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While harmful, flooding also beneficial

The torrential rains of Sept. 22 and 23 and the floods they caused have been front and center for many of us in recent few weeks. Recovery efforts are underway as we deal with the aftermath of the highest waters on record.

It's safe to say that the 4 to 8 inches of rain that fell on already soaked ground was a problem. This rainfall coupled with the changes we humans have made this century to get rid of our natural sponges (wetlands) and the increase in the amount of hard surfaces that water can run off add up to a lot of water that makes it to the rivers and lakes.

The river responds in the only way it can and that is to flood. Flooding in itself is not all that unusual and it is not always a bad thing.

To the businesses and individuals that were harmed it certainly was bad. This flood also resulted in the release of untreated sewage to the water as cities struggled with swamped wastewater plants.

When this happens, bacteria and chemicals enter the water and can make it unsafe for human contact. Sediment can fill in the habitat some fish need and woody debris in the river can back up water and be a hazard for recreation.

But, most floods are smaller than this recent event and are important to how rivers function. While the landscape after a flood may look permanently damaged, the recovery of the natural areas can be pretty quick.

The waters can leave behind nutrients and moisture in the floodplain that help trees like the cottonwoods and silver maples to get established and grow.

The fast moving waters help to move large gravel and boulders and create new habitat for some fish and insects.

The woody material that can cause problems also has benefits by creating habitat and providing food needed by some wildlife.

Keep an eye on the Cannon River Watershed Partnership website, www.crwp.net, as we plan some public discussions to talk about what we can all do to help keep water on the land and reduce the chances of another record flood.

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