Memorandum of Conversation, by the Assistant Secretary of State (Berle)

Participants: Franklin D. Roosevelt, the President of the U. S.;
Leland Olds, Federal Power Commission;
Adolf A. Berle, Jr., Department of State.

Mr. Leland Olds of the Federal Power Commission and I saw the President today at his request.

The President brought up the attached letter from Governor Lehman of New York, dated August 28, 1940,13 accompanied by a memorandum describing the possible plans for developing the international rapids section of the St. Lawrence River. This letter in substance proposes a “special agreement” with Canada for the development of the power facilities of the international rapids section, without waiting for the signature and ratification of the St. Lawrence Waterway Treaty. He asked our comment.

I said that at dinner two or three days ago the Canadian Minister had indicated to me that he wished to come in to discuss St. Lawrence power and that he had an appointment this afternoon. I surmised that he would ask for a statement of our intentions as to developing the St. Lawrence; and that he would do so because the Ontario Hydro-Electric, on which fell the burden of supplying much of Canadian power for defense purposes, was already approaching capacity and had to plan further development. They would look for power either in the St. Lawrence, or if they were blocked there, then go to the Ottawa River. Likewise, certain private companies, notably Beauharnois, were asking for substantial diversions of water from the St. Lawrence, and his government would have to deal with that situation.

Mr. Olds observed that there were three courses to take: either do nothing; or do something along the lines of the Governor’s proposal; or consummate the St. Lawrence Power Treaty and send it up.

The President said that we obviously were not ready for the St. Lawrence Power Treaty; that would have to wait until January.

Leland Olds presented figures showing that New York State would need additional power; by 1945 it would have exhausted not only the power that it has but would be using the St. Lawrence power, if developed, for defense purposes; should defense needs cease they would need that power anyway by 1948.

The President said that in principle he was opposed to taking the Great Lakes–St. Lawrence situation one bite at a time. His dream had always been a single, unified solution including the full use of the [Page 151]Niagara power. His conception remained that of a unified development, and I gather that his planning was to send the St. Lawrence Waterways Treaty up for ratification as soon as the January Congress met.

After considerable discussion he requested us to draw four documents:

(1) An answer to Governor Lehman;

(2) An Executive Order appointing a Board to supervise the additional borings and detailed engineering plans, the Board to be composed of Leland Olds, myself, a member from the New York Power Authority, and a member designated by the Chief of Army Engineers, presumably General Robins.

This Board was to have among its duties the job of cooperating with any similar board or group designated by the Canadian Government.

(3) A letter to the Director of the Budget allocating one million dollars out of the President’s contingent defense fund to the Army Engineers for the purpose of doing the necessary boring and engineering work;

(4) A message for the information of Congress setting forth this allocation, the reason for it, the need of power for defense, and indicating that as soon as this work reached the necessary point, legislation would be asked making available necessary funds for construction.

The President authorized me to tell this to the Canadian Minister; and to ask that we get assurance from Ontario Hydro that the million dollars will be included in the cost of operations, part of which are reimbursable by the Canadian Government as they use the power.

[Here follows a paragraph on unrelated subjects.]

A. A. Berle, Jr.
  1. Not attached to file copy of this document.