Friday, April 4, 2014

New Cedar Lake fish ladder is ready for the herring

by Abigail Franklin

There’s a new fish ladder in North Falmouth and it’s just waiting for some river herring to try it out! For the past several years migrating river herring have had to swim up a fish ladder that was on the verge of collapse.  Not this year!  

The old dilapitated fish ladder.
The river herring have already begun their journey from the deep ocean into Buzzards Bay.  When the water temperature gets closer to 50 degrees they’ll swim into Megansett Harbor and then a saltmarsh called Rands Canal where they will encounter a brand new concrete pool and weir fish ladder. Their ultimate destination is a freshwater pond called Cedar Lake where they will spawn – but first they must overcome a five foot height difference between the Canal and the stream and then swim under a road.  

The fish have been making this journey for hundreds of years and the citizens of Falmouth have helped them swim past man made obstacles by building fish ladders.  The circa 1930s fish ladder at this site worked well for more than 70 years but time and tide caused it to eventually crumble.  Town of Falmouth staff have had to make repairs to the fish ladder every year, as well as the small culvert under the road that often was clogged with sticks and leaves.  It was only a matter of time before the stream would have become impassible.

The new fish ladder under construction.
With funding from the Cape Cod Water Resources Restoration Project the Town of Falmouth was able to design and build a new ladder and a larger culvert that will be easier to maintain.  

Construction of the ladder, culvert, and roadway began in May 2013 and was completed in November 2013. The project was especially challenging because one lane of the road had to remain open at all times so the neighbors could get to their homes, and because a dry work environment had to be created in an area where the tide moves in and out. 

The new fish ladder was completed last November.
The new ladder is 66 feet long and has nine pools that break up the height difference into manageable steps for the herring to swim through.  The Town also made improvements to the roadway that will reduce the runoff of pollutants and sand into the stream, and constructed a platform and walkway that will allow staff to access the ladder without eroding the banks.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

The Incredible Journey to Santuit Pond

 by Abigail Archer, Cape Cod Conservation District

The new fish ladder and dam at Santuit Pond in Mashpee are complete! 

Santuit Pond is a 166 acre pond surrounded by active and abandoned cranberry bogs in Mashpee, Massachusetts. It is also a spawning pond for river herring. Every spring, migrating adult river herring make the incredible journey from the deep ocean to Nantucket Sound to the Santuit River to reproduce. Their ultimate destination is Santuit Pond, but in past years they have encountered problems getting there. 

The century-old dam that maintains the water level had been leaking and the wooden fish ladder was falling apart. Often the fish would congregate at the base of the dam instead of swimming into the aging fish ladder. Town employees and volunteers would then scoop them up in buckets and bring them to the pond. 

Now, thanks to the Cape Cod Water Resources Restoration Project and the Town of Mashpee, the herring will reach their spawning grounds all by themselves. The river herring that arrive this spring will see a new dam with no leaks and will sense the water flow coming from a brand new 30 foot long concrete pool and weir fish ladder. 

Fish ladders are needed when the difference in height between the top of the dam and the river is too high to overcome. River herring do not jump over obstacles like salmon do – they must swim over them. This ladder is designed as a series of pools that break that height difference into smaller more manageable steps. The pools are created by weirs – and this ladder has six of them. 

The construction of the dam began in January 2013 and work was required to stop in March to allow the herring to migrate. Work resumed in June and was completed in August. 

The USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), Cape Cod Conservation District, the Town of Mashpee and the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe partnered with many people to plan for, design, permit and construct this project, and celebrated its completion with a ribbon cutting event on October 18th. Now, everyone is looking forward to welcoming the river herring next spring! 

Watch the construction of the Santuit Pond dam and fish ladder evolve in this video slideshow:

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Fish ladder will give herring a leg up in Marstons Mills

River herring swim past a sign marking where a cross section of the flume and banks will be surveyed.  Next year they will swim through a brand new fishway on their way to the spawning grounds at Middle Pond.

