Originally Posted by thecoalman
What you suggest [engineering the Susquehanna] is impossibly expensive and won't work for so many reasons I cannot even begin to describe why, I don't think you realize the magnitude of such a project. FYI the Susquehanna did have a canal and parts of it can still be seen today. It was abandoned because cheaper and easier forms of transportation became available.
Pardon the delay in answering. It was not procrastination, but poor eyesight. I missed reading the post.
Working backwards, it is true that steam locomotives supplanted the canal system, nationwide, starting in the mid 1800s. But water transportation is cheaper, per unit fuel or per ton of cargo. It's major drawback - it's SLOW. And the advantage of swift rail transport to areas not served by navigable waterways certainly drew away customers from canals. Likewise, point to point shipping via trucks drew away customers from the more energy efficient rail roads.
Part of the nationwide canal boom was due to the economic bounty caused by the Erie Canal, that linked New York City and the Great Lakes, the gateway to the midwest. By most accounts, the Erie Canal was responsible for ending Philadelphia's reign as the most important port city in America, and making New York City into the economic wonder that has extended into the 21st century.
And it is also true that cheap and plentiful petroleum caused the demise of steam locomotives, fueled by wood or coal. The durability and efficiency of a diesel electric locomotive was overwhelming.
But but but - the age of cheap and plentiful oil is coming to an end. Likewise, any transportation system wholly dependent upon petroleum will have to find an alternative or become increasingly more expensive.
For land transportation, my bet is on electric rail. But water transportation is still the most frugal means to move cargo and passengers.
I suspect that the initial higher cost for dams and locks will be far cheaper in the long term, than a restoration of the old canal system.
And the benefits will be much greater with dams.
Civil engineering is always expensive. And no, it's not astronomical nor impossible.
The question is - Do the benefits outweigh the cost?
 What is the benefit for avoiding the cost due to floods? And for repeated floods? (1972 flood
cost Pennsylvania an estimated 2 billion dollars. And 48 lives.)
 What is the cost in stagnation of the economy versus economic growth, as in expansion of opportunity?
 What is the benefit for hydroelectric power when fossil fuels are gone (or taxed out of sight!)?
 What is the benefit for a stable shoreline, versus a widely fluctuating water level?
 What is the benefit for making riverside towns into ports, versus doing nothing?
 What is the benefit for making the riverbank into waterfront property, versus hiding behind levees - which are rendered obsolete, as each incrementally greater flood has shown us. (* Comprehensive watershed management, with high head dams on all tributaries feeding the Susquehanna, would prevent flooding, or reduce the magnitude of flooding.)
 What is the benefit for multitudes of small mountain reservoirs, with shoreline development versus the loss of property inundated by the high head dams?
 What is the benefit for investment into waterfront property in flood plains, via extensive canal development (think Venice, California), versus the cost of doing nothing?
 What is the economic benefit for tourism and recreation, versus doing nothing?
In 2008, we exported roughly $600 billion for oil imports.
For the sake of a thought experiment, what if Pennsylvania's percapita share of that expense was available for alternatives in oil free (or reduced consumption) transportation?
12.5 million PA / 300 million USA computes to roughly $25 billion per year.
Let's say half of that goes to urban rail development and half to water transportation. With a yearly budget of $12.5 billion per year, how many years would it take to engineer the Susquehanna River?
With technological and mechanical advantages, can it be done with less labor and quicker?
(The 2008-9 Pennsylvania General Fund budget was $28.3 billion, in comparison.)
Considering the Tennessee Valley Authority as a model to copy (or pitfalls to avoid, depending on viewpoints), in 1959 Congress voted that the TVA had to pay its own way, and thus it's operation ceased to be a drain upon taxpayers. (current operating budget is approx. 5 billion dollars)
If the Susquehanna River Authority was set up in a similar manner, the goal would be that its operation would eventually cease to be funded indirectly by taxes, and only users would directly pay, by purchasing goods and services.
What could the SRA sell to fund itself?
 Lease waterfront access for housing, industry, commerce, aquaculture
 Lease docks and anchorages
 Irrigation water
 Lock fees
 User fees for parks, preserves, museums
 Cooperative development with shoreline electric rail mass transit (share of ticket revenues)
Obvious benefits of an engineering project is long term employment in construction, in all aspects, and later, business expansion. And then there's the innumerable opportunities for entrepreneurs.
Of course, this is all speculation.
But the reality of doing nothing but endure slow decay is certainly not as desirable as invigorating growth?
One thing is for certain - the age of cheap and plentiful oil is over.
We will be suffering the aftereffects of ever rising cost and eventual scarcity for oil, as time goes by.