South Stormont resident to take water level fight to province, feds

Nick Seebruch
South Stormont resident to take water level fight to province, feds
South Stormont Mayor Bryan McGillis stands next to Ault Island resident Clifford Steinburg on his dock on the St. Lawrence River during fall of 2018. In the spring

SOUTH STORMONT, Ontario – This summer and fall season has seen unusually low waterlevels along the St. Lawrence River. This has lead to complaints with the International Joint Commission (IJC) over their management of this shared asset with the United States.

Ault Island resident Clifford Steinburg wants to ensure that real action is taken to address the concerns of those living along the St. Lawrence River in South Stormont and South Dundas.

“Our first step is to present to the River Board,” Steinburg said. “We need to explain the impact to the region.”

Steinburg explained that Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River Adaptive Management (GLAM) is a technical advisory board to the IJC who will have to be convinced of the problem, and the solution and that they then will push the IJC to act.

“This has been an extreme year,” said Steinburg. “I’ve been here since 2001 and I’ve never seen anything like it.”

Steinburg explained that just a few weeks ago, he had to go out into the river to help a family whose new boat had been wrecked on rocks sticking out of the low water level.

Steinburg pointed out into the St. Lawrence river at what looked like rocks and tree stumps poking out of the water and explained that this was were the foundations of old Aultsville lay. Aultsville is one of the Lost Villages that was flooded when the St. Lawrence Seaway opened 65 years ago.

“What the IJC plan 2014 program doesn’t know are these exposed foundations and tree stumps,” Steinburg said, he went on to warn that these low water levels could seriously affect business and safety in the region.

“The risk to this area is not just shipping and not just tourism, it’s investment,” he said. “What if an oil ship gets punctured? It could be a disaster and that’s the point I’ve tried to get across to the IJC.”

Steinburg has found an ally in South Stormont Mayoral candidate Bryan McGillis, saying that this is not an issue that only affects water front residents, but everyone in South Stormont.

“I’ve wanted to do this since I saw the low levels of water in the St. Lawrence River,” said McGillis. “As a municipality, this is going to have an impact on us too. If property values go down, it will affect our tax base.”

Steinburg said that he also has support from the other side of the river on Wilson Hill Island.

“An important tool for us is we have the Americans on our side,” he said. “We’re in constant communication.”

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