Jennifer Grieser and The Cuyahoga River Area of Concern

Jennifer Grieser is the director of natural resources for the Cleveland Metroparks. She works to create various watershed programs in the area by identifying stream restoration projects that require assistance to help return to a healthy state.

In addition to this she serves as the Chair of Cuyahoga River Area of Concern Advisory Committee. The Area of Concern was established in 1987, while Grieser has been in this role for about 5 years.

There were once ten different impairments affecting the river that were assigned to the committee to address in 1987. The state of the water was at its worst around this time filled with sewage and sludge.

Photo of the 1969 Cuyahoga River Burning. (Credit: USEPA)

The Cuyahoga is an interesting river because of the amount of outflows it is connected to. When the water quality gets bad it creates a trickle-down effect that harms water across many areas.

Impairments and concern areas have slowly been being resolved with the help of people like Grieser and the organization she belongs to. The extreme negative state in the river coupled with the funding and time constraints limited the ability to address issues quickly. It wasn’t until 2010 that real progress could begin to be made with a little help.

(Credit: USFWS Midwest Region)

The Great Lakes Restoration Initiative launched and has really helped to establish plans of action to tackle the AOC’s with the river. It still takes money and resources to get these projects off the ground but they have become effective in removing some of the impairments along the Cuyahoga.

The removal of these impairments truly began in 2017 as two affecting the river were removed Grieser explains. These two impairments were ‘degradation of aesthetics’ and ‘public access’.

‘Degradation of aesthetics’ was referring the sludge that was visable in the river. Trash had also been poured into the river at that time that severely crippled the health of the water.

Grieser says surveys and interviews with frequent travelers of the river concluded that cleanup efforts throughout the years have minimalized this issue and it was removed as an impairment as a result.

The ‘public access impairment’ involved that with these efforts to cure the water health one of the benefits should be public use. The public didn’t have a lot of access to river originally but Grieser explains why she was happy with this being one of the earliest impairments to tackle despite her initial surprise that it was such an early goal.

Overhead View of Scranton Flats (Credit: Tim Evanson, Licensed under Creative Commons, Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0))

The goal in 2019 was to remove the fish consumption impairment. The fish in the Cuyahoga had been designated as a major risk for consumption due to the state of the water.

Earlier this year the fish were labeled as having no more risk for consumption than something out of the Rocky River which was another step for the river and the end of another impairment.

Grieser says the river has come far with the removal or just these three impairments with the flats area being one of her favorite results of the clean-up efforts.

She looks forward to working towards removing more of these impairments over the next few years.

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