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Saving Niagara From Itself: The Campaign to Preserve and Enhance the American Falls, 1965-1975

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Between 1965 and 1975, the United States and Canada investigated whether they should preserve and enhance the American Falls, one of the two main cataracts at Niagara Falls, by physically reengineering it. This campaign had its roots in local concerns, but tapped into wider sentiments and emotions about the famous waterfall, and came to involve multiple levels of government and the International Joint Commission. Engineers looked at whether it was feasible to remove all the rock at the base of the American Falls - the talus - which led to the dewatering of the waterfall in 1969. Using a range of techniques, including public consultations, the transborder experts concluded that it was feasible to give the waterfall a facelift, and presented a range of engineered options. However, the International Joint Commission ultimately recommended that it would be best to refrain from an interventionist approach and mostly leave the American Falls alone. Employing envirotech and emotional history approaches, this paper argues that over the course of a decade the meaning of 'preservation' in the context of Niagara Falls significantly shifted because of several factors: the emerging environmental movement, the cost of removing the talus and other alterations, evidence that the public wouldn't sufficiently appreciate these changes, and worries about tourism impacts.
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Keywords: American Falls; Canada; Niagara Falls; United States; engineering; hydro-electricity; water

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: November 1, 2019

This article was made available online on May 16, 2018 as a Fast Track article with title: "Saving Niagara From Itself: The Campaign to Preserve and Enhance the American Falls, 1965–1975".

More about this publication?
  • Environment and History is an interdisciplinary journal which aims to bring scholars in the humanities and biological sciences closer together, with the deliberate intention of constructing long and well-founded perspectives on present day environmental problems.

    Environment and History has a Journal Impact Factor (2018) of 0.800. 5 Year Impact Factor: 0.918.
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