1935 - 1936

Passamaquoddy Tidal Power Project

U.S. National Archives

Campobello Island
Campobello Island, while not the site of the project, played an integral part in the Passamaquoddy Tidal Power Project. Dexter Cooper, the engineer behind the idea, had a summer home on Campobello and often observed the powerful tides of Passamaquoddy and Cobscook Bay. President Franklin D. Roosevelt was a powerful supporter of the tidal power project and, like Cooper, owned a home on nearby Campobello Island.
Exhibit and Working Model of the Tidal Power Project
Conceived by hydroelectric engineer Dexter P. Cooper in 1920, the Passamaquoddy Tidal Power Project aimed to harness the power of ocean tides to generate electricity. With more than 70 billion cubic feet of water flowing in and out of the bay with each changing tide, Passamaquoddy was the ideal choice for such a project.

Tidal mills were common along the coast of Maine during the 19th and early 20th century. By exploiting sites with substantial tidal ranges, tidal mills were a free and renewable source of energy.

Temporary Housing in Quoddy Village
Funded by the New Deal Era Public Works Administration, the tidal power project brought many young men to Maine to work on the project.The housing pictured here was erected to accommodate the influx of workers to Eastport, ME.

This photograph depicts young National Youth Association participants from Connecticut leaving for Quoddy Village in Maine. Quoddy Village supported the Tidal Power Project.

District Engineer Major Phillip B. Fleming breaks ground on one of the work sites for the project. Over the course of the project two dams were built across Cobscook Bay.

A crowd gathers around Major Phillip B. Fleming and other leaders of the Passamaquoddy Tidal Power Project during a groundbreaking ceremony on July 4.

Men work on the construction of one of the two dams built across Cobscook Bay. The tides of Cobscook Bay were intended to play in integral part of the tidal power project.

Army Day in Quoddy Village
Although long days of manual labor were part of the routine at Passamaquoddy, the men were given opportunities to relax at events held in Quoddy Village. Here we see workers and officers from the U.S. Army enjoying dinner during Army Day in July 1936.

President Roosevelt was the project's most high profile supporter. In 1935, the Passamaquoddy Bay Tidal Power Project received $7 million from the Public Works Administration, money FDR could allocate without the approval of congress. This photograph shows him inspecting a model of the project.

Unfinished Business
Despite the support of FDR and the promise of inexpensive, sustainable energy, Congress voted to discontinue funding of the Passamaquoddy Bay Tidal Power Project. All work was stopped in August of 1936. 

Cancellation of the project left Eastport, ME in a difficult financial situation, and in 1937 it declared bankruptcy. Although discussions of reviving the project have resurfaced numerous times, various considerations have kept the project from being resumed.

Credits: Story

Curated by Christina DeBenedictis

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