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A Look at Fire Island's Breach at Old Inlet

Sandy left her mark in devastating fashion on Fire Island.

The breach caused by Hurricane Sandy in October created a breach at Old Inlet, west of the Smith Point beach, on Fire Island.

The walk is for the hardy, especially in winter, but well worth the trek as Patch learned Sunday. While a majestic sight, it's one of sadness as well with so much devastation to the dunes leading up to the breach as well.

It's about a full hour walk from the Fire Island Wilderness Center to the breach and back.

The sunshine Sunday drew a few dozen souls who wanted at look at how Mother Nature can alter a barrier island.

Rich G January 23, 2013 at 03:49 PM
Pic13 - Stay off the Dunes!
Susan Barbash January 25, 2013 at 02:45 AM
Breach poses a growing threat to the communities on the south shore. No one can guarantee that it will not continue to expand with disastrous consequences for homeowners and businesses. The cost to close an ever widening beach will be enormous. People should urge Governor Cuomo, County Executive Bellone, DEC Regional Director Peter Scully and Fire Island National Seashore Superintendent Chris Soller to close the breach. The health and safety of Long Island residents should be our priority.
Marshall Brown January 27, 2013 at 05:25 PM
Susan Barbash you are absolutely 100% wrong on this. All the research from the marine biologists has shown that the breach poses no threat. It is actually called the Old Inlet. It has opened and closed periodically over the centuries. It is nature at work. Furthermore, all the data shows that the Old Inlet does in no way raise the water levels/increase flooding. In fact the Old Inlet, in the event of a Nor'Easter, lets water OUT of the bay, decreasing flooding. My group Save The Great South Bay on Facebook, www.facebook.com/groups/savethegreatsouthbay has over 350 members -- scientists, baymen, fishermen, locals who know the bay and who are working to fix it. No shortage of data and analysis. If only politicians like Chuck Schumer and Tim Mazzei bothered to listen to the scientists and do the right thing for the bay. The Old Inlet is actually flushing and cleaning the bay. To close it our of ignorance, fear, or greed would be a disaster to us all, and a further chapter in the continuing mismanagement of this beautiful and valuable public resource. Susan please drop by and read for yourself, speak with the many in our group who are devoted to this issue. I hope you will see that the facts are very much on our side here, and that you may even support our cause in the end.
Marshall Brown January 27, 2013 at 06:10 PM
Since Susan you are a real estate developer you will readily understand that a cleaner healthier bay will only cause real estate to appreciate. The Old Inlet will make the bay more appealing -- clearer water, more fish, clams. That will mean more jobs for our communities. The bay is a valuable public resource. We need to invest in it and revitalize it. Sandy gave us and the bay a gift worth many millions. Let's not discard it by spending many millions more doing something unnecessary and wrong.
Jack Latch January 28, 2013 at 02:30 AM
We seem to be having more flooding in the WI/Babylon area since the breach opened.......
Marshall Brown January 28, 2013 at 01:52 PM
While that may be true, coincidence is not causation. We had a succession of Nor'Easters hit on a full moon. The science definitively has proven that the reopened Old Inlet is not contributing to higher water levels. That an inlet that is a mere trickle compared to The Fire Island Inlet and is 20 miles away across the bay could affect West Islip / Babylon doesn't stand up in any case. Here's the relevant science that too few know about and even fewer politicians bother to read. They have other agendas, most of them, like making sure their wealthy patrons have plenty of sand in front of their beach mansions. Prof. Charles Flagg of Stony Brook's School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences, a man with over 30 years of experience, was given the task of studying the reopened Old Inlet, and he has been doing so since Sandy. Here's a link to his most recent report. www.bellport.com/vnews/seenheard/2013/Jan17_Inlet_Report.pdf. The monitoring is widespread and continuous. No indication whatever of higher water levels resulting from the Old Inlet. That won't stop people in power from trying to manipulate fears so that they get what they want. Meanwhile the bay and the people who live along it would be betrayed again. Well, not this time. Visit us at www.facebook.com/groups/savethegreatsouthbay and read what we have to say and the research behind our claims.
Jack Latch January 28, 2013 at 02:08 PM
