Du local au global / Frontières - Grenzen - Borders - Confini - séance 1
Basin Planning and the Power of Cities: the Cofounding role of International Borders
Urban demands trump other political claims to rivers, argues Craig Colten in a (2012) essay on urban rivers. While Colten’s examination persuasively explains his chosen cases of Chicago and the Illinois River, Washington DC and the Potomac and Atlanta and the Chattahoochee, its generalizability should be tested and questioned. What about large basins where multiple urban demands shaped basin planning? How have international borders complicated basin planning and water use?
This paper examines two large rivers crossing the Canada-US border: the St. Lawrence, developed for navigation and hydro power in the 1950s to meet the diverse needs of a complex urban-industrial region in two countries; and the upper Columbia, dammed in the 1960s to deliver flood control to downstream communities in Washington and Oregon, and to develop hydro power for the regional grid of the US Pacific Northwest.
In each case, urban demands prompted development proposals, which were then challenged and conditioned by national governments asserting sovereignty and authority. This resulted in delays to projects, sometimes lasting decades, as well as strongly revised development plans. Through a complex filter of shared institutions, such as the International Joint Commission and the International Pacific Salmon Commission, international diplomacy and power politics, urban power was conditioned and reframed. Revisiting Colten’s conceptualization through the optic of international rivers allows us to qualify and refine his claims, noting how urban interests could and did founder in the face of national assertions of power and authority, and of how national interests were shaped by urban demands.
Matthew EVENDEN, University of British Columbia
Professor of Geography and an Associate Dean (Research and Graduate Studies) in the Faculty of Arts, University of British Columbia. Matthew Evenden is a specialist in environmental history and historical geography. Evenden’s research examines how human communities perceive, develop and contest rivers and waters. Some of his major publications include Fish versus Power: An Environmental History of the Fraser River (Cambridge UP 2004), which received a Clio Prize from the Canadian Historical Association; The River Returns: An Environmental History of the Bow, co-authored with Christopher Armstrong and H.V. Nelles (McGill-Queen’s UP 2009); and Urban Rivers: Re-making Cities, Rivers and Space in Europe and North America, co-edited with Stephane Castonguay (U Pittsburgh Press 2012). His latest book is Allied Power: Mobili- zing Hydro-electricity during Canada’s Second World War (University of Toronto Press, 2015), which examines how the power needs of wartime production drove hydro development across Canada. His current research focuses on the historiography of river writing; the environmental history of potable water; and the global history of war and hydro-electricity.