Herring River project gets state go-ahead 7-21-16

Herring River project gets state go-ahead
Cape Cod Commission now opens review of planned salt marsh restoration.

By Mary Ann Bragg
Posted Jul. 21, 2016 at 2:00
Updated Jul 21, 2016 at 7:38 AM

BOSTON — A 1,100-acre salt marsh restoration project planned along the Herring River in Wellfleet and Truro received a critical regulatory go-ahead Friday from the state, leading to a review before the Cape Cod Commission.
State Secretary of Energy and Environmental Affairs Matthew Beaton issued a certificate for the project, confirming that the project's final environmental impact report complies with the Massachusetts Environmental Policy Act.
The project is the largest salt marsh restoration in New England to date and is meant to provide ecological benefits with higher tide ranges in the river while protecting vulnerable roads and homes, the certificate states.
"This is an important milestone for the restoration project," Margo Fenn, a consultant working with the Herring River Restoration Committee, a multi-agency project oversight board, said Wednesday. "We look forward to moving into the permitting phase of the project."
Any outstanding issues will be addressed through state and local permits, the proposed regulatory structure and the adaptive management plan, Beaton said in the certificate. An adaptive management plan is a decision-making tool used if problems arise.

Among the issues raised in a handful of letters from private citizens received by Beaton since the final report was published June 8 was whether a possible plume of toxic materials under the town dump would be affected by higher tides.
"People are very worried that you have not given a clear answer to this question and we all know that disrupting the plume has potentially disastrous consequences," Wellfleet businesswoman Judith Stiles wrote in materials included in Beaton's certificate.
The Cape Cod Commission now has 45 days to open a public hearing period on the project as a development of regional impact, and once opened the period may be extended with the agreement of the commission and the project managers, Jonathon Idman, the commission's chief regulatory officer, said. The application for what is called a project of community benefit hardship exemption will likely be made in October, Fenn said.
The towns of Wellfleet and Truro and the National Park Service are guiding the $50 million project, which has been funded primarily by federal and state grants.
The project is also under a National Environmental Policy Act review, where a record of decision may be signed by a National Park Service regional executive after July 24, federal records state.
The reintroduction of higher saltwater levels into the river's backwaters is meant to reverse the drying-out effects of a dike built in 1909 at the river's mouth. With the level of flooding recommended in the final environmental impact report, 322 private parcels, including Chequessett Yacht and Country Club, would have vegetation damage and experience changes in regulatory boundaries such as under the Massachusetts Rivers Protection Act, the final environmental impact report states.
About 30 properties are being surveyed for possible structural damage that could occur with the flooding, Fenn said.
— Follow Mary Ann Bragg on Twitter: @maryannbraggCCT.

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