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What Is the Impact of High Water, Listener Asks OH Really?

Heavy rain this spring pushed local waterways to higher-than normal levels, and listener Patrick Pierquet from Wooster asks “OH Really?” how that could affect wildlife.

Pierquet was an avid kayaker who still checks water levels every day.

“They’ve been high or very high for the last four months, which is very unusual. So my thought was: how does that change the ecology of rivers?”

The U.S. Geological Survey of river levels shows it has spiked several times this past spring and summer.
The U.S. Geological Survey of river levels shows it has spiked several times this past spring and summer.

The Cuyahoga’s levels have spiked several times in that period – including on the 50th anniversary of the

last river fire, in June. It was so high that day, Meg Plona had to carry the ceremonial 50th anniversary torch alongside the river, instead of in it. She’s a biologist with the Cuyahoga Valley National Park. She says high water levels are recorded on the river every year. Most animals can move to higher ground and adapt. But in the spring, when there are extended periods of flooding, Plona says the effects can be devastating.

“To ground-nesting birds such as turkeys or ducks; things that are nesting alongside the river that don’t have a chance to get away. Burrowing animals, young animals in dens, can be affected with high water for a long period of time.”

Plona adds that she's also concerned about floods washing contaminants into the water.

"If things break loose or get flooded from factories or tanks or something that spills, that in-turn could affect aquatic species such as fish, and there could be fish kills."

Plona adds that based on current patterns, there may be more frequent, longer-lasting storms in the future.

You can also ask your question for WKSU’s “OH Really” by clicking here.

Copyright 2021 WKSU. To see more, visit WKSU.

Cuyahoga Valley National Park volulnteer Gary Whidden (right) walks the torch over the river past the Brecksville Dam with park biologist Meg Plona.
The Cuyahoga River was so swollen last month, the 50th anniversary celebration of the 1969 river fire had to take place next to the Brecksville Dam, instead of in the water. Meg Plona (center) and Gary Whidden carry the ceremonial torch.

Kabir Bhatia joined WKSU as a Reporter/Producer and weekend host in 2010. A graduate of Hudson High School, he received his Bachelor's from Kent State University. While a Kent student, Bhatia served as a WKSU student assistant, working in the newsroom and for production.