Fire Island Breach

Monday, November 18, 2013

Will James, freelance journalist for The Wall Street Journal, contributor to The Atlantic, and author of the piece On Long Island Coast, An Unexpected Gift From Hurricane Sandy, discusses the breach in Fire Island caused by Sandy and the unexpected consequences and dispute about what to do about it.


Will James

Comments [10]

frank from west islip ny

i reside on water in a town 17 miles away and have noticed the exceptionally clean water ever since the storm- leave it open.

Apr. 29 2014 06:58 PM
Jennifer from Mastic Beach

This summer (2013) the bay was cleaner to swim in, had a nice sandy bottom instead of yucky stuff, and the clams tasted much better. Keep the breach! If you need to buy flood insurance for your home (I do) you shouldn't be surprised when it floods.

Nov. 20 2013 10:44 AM
Evelyn Tully Costa from Brooklyn/Fire Island

We own a house in Fair Harbor which we are selling due to the climate change handwriting on the wall which has been there for years. Anyone who puts a house on a tiny spit of sand squeezed between a bay and an ocean and complains when nature on global warming steroids does what it's predicted to do is NUTS. Fire Island is a NATIONAL PARK, NO ONE should be living there, just wildlife. The breach is NATURAL and should be left alone. As a child I remember how clean the water was in the Hampton's and was horrified years later and one bay over when I saw the filthy waters of the Great South Bay. Too many boats, septic systems, houses. No controls. Why should ANY government continue to subsidize bad zoning decisions? You want to live near the water, then pay the real insurance yourself or raise the house and don't gripe about what nature (with a little help from human activities) does. The dunes should be restored (not for vacation homes) but to protect those living inland, the feds should buy-out as many homeowners who want off the island and their properties returned to nature. No new buildings should be permitted period, we are all paying for the "rights" of a few to enjoy a beach that by rights should be a protective barrier between us and the mainland. This reality if finally being reflected in new zoning maps up and down the East Coast with the expected groaning, but there it is, how do you argue with nature? The same governments (local, state, fed) that have encouraged unchecked development need to help homeowners in all vulnerable areas relocate as they are doing in Staten Island and Global Climate Change is considered what it truly is a national security threat we helped bring upon ourselves. It will cost billions less to buy out rather than this Sisypheon rebuilding nonsense. Fire Island is beautiful, unique place in our country with no cars etc...but it's time to retreat gracefully in the face of the forces of nature (with some help from the feds!)

Nov. 19 2013 09:12 AM
Christina Schwerin from Brooklyn

As someone that has rented in Fire Island for the past 20 years in various communities I find it hard to believe that Fire Islanders are against letting the inlet be. I've heard none of my homeowner friends say this and if it's true I'm unclear about the reasoning behind this. The breach is miles east of any residential communities. If the issue is passage to the Smith Point entrance to the island then I'm sure a simple wood bridge could be constructed. What seems to be more of an issue and a question on all of the homeowners' minds is whether or not the Army Corp of Engineers will build a large sand dune type barrier along the beach. The proposed dune would be built between the beach and the first row of houses for several miles.

Nov. 18 2013 07:12 PM
Jeff from Bellport, NY (11713)

Hi. I'm a NYCer and also have lived in Bellport, close to the breach (where I am right now), for 25 years. (I've taken a boat to see and walk around it.) The breach is basically "flushing" the polluted bay (and I use that word for a reason). The improvement has been dramatic in the past year, as your expert said. Birds are back, nesting in the aquatic plants that are also back. People are fishing, as they did decades ago, and the water is alive again. There is no good reason to close it -- even if that were easy or possible. Yes, it's more difficult for beach vehicles and trucks with construction supplies to drive straight through on Fire Island, but if you want to build, you can get what you need.
FYI, There's an open meeting in Bellport supporting keeping the breach open, on Saturday, Dec. 21. Link is attached. Thank you!

Nov. 18 2013 11:38 AM
David from Charleston, SC

In 2010 I was involved in The Nature Conservancy's efforts to restock hard clams in Great South Bay. They have spent millions of dollars in these efforts over the years. Steady progress has been repeatedly set back by brown tides. Even back then, TNC biologists were hoping for a big storm to breach Fire Island, (though obviously no one wished for the loss of life and property so many in the region suffered). The breach is the only hope for a long-term restoration of Great South Bay. As hard clams return and filter the water, eel-grasses will be able to grow again, serving as nurseries for native fish species. Eventually, the bay should be able to support oysters as well. This breach is indeed Sandy's one gift, and we should recognize it as such.

Nov. 18 2013 11:36 AM
Amy from Manhattan

Tides are caused by the moon's gravity, so how can something like this breach change the timing of the tides? Is it because the water has to go around the island to reach the coast, & w/the breach, it has a way to go through?

Nov. 18 2013 11:27 AM

So you're saying that we can keep a healthy Bay if we want one?
What aren't you disclosing that might tip the public decision in another way?

(? A projection that sharks will begin feeding on wading, South Shore toddlers?) ;-)

Nov. 18 2013 11:21 AM
Wen from Lindenhurst

cant they just build a flood gate and leave it open except in large storms?

Nov. 18 2013 11:19 AM
er-nay from UWS - Fire Island

The bay is much cleaner than years past. Keep it open

Nov. 18 2013 11:15 AM

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