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Herring River Restoration Underway on Cape Cod

Restoration of the Herring River estuary in Wellfleet, MA, is underway, with the goals of addressing “degraded water quality and habitat caused by loss of tidal flow, and regaining the extensive ecological and community benefits of a healthy estuary,” according to a press release issued by the Town of Wellfleet.

WATCH the short film on the Herring River above, shot in 2020 with Bob Prescott, Director Emeritus of the Mass Audubon Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary. 

Removal of a portion of the existing earthen dike along Chequessett Neck Road has already begun. A new bridge equipped with sluice gates to control the tidal flow of water will eventually be installed. The cost of the bridge project is placed at $30 million, and will be funded by a portion of the $59 million in grants received by the Town of Wellfleet from the U.S. Department of Agriculture Natural Resource Conservation Service and the Massachusetts Division of Ecological Restoration. The bridge/sluice gate project is expected to be completed in 2025.

The construction schedule calls for the installation of a temporary bypass bridge in the spring and summer of 2023. Fish passage will be maintained throughout construction.

Meanwhile, the Cape Cod National Seashore will continue vegetation clearing in the Duck Harbor area needed for the restoration project. This will involve clearing of woody vegetation killed by the persistent tidal overwash at Duck Harbor beach. This work is funded by a portion of a $2 million grant from the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service to Ducks Unlimited. Vegetation clearing will promote the growth of native salt marsh plants, such as cordgrass.

The return of salt water to the Herring River Estuary will result in restored tidal flows, which in turn will improve water quality and promote the expansion of shellfish in the estuary and Wellfleet Bay. It will also allow river herring to reach their historic spawning ponds on Cape Cod.



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