A local corporation is getting involved in the fight against high water levels in the St. Lawrence River.
Alex Joannides, owner of the Canadian Tire on Parkedale Avenue in Brockville, has started a petition to ask the International Joint Commission (IJC) to lower the water in the river “immediately without delay.”
He put a petition at every cash register in the store and has so far gathered close to 2,000 signatures. He hopes to get 10,000 by the end of the year.
He is the first major corporate citizen to get involved in the fight, and he hopes by taking the first step he will convince other big businesses in the area to jump on board.
“I don’t feel there’s enough noise being made, whether it’s at the local political level or in the business community,” he said 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 lifestyle that comes with being on the river.
He rents a home on the water, so he sees the devastation first-hand, but the impacts of the high water levels are far-reaching and extend past the shoreline, he said.
“We’re all inadvertently impacted by this water issue we have. If this continues down the road, unchallenged, I think we’re in for a world of hurt.”
He has noticed a drop in sales in many departments in his popular department store, including in marine, fishing, camping and even in lawn care and barbecues. The fewer people are in the area visiting cottages, he said, the fewer people arebuying from local businesses and using local services.
Gas stations, restaurants, landscapers and other small businesses inadvertently feel the impact of high water levels because there are less tourists 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 is not in trouble yet, he said, but if the water doesn’t recede it will be difficult to stay afloatwithout the surge 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 the tourism industry 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.”
Joannides joins a growing group of people in recent weeks speaking out about how high water is having a catastrophic impact on local businesses and property owners along the upper St. Lawrence River
The IJC is the governing body that regulates water flows at the Moses-Saunders Dam in Cornwall, and several businesses and homeowners in recent weeks have been calling on it to provide relief.
The governing body said the problems in the St. Lawrence River have to do with unprecedented high water in Lake Ontario and Lake Erie – which both run into the St. Lawrence – and last week it said it is letting more water out of the damthan ever before.
But many property owners along the river say they’ve never seen the water so consistently high until the IJC’s new water management plan came into effect in 2017.
Joannides wants the current water management plan repealed, but even more than that he just 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.