Date of Award


Level of Access Assigned by Author

Open-Access Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)




Author's abstract: The alternate rise and fall of the level of the seas and oceans, the tide, has interested men for centuries. Although utilized to a small extent in past years, chiefly in the form of tide mills, the tides have never been harnessed on a large scale. The idea has been studied in several countries. In the United States, the only large-scale tidal power proposal is the Passamaquoddy project at Eastport, Maine.

The late Dexter P. Cooper, an engineer, is usually given credit for the invention of the Passamaquoddy project. He became interested in the idea in the 1920's, and planned to build an international project involving the United States and Canada. In 1925 he secured a charter of incorporation from the State of Maine. In 1926 Canada granted him permission to build the dams, with limitations. One provision of the Canadian charter was that construction would have to begin within three years from the passage of the Act. When Cooper applied for a renewal of the Canadian charter in 1929, it was refused and he had to abandon the international scheme. Among the reasons for Canadian opposition was the belief that the development would destroy the fisheries and ruin the summer resort business. Cooper then designed a smaller two-pool tidal power project which could be constructed entirely within the United States.

In 1934 his American plan was denounced as economically impracticable by the Federal Power Commission and the Public Works Administration, chiefly because it could not be shown that there was a definite market for the power. Through the persistence of Passamaquoddy's supporters the project was reconsidered and the construction of a one-basin development was undertaken by Army Engineers in 1935, partly as a relief measure. Work was abandoned in 1936, before the project was completed, because Congress refused to appropriate additional money.

The Federal Power Commission reviewed the project in 1941, and again estimated that the power from such a development would be too expensive and that there was no market for the energy. After the Second World War, a proposal for the original international scheme was revived. Its supporters declare that it would be larger in size and production capacity than any of the designs yet studied or attempted and therefore might be economically feasible. There is little data on the international plan since it has never been studied by a government agency. In 1950, the International Joint Commission estimated that a complete survey to determine the project's practicability would cost about $3,000,000.

Engineers, on the whole, have upheld the engineering feasibility of Passamaquoddy plans. The economics of the project have always been questioned. Unless a survey by experts, a proposal for which is before Congress, shows that electrical energy from an international Passamaquoddy development is both inexpensive and saleable, it is doubtful if the project will be constructed in the near future.

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