The Herring Run
News and Information about the
HERRING RIVER RESTORATION
 December 2016

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Cape Cod Times Editorial Supports Herring River Restoration
The Cape Cod Times recently published an editorial about the benefits of river restoration, featuring support for the Herring River Restoration as a pro ject that demonstrates "...the value of repairing wetlands, which benefits the local economy, increases coastal resiliency from rising seas and storm surges, restores habitat for wildlife, fish and shellfish and filters pollution."  Read the editorial  here .

The Vision: Restoring a Native Ecosystem to Serve our Communities

In the late 1800s, Herring River was an expansive salt marsh and estuary system supporting fish and shellfish harvesting that fueled the local economy. Wellfleet Town reports from that period indicate that more than 200,000 river herring were netted from Herring River each year.



That all changed in 1909, when a dike was installed at Chequessett Neck Road, blocking the tides that had carried oxygen-rich ocean waters into the Herring River system twice a day.  For the first time, the River's namesake, river herring, were unable to complete their migratory passage.

The dike also blocked the sediment supply carried upstream by the tides,  which  had allowed the marsh to grow and keep pace with sea level rise for thousands of years.

Within a few decades, salt marsh coverage in Herring River went from 1,100 acres to less than 10 acres. This was a tremendous loss of habitat and food sources for fish, shellfish, and other wildlife.

Water quality also deteriorated due to the decomposing salt marsh and poor tidal flushing. 

 

Today, dissolved oxygen, which allows aquatic animals to "breathe", continues at dangerously low levels throughout much of the system. With the blockage of tidal flushing, fecal coliform bacteria has been concentrated at the River's mouth. This has caused the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries to close about 100 acres of once productive and heavily-harvested oyster beds in the River mouth.  


These conditions will continue to worsen with time as long as the Chequessett Neck Road dike remains in place.
 
Fortunately, the Towns of Wellfleet and Truro, along with the Cape Cod National Seashore and other partners, had the foresight to develop a sound restoration plan to reverse these conditions. The Herring River Restoration Project is the result of more than thirty years of scientific study, extensive stakeholder involvement and public discussions with local leadership. 
 
The Project's goal is to restore our native ecosystem, and its attendant benefits to Outer Cape residents and visitors, including local fishermen, shellfishermen, and businesses. Benefits of  the  Project include:
  • Roughly 1,000 acres of salt marsh and other estuarine wetlands-and the habitat and food sources they provide-will be restored to conditions more like a century ago,
  • Water quality will improve in Herring River and Wellfleet Harbor, to the benefit of residents, shellfishermen, and visitors,
  • The re-opening and expansion of harvestable shellfish beds will support Wellfleet's economy,
  • Restored salt marsh will enhance coastal storm resiliency and the ability to adapt to sea level rise,
  • Recreational access to 6 miles of waterways will be restored
  • The Chequessett Neck Road dike, which is failing, will be replaced with a state-of-the-art tide control structure.


2016 Project Milestones
Over the past two years, more than 20 public meetings and presentations have been held to share information about the Project and solicit public input. This past year marked several important Project milestones that set the stage for further progress in 2017.  These included:
  • The Project received state and federal approval of final environmental impact studies, referred to as the "FEIS/EIR".  The environmental assessments were developed over a period of four-years and provide in-depth information about the project's design and environmental effects, and identify areas where further decision-making is required. The approval of the FEIS/EIR sets the stage for development of engineering plans and permit applications.


 

  • The Towns of Wellfleet and Truro, and the Cape Cod National Seashore, entered into a third Memorandum of Understanding (MOU III) to provide the organizational framework necessary to implement the Project.  MOU III established a seven member governing Executive Council. The members of the Executive Council are Wellfleet Selectmen Dennis Murphy and Helen Miranda Wilson, Truro Selectmen Paul Wisotzki and Robert Weinstein, Wellfleet Town Administrator Dan Hoort, Truro Town Manager Rae Ann Palmer, and Cape Cod National Seashore Superintendent George Price. MOU III also renewed the Herring River Restoration Committee and created a Regulatory Oversight Group made up of state and federal agencies to coordinate permitting activities.

What's Ahead in 2017?
  • The newly formed Herring River Executive Council will hold its first meeting in early January.
  • The Cape Cod Commission will hold a public hearing on the Project in the spring or summer.
  • The process of environmental permitting, which is expected to take two years, will begin. Permits will be submitted to state and federal agencies beginning in the summer.
  • Grant proposals to federal, state and private funders for Phase 1 construction funds will be developed and submitted. Funds will be targeted for a planned construction start in 2020


To reach Friends of Herring River, Contact Don Palladino -- Don@friendsofherringriver.org
 
To reach this newsletter editor, Lisbeth Wiley Chapman -- Beth@friendsofherringriver.org
 
For more informaton:  http://www.friendsofherringriver.org