Cape Cod Water Resources Restoration Project

The Barnstable County, Massachusetts, coastal area, also known as Cape Cod, is pressured by urban development and is a popular recreation area with a high influx of tourists during the summer.  Water quality is a major concern on Cape Cod, particularly as it affects the ground water aquifer, salt marshes, shellfish beds, and herring runs.

Shellfish beds are often closed for extensive periods during the year because of poor water quality. Stormwater runoff is a significant source of pollutants. Barriers that interfere with the migration of fish are also a concern.

The Cape Cod Water Resources Restoration Project will address these issues through the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service's Small Watershed Program. The program, which targets watersheds less than 250,000 acres, presents a unique and flexible approach to area-wide water resource planning and management.

The Small Watershed Program uses conservation land treatment measures to impact water quality downstream in the watershed. Interdisciplinary teams are used to emphasize comprehensive watershed planning.

A partnership comprised of the Cape Cod Conservation District, Barnstable County Commissioners, the Natural Resources Conservation Service and other federal, state and local agencies, as well as all Barnstable County towns is collaborating on this project.

The watershed plan will be physically, environmentally, socially and economically sound and will include conservation improvements that are scheduled for implementation over a period of years.  NRCS will be the lead technical assistance agency to help implement the plan.

Project Goals

The Cape Cod Water Resources Restoration Project is designed to achieve the following goals:

1. Restore salt marshes to benefit fish and wildlife and measures to restore  fish passage on existing anadromous fish runs. Examples of structural measures include, but are not limited to:

•  Water control structures, fish ladders and fish passages.

•  Culvert enlargement or replacement for tidally restricted salt marshes.

2. Restore and protect shellfish beds by treating stormwater runoff. Examples of improvements include:

• Constructed wetlands, infiltration basins or  trenches

• Dry wells and sand filters

• Vegetative filter

Federal funding from the NRCS Small Watershed Program may be used to cost-share the construction cost. The federal cost share rate varies from practice to practice, but will remain competitive with the cost share rates of similar NRCS programs.

The Planning Process

The planning process involves working with federal, state and local partners to identify problems and formulate solutions. Alternatives will be explored and the most promising ones will be selected for further study until conflicts are resolved and plan selection occurs.

All practices will be evaluated to determine whether they will function as planned and produce the effects intended. The costs and benefits of various alternatives ill be evaluated and displayed in the plan.

Watershed Plan

The watershed plan is the basic document in which the sponsors' decisions are recorded. It provides the basis for project authorization and guides the implementation phase.

The watershed plan describes the work to be installed, the responsibilities of each participant, cost sharing, arrangements for financing and provision for operation and maintenance. It shows the relationship between beneficial effects and adverse effects of the proposed project.


Installation begins after the watershed plan has been approved and federal assistance has been authorized. The installation phase continues until all construction has been completed.

The partnerships will jointly enter into installation agreements. Each agreement will detail the working arrangements, funding and responsibilities of each party for carrying out specified elements of work.

Contracting for the construction of measures is normally performed by the sponsor, but may be performed by the NRCS.

Operation and maintenance of installed measures is the responsibility of the sponsor.


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Text Box: Home I Salt Marsh Restoration I Fish Passage Restoration I Stormwater Remediation

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