The Herring River in Wellfleet runs to the sea, from its headwaters to Wellfleet Harbor at the Chequessett Neck Dike. Historically the Herring River in Wellfleet was a major passageway for diadromous fish including blueback herring, alewife and American eel to spawning ponds. Fish counts totaled hundreds of thousands each year. These fish traveled five miles along the main stem of the river to 166 acres of spawning and nursery habitat. However, the construction of the Chequessett Neck Dike in 1909 blocked fish passage along the Herring River. After several decades of scientific study and research, a project to restore tidal exchange to the Herring River estuary is in development. Hydrologic modeling for this effort was funded by a 2013 MassBays Research and Planning Grant.

In 2014 a project was conducted by Friends of Herring River,Wellfleet/Truro, Inc. to address fish passage concerns in the upper watershed of Herring River. The primary objectives of the work included: 1) evaluating whether the existing stream crossing inhibit passage for anadromous alewife (Alosa pseudoharengus) and blueback herring (Alosa aestivalis) and catadromous American eel (Anguilla rostrata); and 2) assessing potential sources of erosion in the vicinity of the two stream crossing. 

Work performed as part of this study included assessing design options to remove impediments to fish passage, improving hydrologic connectivity and naturalizing stream flow at two culverts close to the spawning ponds. An additional component of the project work was topographic survey and preparation of existing conditions plans for the two stream crossing sites. The project report Site Reconnaissance and Conceptual Design for Culver Replacement. Upper Herring River, Wellfleet, MA.2014 pdf format of Site Reconnaissance and Conceptual Design for Culver Re
file size 5MB presents observed conditions at the two culverts with respect to fish passage, bank stability and erosion control, presents and evaluates potential replacement stream crossing designs, and includes conceptual-level (30%) design materials for recommended replacement stream crossings at the two culverts.  Opinions of probable cost for design, permitting, and construction were developed for the recommended replacement stream crossings.

The existing culvert geometries are smaller in size than what is desirable to provide for unhindered movement of aquatic fauna and to provide for continuity of fluvial processes.  This study evaluated the potential for replacement of the existing culverts with stream crossings that would meet criteria described in the Massachusetts River and Stream Crossing Standards. Six alternatives were evaluated for the Old King’s Highway stream crossing, and five alternatives were evaluated for the School House Hill Road (Patience Brook) stream crossing.  A decision matrix was used for comparison of the evaluated alternatives and selection of preferred alternatives.

Based on the observed conditions at the two project sites, a critical need for wildlife passage through the two project stream crossings was not identified at the two sites.  The conceptual designs were developed to accommodate site-specific conditions and existing use while providing for improved passage of aquatic fauna.The recommended alternative at the Old King’s Highway stream crossing of the Herring River is a buried metal pipe-arch culvert with a span of 12.2 ft and a rise (internal height) of 7.5 ft installed with an embedment depth of 3.5 ft along the centerline of the culvert.  The recommended alternative at the School House Hill Road stream crossing of Patience Brook is a buried concrete box culvert with internal dimension of 12 ft wide and 4 ft high with the box culvert invert set 2 ft below the existing thalweg elevation.