With a project kickoff meeting late last month, work is now underway to produce plans and cost estimates for re-construction of the undersized Herring River culverts at Old King’s Highway and Schoolhouse Hill Road crossings (see map). This work is being funded by a generous grant from the Massachusetts Environmental Trust to the Town of Wellfleet, plus both in-kind and monetary support from the Friends. After reviewing three competitive proposals, the Town of Wellfleet, Cape Cod National Seashore and both staff and board members of Friends of Herring River selected CMA Engineering of Portsmouth, New Hampshire to evaluate alternatives and produce a design for improved fish passage under, and vehicle passage over, these two historic roadways. The goal is to both allow unrestricted river and stream-bank passage for fish and wildlife and ensure safe road crossings for heavy vehicles while maintaining the roads’ woodsy character. Final products of this design step, including construction drawings that meet all requirements for environmental permitting, will be ready by the end of June.
The harm that these small culverts have caused the river’s namesake herring run has been abundantly quantified by a recent multi-year herring tagging and tracking study by Dr. Derrick Alcott of the University of Massachusetts. Herring hesitate for hours before attempting to pass through these narrow culverts – with good reason: they are often occupied by large predatory snapping turtles. With so little space for passage, many fish never make it, and those that do still pay the energetic and reproductive costs of a delayed migration. It seems likely that removing these restrictions to herring passage will, along with the large estuarine restoration project downstream, help to restore Wellfleet’s once-prolific herring run.
The Massachusetts Environment Trust fund supports projects that restore, protect and improve the quality of Commonwealth waterways through research and public involvement. In particular, the Trust supports projects that advance conservation and understanding of aquatic and marine systems. The Trust is primarily supported through the sale of environmental license plates; see https://www.mass.gov/environmental-license-plates.