Lake Superior Intelligence - Cost of the Canal
This great work is now so far along that a rough estimate may be made of its cost, which has been variously estimated from $500,000 to $1,000,000. Such large undertakings are generally more expensive than at first expected, and this will be the case with this work, without doubt, and will result from a want of experience in the management of the undertaking, a want of ability in making adequate estimates and preparations for so extensive a work. The contractors were among the most wealthy and enterprising men in the United States, and this undertaking seemed to have been looked upon as a work of secondary importance to them, and, aside from furnishing the means, they for the first year paid little attention to it. They appointed a general agent without the least experience in this, and without ability for any other kind of business, and suffered the work to be carried on as best it might for twelve months, till it became evident that more energetic means and measures must be adopted for its completion in the specified time.
The greatest piece of folly was at the outset committed, in contracting for nothing, in employing men and mechanics by the day to do every thing. Take for instance the timber, a no small item of expense, and we have no hesitation in saying that it has cost the Company a hundred per cent more than it would had it been contracted for. Some small contracts were let for timber, but in a most unheard of manner. At first they did advertise for receiving proposals for furnishing timber in small lots before the time advertised for giving out the contracts arrived; the contracts were let, and about that time the Company's Agent concluded it would be better to get out the timber himself, especially as he had found that the school section, containing 640 acres of splendid pine timber, could be got of the acting Governor at a very reasonable consideration, that is for no consideration at all. Men came here from St. Clair and Saginaw to look after these timber contracts, and there is not a shadow of a doubt, but they could have taken them and saved the Company many thousand dollars.
The stone business was managed if possible, in a worse manner than that of the timber - instead of contracting for the stone outright or employing competent men to examine and select suitable stone, men, of no experience whatever in quarying, were sent coasting round the islands of the Georgian Bay to find stone for the locks. The most of the last season was spent, so far as this branch of the business was concerned, to no purpose, in vainly endeavoring to find blocks already quarried by nature of just the required shape and size for the locks. The very place, from which they are now procuring the finest kind of stone, on Drummond's Island, was examined, and because, on putting in two or three powder blasts, the blocks did not come out in the right sized blocks, the quarry was condemned. In the meantime $1,000 was paid for the use of a stone quarry at Malden, where a few miserable blocks were procured and then abandoned. Finally the stone was contracted for at Marble Head, from which place they are now being brought for the Face-Stone at an enormous expense.
Now when it is a settled question that better Lock-Stone than they are now using could be obtained from Drummond's Island within fifty instead of five hundred miles from the Canal, and be transported all the way from the quarry in a river on scows, the stockholders and every one else can well imagine how much greater has been the expense of the stone business than what it might have been under different management. And still it is the Company's own business and we speak of it only to show how much the Canal can be made to cost. Everything must be done under the personal supervision of an Agent wholly unacquainted with such business and, what was worse, without the capacity to learn from the experience of others.
If we are correctly informed over six hundred thousand dollars have been expended already, and we should say that two hundred thousand more would not more than complete it. We shall endeavor to present to our readers a full statement of expenditures in the course of the fall, when the future expenses can be better ascertained.