Herring River History - Important Events


ca. 15,000 y BP - The basin is formed as glacial meltwater scours outwash deposits.

ca. 2000 y BP - Slowing of sea-level rise allows salt marsh development throughout much of the flood plain.

1700s - Inlet closure at Bound Brook. Reduced tidal flow due to partial closure of the inlet at Duck Harbor. Roads are built across the flood plain.

1860s - The railroad is built across the flood plain.

pre-1908 - Pole Dike (“Atkins-Pole Dike”) constructed at Old County Road (West Main St.) sometime before 1908 by locals to increase pasturage and tillable land.

1908 - Dikes at Chequesset Neck and Duck Harbor are constructed to block tidal flow. Dikes are built by the state to control mosquitoes and to create arable land. Title to the dikes is turned over to the town.

1910 - Mosquito control drainage is intensified in the diked wetlands.

1920s & 1930s - The river is straightened and channelized to increase drainage. Spoil is placed on riverbanks impeding water flow into the interior marsh. Freshwater wetland and upland plants replace salt marsh grasses.

ca. 1929 - The golf course is established in the flood plain at Mill Creek.

ca. 1959 - Homes are built near the river bank.

1960s - The original dike gates deteriorate allowing tidal range and salinity to increase above the structure. Shellfish recolonize upstream habitat. High water levels in golf course during storm tides.

1968 - Dike gates rust open.

June 1971- Wellfleet Town Meeting votes (62 to 56) $37,500 for Town’s share to repair dike, despite support for a bridge (proposal from Greenleaf Engineers) and salt marsh restoration from APCC, salt marsh ecologists and many citizens.

Oct. 1971 - Special town Meeting votes again on dike rebuild: 228 to 101 in favor. Cape Cod Mosquito Control tells APCC that mosquito control would be easier without the Dike (Cape Cod Standard Times, 5/10/64).

1972 - Dept. Natural Resources report recommends bridge instead of dike (Provincetown Advocate, 9/7/72)

Seashore Superintendent Arnberger states that river should never have been diked, and recommends more study before dike is repaired.

CCMCP (Oscar Doane) states that dike breaching is improving mosquito control.

1973 - Conservation Commission issues order of conditions requiring same river water levels as observed before dike repair. Order upheld by DNR’s (now DEP) superceding order.

11/1973 - State approves dike rebuild.

1974 - The state rebuilds the dike amid controversy. The town Conservation Commission sets minimum tide heights and requires provisions for anadromous fish passage in Order of Conditions.

APCC-sponsored Moody and Snow reports on water levels and vegetation. Based on Moody data, APCC objected to Mass. DPW for not opening dike sufficiently, to no avail.

Sluice opening set at 15 cm.

5/13/75 - State stocks 1000 herring in “upstream ponds” (Provincetown Advocate, 6/5/75)

1977 - State Attorney General orders town to transfer control of dike valve to DNR to allow State to increase tidal flow.

10/1978 - Selectmen appoint Dike Committee to set dike sluice opening; members include Town Council, APCC, private homeowners in flood plain and the selectmen.

198 - River water quality problems first become apparent with eel kill. NPS and Division of Marine Fisheries identify sulfate mobilization, low pH and aluminum toxicity as cause of fish kill.

1980-1981- NPS determines that tide heights do not meet Order of Conditions. State Attorney General's office requires that the town surrender control of the structure to the state DEP; tidal flow is slightly increased by DEP.

Sluice opening 16.5 cm.

1983 - Town agrees to increase sluice gate opening to 51 cm.

1983 - Summertime oxygen depletions and herring kills first documented by NPS in Herring River.

1984 - NPS determines that principal nuisance mosquitoes emerge from the diked flood plain. Freshwater and brackish, not salt marsh, species are dominant.

Cape Cod Mosquito Control discontinues annual stream channelization from High Toss Road to Route 6.

12/1984 - Tidal flow through dike is again increased by the DEP. Sluice opening now 61 cm.

9/1985 - DEQE (DEP) intensifies bacterial sampling and classifies river “prohibited” due to bacterial contamination.