By Lindsay Cook, CCCD Intern and Abigail Franklin, CCCD Fish Passage Project Manager
The Cape Cod Conservation District is constantly on the lookout for areas where the staff’s hard work would help to protect or restore habitats for Cape Cod’s diverse wildlife and fish species. One of the areas that will soon benefit from the Cape Cod Water Resources Restoration Project is in the Marstons Mills section of Barnstable, Massachusetts.
In April, a crew from the CCCD, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service and the Town of Barnstable went to the site of a 1,200 foot long wooden flume and fish ladder along the Martsons Mills River that provides river herring a way to swim around some cranberry bogs on their way to the spawning grounds in Middle Pond. 
Rick DeVergilio (left), Project Coordinator with the Cape Cod Conservation District and Dan Barnett, NRCS Project Engineer measure the slope of the fish flume banks and discuss methods for stabilizing them during construction.
The existing structure, first built in the 1880’s and rebuilt in the 1940’s and 1990’s, has always required constant maintenance by local volunteers and town employees.  Today, many sections are rotting, causing water to leak out the sides. The weirs – or ladder steps – are prone to clogging by debris, and the difference in water levels in the concrete water control structure tends to delay the migrating fish.
To correct these problems, the fish ladder and flume will be replaced with a watertight concrete structure that will allow for more efficient use of water from the pond.  A path along the structure will help volunteers remove sticks and leaves from the weirs, and two new steps will be added in the water control structure to help fish swim through.
The design for the project is 85 percent complete and several meetings have been held with the project partners, including the residents who live along the ladder. The projected life of this new ladder is much longer than the wooden structures of the past and will therefore not need to be rebuilt again and again.
During the April site visit, the crew surveyed the banks on either side of the flume to determine how to preserve as many trees as possible during the construction process.  Maintaining tree cover is important to keep the water cool for the passing herring. 
Alisha Parker, Property Management Coordinator with the Town of Barnstable  Growth  Management Department carries stakes to the next cross section that will be surveyed.
Stakes were placed every 100 feet, the slope of the banks was surveyed, tree locations were recorded, and pictures were taken. Thanks to the help of the project partners, the work was accomplished in an afternoon. 
At the end of the day, some herring swam by to take a look at the progress! Take a look:

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Protecting shellfish at Wychmere Harbor, Harwich

Construction crews install a stormwater treatment system near Wychmere Harbor, Harwich.

by Lindsay Cook, Conservation Intern, Cape Cod Conservation District

The Cape Cod Water Resources Restoration Project recently completed another step in improving the water quality of our local shellfish beds. Before October 2011, there was a troubling situation at Wychmere Harbor in Harwich. Stormwater was flowing over 21,000 square feet of impermeable surface, picking up debris and environmental contaminants, before draining, untreated, into the harbor.

The town was concerned about this situation because Wychmere Harbor supports a valuable population of quahogs and is one of the few places Harwich residents can shellfish. To correct the situation, 55 flow diffusers, seven catch basins, and two leaching chambers were installed to catch and treat runoff coming from the Wychmere Harbor parking lot and the adjoining section of Harbor Road. 

“That's nice,” you might be saying to yourself... “But what does that all mean?”

First and foremost, it means that 14 acres of shellfish beds will benefit from the filtering of stormwater that previously ran untreated into the bay. During the treatment process, contaminants found in stormwater, such as fertilizers, metals, and fecal coliform bacteria are removed from the water, as well as the majority of its suspended solids.

This is good news for shellfishers because in order for shellfish beds to be harvested, the waters overlying the beds must meet rigorous water quality standards. To determine the water quality overlying the shellfish beds, researchers collect water samples and test for the presence of fecal coliform bacteria. In areas where there are high levels of fecal coliforms the shellfish beds are shut down.

Thanks to the stormwater treatment at Wychmere Harbor, local shellfishers should be able to harvest these valuable shellfish populations for years to come. 

Friday, April 27, 2012

Restoring salt marshes at Red River Beach in Harwich

Making room for the new culvert under Deep Hole Road

by Lindsay Cook, Cape Cod Conservation District intern

If you've been to Red River Beach in Harwich lately you might have noticed that construction is underway. So often, the sound of construction equipment means bad news for the environment, but not this time! This construction was planned as a part of the Cape Cod Water Resources Restoration Project (CCWRRP) and, when completed, will help restore and protect the native salt marsh communities behind Red River Beach.

Historically, there were three healthy salt marshes behind Red River Beach: the upper marsh, middle marsh, and lower marsh. As the tide came in, it moved up Red River and pushed tidal waters down a tributary to feed the marshes. However, when Uncle Venies Road and Deep Hole Road were extended to provide access to the beach, tidal waters were restricted.

A culvert was put under each road to allow tidal flow to enter both the middle and upper marsh, but they were too small. At 24 inches in diameter, only limited tidal waters made it to the middle marsh and even less made it to the upper marsh. Salt marshes like these that do not receive a natural amount of tidal water are termed “tidally restricted.”

Map of the site showing the three marsh areas
After years of being tidally restricted, the upper and middle marshes began to show clear signs of stress, including the establishment of invasive species such as common reed (a.k.a. Phragmites australis) and poor water quality.

