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

Jul 29, 2019

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.
Credit U.S. GEOLOGICAL SURVEY

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.