dialogue with the First Nation for many years and both parties signed a Final Settlement Agreement on Oct. 2, 2008.  I want to recognize the excellent working relationship that we have enjoyed in recent years with the Mohawks of Akwesasne.”

“For decades, we have worked with our American counterparts to generate clean power from the St. Lawrence River in an environmentally and socially conscious manner,” said Jeff Lyash, OPG President and CEO. “I’m proud of the hard work by the women and men that worked at the station to keep it running safely and reliably over the last 60 years.”

Since the dam went into service, OPG and NYPA have worked closely under a Joint Works Agreement to not only share the St. Lawrence River, but also maintenance practices, safety experiences, and common operational costs and duties, all while producing power independently at two separate generating stations. Officials renewed the agreement for another 15 yearst to help ensure the continued flow of clean, renewable energy to both Ontario and New York State.

OPG generates safe, clean, reliable, low-cost power for Ontario. More than 99 per cent of this power is free of smog and greenhouse gas emissions. OPG’s power is priced 40 per cent lower than other generators, which helps moderate customer bills.


  • Since 1958, the station has produced approximately 400 terrawatt hours of renewable electricity.
  • The station produces about five per cent of Ontario’s power annually.
  • There are 16 units with a capacity of 1,045 megawatts, enough to power about one million homes.
  • OPG employs about 80 people at the station, most of whom live in the Cornwall area.
  • Robert Hood Saunders was Ontario Hydro Chairman from 1948 until his untimely death following an airplane crash in January 1955. Saunders was a leading proponent behind the development of the St. Lawrence Seaway Power Project.
  • In 1954, Saunders’ tireless efforts and extensive travels throughout New York and Ontario resulted in the St. Lawrence Seaway Authority being established.
  • Ontario Premier Leslie Frost announced that the project would be named after the man who was the driving force behind the project.
  • Sod turning ceremonies in Cornwall, Ont., and Massena, NY, took place on Aug. 10, 1954.
  • Construction continued non-stop for four years, even through the bitter Canadian winter.
  • The Robert H. Saunders Generating Station and the St. Lawrence-Franklin D. Roosevelt Power Project cost $600 million to build. At the peak of construction, the project employed more than 11,000 people.
  • Creating the head pond required the flooding of 3,200 hectares of shoreline, displacing 6,500 residents. This resulted in seven communities and three hamlets being flooded or “lost”. Also affected were the Mohawks of Akwesasne, who lost their land and ceremonial sites.
  • Traditional territory used by the Mohawks of Akwesasne was impacted, including the flooding of eight islands belonging to Akwesasne Mohawks. Their way of life and ability to exercise, certain aboriginal and treaty rights were also impacted.
  • Flooding took place on July 1, 1958, when 27 tonnes of dynamite was used to break the last cofferdam. Thousands of local residents, businesses, and employees were on hand to watch.
  • The Mohawk Council of Akwesasne and Ontario Power Generation (OPG) signed a Final Settlement Agreement that compensates the Mohawks of Akwesasne for impacts associated with the construction, operation and maintenance of OPG’s R.H Saunders Generating Station and its related facilities on Oct. 2, 2008.
  • In May 1958, acclaimed Canadian artist Harold Town began work on the 37’ x 10’ impressionistic mural depicting all aspects of the Power Project. The mural was moved to the 6th floor of the R.H. Saunders Generating Station, which is where it remains today.
  • On June 27, 1959, Queen Elizabeth and Vice President Richard Nixon unveiled the new International Boundary Monument located at the U.S.-Canada border along the dam. The ceremony was attended by Prime Minister Louis St. Laurent and Ontario Premier Leslie Frost.

About the St. Lawrence Power Development Visitor Centre
The Visitor Centre is located on the bank of the St. Lawrence River east of the Robert H Saunders Generating Station. This 13,000 square foot gold level LEED building recounts the fascinating history of the St. Lawrence Seaway and Power Project and addresses its impact on specific communities such as the Mohawks of Akwesasne and the Lost Villages. There is a variety of video presentations available, and displays on hydroelectric, thermal and nuclear generation, safety around power facilities, the American eel and the St. Lawrence Seaway.

For more information on The St. Lawrence Power Development Visitor Centre please contact 613 932-4563 ex. 3520 or visit them online:

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