1986 - NPS begins blocking herring emigration from ponds to avert fish kills during summertime stream anoxia.

1987 - Rutgers University (CT Roman) completes an evaluation of hydrologic alternatives for tidal restoration and predicts ecological effects.

2/18/88 - Friends of CCNS host presentation of Roman’s Evaluation of Alternatives for Herring River restoration

1990 - Mill Creek study recommends that this tributary be diked to prevent golf course flooding with Herring R. restoration.

Mass. Fisheries & Wildlife supports tidal restoration to re-establish waterfowl habitat.

Cape Cod Mosquito Control Project supports tidal restoration for mosquito control.

1991 - USGS study determines that tidal restoration is no threat to private wells near the river.

1993 - Discussions begin with private property owners about possible NPS acquisition to allow future tidal restoration.

3/1996 - River is reclassified “approved” for taking of shellfish, but immediately after “prohibited” because the river lacked the FDA-mandated 12 years of sanitary survey required to re-open for shellfish harvest.

6/24/99 - National Seashore Superintendent Maria Burks and John Portnoy meet with CYCC's Board of Governors to discuss increased tidal flow in the Herring River.

11/2/1999 - Herring River discussion group chaired by MCZM Coordinator Truman Henson

10/2001 - NPS and University of Rhode Island complete, present and publish hydrodynamic and salinity modeling to assess effects of dike opening or dike removal on tide heights, salinity and sediment movement both seaward of the structure and throughout the flood plain above the dike.

10/2003 - Herring River listed as “impaired” by DEP, under the federal Clean Water Act Section 303(d), for low pH and metals caused by diking and drainage.

1/22/2004 - Sedimentation study, by Association of Women Geoscientists Fellow presented to Wellfleet Shellfish Advisory Board. Study shows that tidal restoration should not affect sedimentation or The Gut at the river mouth.

2/6/04 - Wellfleet Conservation Commission votes to appoint a committee to study dike-opening.

3/2004 - Joint USGS & NPS study determines that tidal restoration will not affect adjacent freshwater aquifer.

1/11/05 - Wellfleet Board of Selectmen vote to write to potential restoration-funding agencies stating that the Board agrees in principle that Herring River restoration would be beneficial to public interests and the environment.

4/25/05 - Town Meeting votes $1.2 million in Land Bank funds to acquire wet fairways (total of 25 acres) at CYCC.

8/4/05 - Selectmen amend draft and approve MOU with NPS for development of a Herring River restoration plan and formation of both Technical and Stakeholder committees.

Summer 2005 - NPS study finds that tidal restoration would reduce fecal coliform contamination of shellfish waters seaward of the dike.

Fall 2005 - Lloyd Center conducts surveys of State-listed water-willoe stem borer in Herring River flood plain.

1/10/06 - Technical Committee submits its Full Report to the Selectmen. Selectmen vote unanimously to endorse the recommendations of the Herring River Technical Committee that tidal restoration is both feasible and in the public interest and that the TC proceed with development of a management plan for restoration.

May 2006 - CCNS conducts surveys of Sate-listed four-toed salamander breeding in River flood plain.

7/2007 - NPS commits $100,000 to EIS/EIR preparation

8/13/07 - Technical Committee meets with Mill Creek abutters with focus on sensitivity of water-supply wells

9/30/07 - Wellesley College samples sediment particle size on flats and shellfish grants below dike

11/13/07 - MOU II signed by CCNS and Wellfleet and Truro Selectmen accepting Conceptual Restoration Plan and instituting Restoration Committee

12/18/07 - Agencies meet with CYCC; federally required appraisal shows that sale of low fairways will not generate enough money to cover course relocation

3/6/08 - HRRC updates regulatory agencies on project status at Hyannis DEP office

3/3/08 - Agencies meet with CYCC to plan 7 May charrette on options for wet fairway relocatio

3/4/08 - Mark Forrest of Congressman Delahunt’s office suggests assistance of Army COE with project

Last updated: February 26, 2015

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