Spanning over 1,000 acres and six miles of waterways, the Herring River, which runs through the Massachusetts towns of Wellfleet and Truro, once supported a vibrant wetland and coastal river ecosystem on the Gulf of Maine and hosted one of the most important fish runs on Outer Cape Cod. Unfortunately, construction of a dike across the mouth of the river in 1909 and other alterations to the river's hydrology effectively eliminated tidal flow, drained the salt marshes, and transformed the estuary into one of Cape Cod's most degraded natural resources.
Federal, state, local, and nongovernmental partners have spent 30 years documenting the ecological damage caused by the alterations to the Herring River. Under a 2007 memorandum of understanding between the Cape Cod National Seashore and the towns of Wellfleet and Truro, the Herring River Restoration Committee was established and tasked with developing an environmental impact statement and report as well as a detailed plan to restore tidal flow to the estuary.
Ducks Unlimited has partnered with Friends of Herring River to help restore this historical salt-marsh estuary through a $44 million project. The project will involve constructing a bridge with tidal-control gates to replace the dike currently located at Chequessett Neck Road, installing additional water-control structures to protect private properties in the Mill Creek and Pole Dike Creek Basins, removing 1,000 feet of abandoned road across the interior marsh, elevating more than 1.7 miles of public roads above restored tidal elevations, and implementing flood-mitigation measures to protect several low-lying structures from high water levels.
Construction is expected to begin in 2017 and conclude in 2020. Once completed, tidal exchange will be managed and increased over time. DU is offering technical assistance during the current phase of the project, according to Manager of Conservation Sarah Fleming. She is looking forward to providing additional help as the project nears the construction phase. "This is a huge wintering area for American black ducks, one of our species of concern in this region," Fleming added.