1845 – Opening of the Old Beauharnois Canal (18-km long) in proximity to Route 132;
1899 – The Soulanges Canal (23.6-km long) replaces the Old Beauharnois Canal which has been deemed obsolete as a result of the industrial boom;
1932 – Opening of the new Beauharnois Canal (24.5-km long) and implementation of the first of three phases of the Beauharnois hydroelectric generating station;
1959 – Inauguration of the St. Lawrence Seaway;
1965 – Official inauguration of the construction site for the Port of Valleyfield, the only independent and self-managed port in Canada (June 18);
1966 – The M/S Christine is the first ship to make its way into the Port of Valleyfield, carrying a phosphate shipment intended for local company Les Engrais du St-Laurent (June 23);
1968 – Creation of the Société du Port de Valleyfield, legally constituted independent entity responsible for managing and developing the Port of Valleyfield;
1968 – Construction of a 101,500-square-foot warehouse for Canada Steamship Lines (Warehouse D);
1970 – Construction of Valleyfield & Montreal Tank Storage, now known as Valleytank (handling and storage of bulk liquids);
1972 – Construction of a 21,650-square-foot warehouse (Warehouse B);
1975 – Construction of a 23,650-square-foot warehouse (Warehouse A);
1978 – First expansion: bulk terminal and addition of approximately 300 metres of berth;
1988 – Second expansion: extension of the bulk terminal and addition of approximately 200 metres of berth;
1988 – Construction of a 3,440-square-foot warehouse (Warehouse F);
1994 – Construction of a warehouse capable of accommodating 20,000 tonnes of industrial salt (Warehouse E);
1994 – Stevedoring company Valport Maritime Services takes over management of port operations;
1996 – Construction of McAsphalt Industries (handling and storage of liquid bitumen);
2000 – Addition of a Ro-Ro (Roll-On, Roll-Off) ramp;
2005 – Construction of a 7,000-square-foot warehouse (Warehouse H);
2009 – Construction of the Société du Port de Valleyfield Administrative Centre;
2009 – Construction of a 50,000-square-foot warehouse (Warehouse G);
2013 – Construction of a security post and weighing station;
2016 – 50th anniversary of the Port of Valleyfield.
SALABERRY-DE-VALLEYFIELD AND THE POWER OF WATER
Salaberry-de-Valleyfield was constituted and incorporated on January 28, 1874. By this time, however, industrialization was already well established within the territory of two major neighbouring parishes, with the first flour mills having made their appearance in the 1840s. The region’s strong hydroelectric potential—thanks to the 80-foot drop between Lake St. Francis (Salaberry-de-Valleyfield) and Lake Saint-Louis (Beauharnois)—made the town a location of choice for industries requiring energy.
The construction of a navigation canal in the heart of Salaberry-de-Valleyfield’s downtown core connecting Montreal to the Great Lakes greatly contributed to the town’s economic development. At a certain point in history, Salaberry-de-Valleyfield was the 6th largest industrial city in Quebec. The construction of the new Beauharnois Canal, abundance of water and electricity, availability of a skilled labour force, the city’s geo-strategic position alongside the St. Lawrence Seaway and, of course, its port, continue to make Salaberry-de-Valleyfield an essential passageway between Quebec, Ontario and the U.S.
FROM THE OLD BEAUHARNOIS CANAL TO THE ST. LAWRENCE SEAWAY
Entirely man made, the Old Beauharnois Canal (1845–1899) gave birth to the town of Salaberry-de Valleyfield, which immediately became known as the Gateway to the St. Lawrence. Of course, construction of the canal was not without its problems. On June 1, 1843, one of the bloodiest industrial disputes in all of Canadian history erupted as 2,350 workers, masons and excavators—most of whom were Irish immigrants—went on strike to protest the inhumane working conditions they were subjected to. On June 12, the Union government sent in the infantry and the cavalry to put a stop to the strikers’ display of outrage. Some 70 people perished in this historical conflict.
Backfilled and closed to navigation in 1907, the Old Beauharnois Canal was superseded by the Soulanges Canal (1899–1958).
Within a few decades, the Soulanges Canal was also deemed obsolete due to the demands of industrialization and the economic exchanges of the 20th century. The Canal put an end to operations in 1959 after the opening of the St. Lawrence Seaway.
From 1929 to 1932, efforts were instead focused on building what is our present-day Beauharnois Canal, located between Lake St. Francis (Salaberry-de-Valleyfield) and Lake Saint-Louis (Beauharnois). This enormous canal is one kilometre wide and stretches over 24.5 kilometres through the heart of agricultural land.
On June 26, 1959, the St. Lawrence Seaway was officially inaugurated by Queen Elizabeth II, U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower and Canadian Prime Minister John G. Diefenbaker. The St. Lawrence was set to become a true water highway between the Atlantic Ocean and the economic hub of both countries.
THE PORT OF VALLEYFIELD, A WINDOW ONTO THE OCEAN
Hoping to reap the benefits of this incredible accomplishment, the City of Salaberry-de-Valleyfield decided to build its own port, at a cost of $1.6 million.
Hence, on June 18, 1965, a ground breaking ceremony was held, attended by the following political figures:
- Charles Mills Drury, Minister of Industry and of Defence Production;
- George James McIlraith, President of the Privy Council;
- Robert Cauchon, Mayor of Salaberry-de-Valleyfield;
- Maurice Lamontagne, Secretary of State;
- Gérald Laniel, Beauharnois-Salaberry MP.
One year later, on June 23, 1966, the M/S Christine was the first ship to dock in the Port of Valleyfield, carrying with it a shipment of phosphate. Initially built to maintain raw material supplies for Canadian Electrolytic Zinc (CEZ) and Les Engrais du Saint-Laurent, the Port quickly established itself as a logistic hub for industrial sites in the southwest Montérégie area and, later, for several transregional clients who considered the Port to be an economical high-value alternative for both supply and distribution.