Corporate Brockville joins high water fight

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A local corporation is getting involved in the fight against high water levels in the St. Lawrence River.

Alex Joannides,owner of the Canadian Tireon Parkedale Avenue in Brockville,has started a petition toask the International Joint Commission (IJC)to lower the water in theriverimmediately without delay.”

Heput a petition at every cash register in the store and hasso far gathered close to 2,000 signatures.He hopes to get 10,000 by the end ofthe year.

He is the firstmajor corporate citizen to get involved in the fight,and he hopesby taking the first step he will convinceotherbig businesses in the area tojump on board.

Idon’t feel there’s enough noise being made, whether it’s at the local political levelor in thebusinesscommunity,”hesaid on Friday.

Everyone is hurt. Everyone is suffering from this.”

Joannides bought the local Canadian Tire franchise two years ago and was attracted to the area because of the lifestylethat comes with being on the river.

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He rentsa home on the water,so he sees the devastation first-hand, but the impactsofthehighwater levelsare far-reachingand extend past the shoreline,he said.

We’re all inadvertently impacted by thiswater issue we have.If this continues down the road, unchallenged, I think we’re in for a world of hurt.”

Hehasnoticed adrop in sales in many departmentsin his popular department store,includinginmarine, fishing,campingand eveninlawn care and barbecues. The fewer people are in the area visiting cottages,he said,the fewer peoplearebuying from local businesses and using local services.

Gas stations, restaurants, landscapers and othersmall businesses inadvertently feel the impact ofhighwater levels because there are lesstourists coming in, he feels.

(Brockville is)not exactly in the fast lane of economic growth,”he said.

Part of our economy certainly relies on tourism, and that waterway is a big part of that puzzle.”

His business isnot in trouble yet,he said, but if the water doesn’t recedeit will be difficult to stay afloatwithout thesurge of customers they get every summer.This could potentially mean fewer hours for his staff and,at worst,seasonal layoffs.

His focus, however, is on the sustainability of thetourismindustry along the Seaway.

I’m not really concerned for my business, honestly. I’m not going to starve. I’m more concerned, long term, for the community.”

Joannidesjoins a growinggroup of peoplein recent weeksspeaking out about how high water ishaving a catastrophic impact on local businesses and property owners along the upper St. Lawrence River

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The IJC is the governing body thatregulateswater flowsatthe Moses-Saunders Dam in Cornwall,and severalbusinesses and homeownersin recent weeks have been calling on itto provide relief. 

Thegoverning bodysaidtheproblems in the St. Lawrence River haveto do withunprecedentedhigh water in Lake Ontario and Lake Eriewhich both run into the St. Lawrence– and last week it saidit is letting more water outof the damthan ever before.

But many property owners along the river saythey’ve never seen the water so consistently high untilthe IJC’s new water management plan came into effect in 2017.

Joannides wants the current water management plan repealed, but even more than that hejust wants somebody to take action. And he doesn’t plan to back down until somebody listens. 

“Let’s get the town involved and let’s start to get out there and bang some drums,” he said.

sbedford@postmedia.com