Tidal flow restricted by undersized culvert
With funding from the CCWRRP, the Town of Harwich will restore the marshes to their former healthy state.

To do this, the Town will replace the undersized culverts with much larger box culverts (4ft x 8ft under Uncle Venies Road and 3ft x 4ft under Deep Hole Road) that will allow adequate tidal flow to come in to both marshes and, in time, restore the natural salt marsh habitat and improve water quality.

The mouth of Red River

This video below discusses the salt marsh restoration project at Red River Beach in more detail:

Red River Marsh Restoration by Tom Leach

Friday, March 9, 2012

Stormwater technology in action in Mashpee

Plastic treatment chambers in a modified stormwater system.
By Lindsay Cook, Cape Cod Conservation District intern

Until the Fall of 2011, stormwater ran untreated into Popponesset Bay and Nantucket Sound. That’s when seven stormwater systems were installed underneath Mashpee Neck Road in the Mashpee. Stormwater is now filtered, removing contaminants before it enters the bay. These improvements will protect 102 acres of shellfish beds!

There are many factors to consider when installing a stormwater system. First is the amount of water to be treated. These systems are designed to handle the first inch of rainfall; researchers have found that 85 percent of all contaminants are absorbed and transported in the first inch of rain.

Second is the depth to the high water table. In order for stormwater systems to be safe for drinking water, the bottom of the system must be located at least two feet above the high water table. At the Mashpee Neck Road site, the first two sites easily cleared this threshold, but sites three through seven did not. Therefore, the first two sites received a conventional system and the others received a modified system that took up less vertical space than a standard system.

The conventional systems use leaching chambers and catch basins. When stormwater rushes down Mashpee Neck Road, it enters a catch basin through a manhole. A catch basin is a large concrete holding tank where water accumulates and particulate matter settles out. Particulate matter is anything from sand and leaves to gum wrappers and popsicle sticks.

After the particulates have settled to the bottom, the clearer water on top moves into a plastic pipe which leads to a leaching chamber. The leaching chamber has many small holes in the sides that let water out slowly. As the water fills up from the bottom, it trickles out the holes into an area of sand and rock where contaminants are filtered out.

Laying down washed gravel for contaminant filtration.

The modified systems use small plastic treatment chambers instead of the larger leaching chambers of the conventional system. Because of their smaller size, the chambers must be placed side by side over a much greater area to absorb the same level of stormwater runoff than a conventional system could. More than 1,000 of these treatment chambers were installed underneath the road!

In April more work will be done at this site. Stay tuned for details about the artificial wetland that will be built in the final phase of this project.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Water gets cleaner beneath your feet at Duck Creek, Wellfleet

Wes Stinson (left) of Environmental Partners Group and Lee Davis, Chair of the Cape Cod Conservation District, hold a floating debris trap that will be installed beneath the street. The trap will catch oil and large debris before they reach sand and fabric filters, also under the street.

By Abigail Franklin, Cape Cod Conservation District and Chloe Wardropper, NRCS conservation intern

One of the most photographed sites on Cape Cod is Uncle Tim’s bridge in Wellfleet. Few people know however that the water quality under this bridge has been affected by the nearby roads and parking lots.  Like many asphalt roads and parking lots near open water, Commercial Street and Holbrook Avenue have been channeling untreated surface water – stormwater – into Duck Creek because of their large impervious surface areas. Stormwater usually carries contaminants such as fertilizer and bacteria that flow directly into surface water if not first caught and filtered.

Fortunately a stormwater treatment project is in progress that will significantly improve the water quality of Duck Creek. Traffic is being affected along Commercial Street between Bank Street and Holbrook Avenue, but the disturbance is only temporary. Soon, cleaner water will be filtering into the saltmarsh thanks to the installation of 12 separate underground containment and purification centers.

Construction crews have been removing pavement in sections and digging holes for catchment and treatment basins since November 2011.  The catchment basins collect untreated stormwater runoff. From there, water flows into connected leach basins where it trickles slowly downward through porous material that removes pollutants. 

Oddly shaped green plastic devices called floating debris traps will be positioned over the discharge pipes leading from the catchment basins into the infiltration systems. Their job is to collect oil and large debris that can impair the function of the sand and filter fabric that treats the contaminated water. The oil, debris and other sediment will be removed when the Town empties the catch basins twice a year.

Duck Creek is a central feature in Wellfleet’s historic downtown, and the stormwater treatment is important to restore water quality, improve wildlife habitat, and to potentially allow shellfish growing and harvesting in the future.  So they next time you walk past a storm grate, think of all the good work that’s being done underneath your feet!

Watch the Duck Creek stormwater project evolve in this video slideshow: