The Next Big One: Fire Island Inlet Breach

A debate is brewing over Old Inlet on Fire Island. The inlet is a physical reminder of Superstorm Sandy’s impact on Long Island after the

A debate is brewing over Old Inlet on Fire Island.

A debate is brewing over Old Inlet on Fire Island. (8/1/13)

WOODBURY - A debate is brewing over Old Inlet on Fire Island. The inlet is a physical reminder of Superstorm Sandy’s impact on Long Island after the hurricane created a channel, now 856-feet wide, through which seawater pours into the Great South Bay. The question by residents, scientists, environmentalists and government officials is what to do about it: leave the gap as it is for the time being and see what happens, or close it up?

When Sandy hit, Fire Island did what it was supposed to do. The barrier island protected the south shore, but at a huge price. Homes were destroyed, sand dunes were leveled and new inlets were formed.

News 12 Long Island’s Bill Korbel says despite Sandy’s harsh realities, storms have been changing Long Island’s landscape since it was formed by retreating glaciers 10,000 years ago. Korbel says Fire Island is not so much an island as it is a giant sand bar, capable of an ever-changing landscape.

The new inlet, located just west of Smith Point Park, alarmed not only officials but residents who are worried about more flooding. In response, a slew of political leaders have called for it to be closed.

“If another storm the size of Sandy comes through it's going to make it bigger, let more water in and create the potential for more damage to properties along the south shore,” says Legislator Rob Callarco.

Some argue that the inlet is a gift from nature, allowing ocean water to flush out the polluted Great South Bay and causing a nearly miraculous rebirth of marine life. “We've had sea turtles in here, we've had about 10 seals that lived on an island during the winter, fluke on this side of the bay, which you'd never see on this side of the bridge,” says fisherman Mike Busch.

But is the inlet causing more flooding on the south shore? Research by the SUNY School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences indicates that water levels on the south shore since Sandy match patterns in similar areas around the Northeast. The study concludes the inlet is "not responsible for the increased frequency of flooding in the western or eastern Great South Bay."

The final decision on what to do with the breach will be made by the National Park Service along with the state Department of Environmental Conservation and the Army Corps of Engineers. Christopher Stoller, of the National Park Service, says unless there's a proven threat, the agency won’t interfere with what nature has been doing for hundreds of years.

advertisement | advertise on News 12

Trending Video

MacArthur basketball team hosts team from Denmark 1 MacArthur basketball team hosts team from Denmark
A house on Joyce Drive in Hauppauge was 2 House destroyed in early morning Hauppauge fire
Photography students at Lynbrook High School are refinishing 3 Students refinish old photos submitted by the community
Riverhead Police arrested 4 men for criminal trespassing 4 Police: 4 in Splish Splash BMX video arrested
Suffolk police say a body was found behind 5 Police: Body found behind auto parts store

advertisement | advertise on News 12

More News

Superstorm Sandy may have spared the Great South Breach stops brown tide in Great South Bay

For decades, brown tides have threatened marine life in Long Island's waterways. But this year,

Some lawmakers blame the breach for flooding across Battle brews over Fire Island breach

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone and other lawmakers want to close the breach. They blame

Sorry to interrupt...

Your first 5 are free

Access to News12 is free for Optimum, Comcast®, Time Warner® and Service Electric℠ video customers.

Please enjoy 5 complimentary views to articles, photos, and videos during the next 30 days.

LOGIN SUBSCRIBE