A Decision Framework to Analyze Tide-Gate Options for Restoration of the Herring River Estuary, Massachusetts

Open-File Report 2019-1115
Prepared in cooperation with National Park Service and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
By: , and 



The collective set of decisions involved with the restoration of degraded wetlands is often more complex than considering only ecological responses and outcomes. Restoration is commonly driven by a complex interaction of social, economic, and ecological factors representing the mandate of resource stewards and the values of stakeholders. The authors worked with the Herring River Restoration Committee (HRRC) to develop a decision framework to understand the implications of complex tradeoffs and to guide decision making for the restoration of the 1,100-acre Herring River estuary within Cape Cod National Seashore, which has been restricted from tidal influence for more than 100 years. The HRRC represents decision maker and stakeholder interests in the restoration process. For a 25-year planning horizon, decisions involve the rate at which newly constructed water-control structures allow tidal exchange, and the timing and location of implementing numerous secondary management options. Decisions affect multiple stakeholders, including residents of two adjacent towns who value the watershed for numerous benefits and whose economy relies on seasonal activities and aquaculture. System response to management decisions is characterized by a high degree of uncertainty and risk with positive and negative outcomes possible. Decision policies will affect biophysical (for example, sediment transport, discharge of fecal coliform bacteria) and ecological (for example, vegetation response, fish passage, effects on shellfish) processes, as well as socioeconomic interests (for example, effects on property, viewscapes, recreation). The framework provides a structured approach for evaluating tradeoffs among multiple objectives (ecological and social) while appropriately characterizing relevant uncertainties and accounting for levels of risk tolerances and the values of decision makers and stakeholders. Consequences of tide-gate management options are predicted using a range of methods from quantitative physical process models to elicited expert judgement. The decision framework is presented, and the software developed to implement the tradeoff analysis is introduced. The results from an initial prototype analysis using a software application developed for analyses of tradeoffs and of sensitivity of the decision to risk and uncertainty are presented. The next step is to use the decision-support application to analyze options using improved predictions.

Suggested Citation

Smith, D.R., Eaton, M.J., Gannon, J.J., Smith, T.P., Derleth, E.L., Katz, J., Bosma, K.F., and Leduc, E., 2020, A decision framework to analyze tide-gate options for restoration of the Herring River Estuary, Massachusetts: U.S. Geological Survey Open-File Report 2019–1115, 42 p., https://doi.org/10.3133/ofr20191115.

ISSN: 2331-1258 (online)

Study Area

Table of Contents

  • Acknowledgments
  • Abstract
  • Introduction
  • Study Area
  • Structuring the Decision Analysis
  • Prototype Decision Analysis and Results
  • Next Steps
  • Summary
  • References Cited
  • Appendix 1. Conceptual Models
  • Appendix 2. Summary of Meeting with Herring River Restoration Committee to Elicit Utility Curves
Publication type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Title A decision framework to analyze tide-gate options for restoration of the Herring River Estuary, Massachusetts
Series title Open-File Report
Series number 2019-1115
DOI 10.3133/ofr20191115
Year Published 2020
Language English
Publisher U.S. Geological Survey
Publisher location Reston, VA
Contributing office(s) Leetown Science Center
Description viii, 42 p.
Country United States
State Massachusetts
Other Geospatial Herring River Estuary
Online Only (Y/N) Y
Additional Online Files (Y/N) N
Google Analytic Metrics Metrics page
Additional publication details