The Herring Run
News and Information about the
April 2022
Permitting for Herring River Restoration Project Advances with Conservation Commission Filings
Above: Rendering of Proposed Chequessett Neck Road Bridge and Sluice Gates
The Town of Wellfleet and Cape Cod National Seashore have jointly filed Notices of Intent (NOI) with the Wellfleet and Truro Conservation Commissions for approval of Phase 1 of the Herring River Restoration Project as an Ecological Restoration Limited Project.

As an Ecological Restoration Limited Project, the Project's primary purpose is to restore or otherwise improve the natural capacity of protected wetland resource areas that have been severely degraded due to prolonged tidal restriction throughout the estuary. The primary cause of tidal restriction is the Chequessett Neck Road dike built around 1909. The Project will replace the dike with a new bridge and sluice gate structure.

Phase 1 will restore 570 acres of native tidal wetlands. The Project will re-establish tidal flow to the estuary incrementally using a carefully calibrated adaptive management approach that will balance ecological goals and protect potentially vulnerable structures on public and private properties.

The two Commissions will hold a joint public hearing on Thursday, April 14th beginning at 5:00 pm. The public hearing will be conducted remotely via Zoom video conference.

or by phone:
 +1 929 205 6099 (New York)
Meeting ID: 928 0798 3538; Passcode: 021745;

Application materials, including project design plans, are available on the Town of Wellfleet website and the Town of Truro website, respectively.

The submission of NOIs to the Conservation Commissions follow a series of permitting milestones. In June 2020, the Cape Cod Commission approved Phase 1 of the Project as a Development of Regional Impact. In September 2021, Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) issued a Water Quality Certification pursuant to Section 401 of the Federal Clean Water Act. In October 2021, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers issued a General Permit pursuant to Section 404 of the Federal Clean Water Act. Applications for M.G.L. Chapter 91 Waterways Licenses were submitted to MassDEP last year, and issuance of the licenses is pending action by the Conservation Commissions.
2022 Annual Herring Count
The graph above shows the estimated size of Wellfleet's herring run based on annual counting. Tens of thousands of herring estimated in recent years compare with the hundreds of thousands of river herring that were harvested from the river until the late 1800s and early 1900s. The Herring River Restoration Project will remove obstructions to fish passage, and it is anticipated that this will lead to larger numbers of river herring that are able to reach Wellfleet’s spawning ponds
At the junction of Old Kings Highway and Black Pond Road, you can witness an annual spring event: the sighting of herring counters with eyes fixed to a moving body of water for 10 minutes. For over a decade, about thirty volunteers each year count river herring as they travel upstream in the Herring River to spawn in Wellfleet’s kettle ponds. The local Volunteer Count Program, coordinated by Friends of Herring River, is part of a larger Cape-wide effort to assess the health of local herring runs.
Each year, we begin with a Herring Count Workshop where fish passage issues are highlighted and volunteers receive information about the procedures for the count. Volunteers sign up for different four-hour blocks in which to do their 10 minute counts.  At the river, they note environmental conditions, air temperature, water temperature, and the number of fish moving upstream during a specific 10 minute period. Statisticians at the MA Division of Martine Fisheries use our data to estimate the run size. The herring count officially begins April 1, but those who already have their eyes on the River have reported early migration, observing groups of river herring in mid-March. These fish are the “scouts.” Many more will follow as the water warms up.
P.O. Box 565
South Wellfleet, MA 02663