2-3 weeks after Sandy we had flooding as high as it was during Irene.......That wasn't even considered a nor'easter, just a windy day........Why would the "people in power" have any interest in "manipulating fears so they get what they want"......everyone would like to see a cleaner bay (although there are also concerns within the shellfish industry that increased salinity in the bay will not be good for the seeds).......studies certainly need to be done but why would you demonize the people who are of the opinion that the inlet should be closed back up?
Marshall Brown January 28, 2013 at 02:57 PM
Jack the science shows the Old Inlet in no way contributes to higher water levels in the bay. In fact Charles Flagg, again the lead scientist studying the dynamics of the Old Inlet even testified at an open public hearing in Bellport Dec 1st that the Old Inlet may well be letting water OUT of the bay, acting as a safety valve in the event of a Nor'Easter. And as for what I am insinuating -- I have been at this for six months now and have heard from 1000s of people trying to make headway, just to get the public to understand what the science is and how we can revitalize the bay, while at the same time reaching out politicians with the scientific findings -- that the Old Inlet is helping to clean the bay , and in no way increases flood risk, and could help the local economy. About half are eager to learn more. The others made their decisions immediately, and have refused to consider what the research is showing. From there you have to consider motive. The whole history of the bay's mismanagement displays this characteristic -- the powerful have won, and we and the bay have lost. I don't care about opinion. I care about facts. Science over politics.
Marshall Brown January 28, 2013 at 03:15 PM
I'd love to see some research on just how those successive storms tore up the bay bottom -- they did, a lot. The oyster farming initiative took a big hit, with the cages dragged all over the place. It is very possible that that damage to our natural defenses against flooding -- bay beds, eel grass, etc - with the bay bottom carved up in places has made us all more vulnerable to flooding.
Jack Latch January 28, 2013 at 06:00 PM
Marshall, I've lived on the Southshore of LI for 50 yrs.......I believe "your science" is wrong.......If something else is causing the abnormal tides we have everytime the wind blows out of the east, I'd love to hear what it is........a cleaner bay sounds great, but having our communities flooded more often will cost billions.......maybe we need to cut an inlet somewhere else, but this breach seems to be causing problems already for the SS in West Islip/Babylon......
Marshall Brown January 28, 2013 at 06:29 PM
It's not my science. Its the scientists. people with far better credentials and expertise on the subject than you or I. As for flooding generally, the bay took quite a hit this fall as noted. I suggest you try and research for yourself what else may be causing the issue and I will ask around as well. But it ain't from the Old Inlet, that's been stipulated.
Jack Latch January 28, 2013 at 07:05 PM
thats been stipulated??....what does that mean?......no one has done a study in the last 2 months on the "new' flood tides in western suffolk, but I assure you they are happening, and I can't think of anything it can be but the breach.......
Jack Latch January 28, 2013 at 07:06 PM
the south shore has changed substantially since 1938.....
Marshall Brown January 28, 2013 at 07:13 PM
So get to it then Jack! That's very very far away from Western Suffolk. Maybe its the Fire Island Inlet's the issue. That is much bigger and much closer to where you are. And The Army Corps of Engineers are set to take out 3 million cubic yards of sand to widen and deepen the inlet while rebuilding the dunes along Gilgo Beach and Robert Moses -- a five mile stretch -- without a spec of environmental oversight given that this is Emergency Spending. Are you still only thinking of a relative trickle of water 20 miles away, where we have continuous monitoring for almost 90 days now showing that the Old Inlet is not changing bay water level one iota?
Jack Latch January 28, 2013 at 07:57 PM
Marshall, all you need to do is look at a map of long Island and observe the "new flood tides" in WI and Babylon that occur when the wind blows out of the east.......It is pretty plain to see that the new flooding is being caused by what you now refer to as the "relative trickle" coming through the new breach.......I would love a cleaner bay, and at 1st glance the additional flushing of the bay sounds great.......but I certainly trust the army Corp of engineers and the DEC more than i trust you.....IMO your logic is quite flawed....
Marshall Brown January 28, 2013 at 08:14 PM
Jack the argument does not lie with me, but with virtually every marine biologist worth his salt who have studied the Old Inlet. www.facebook.com/groups/SavetheGreatSouthBay. That's the stakes to really enter into this debate. Learn and argue the science. Otherwise, its just uninformed opinion.
Jack Latch January 28, 2013 at 08:29 PM
well Marshall the argument does lie with me...... In my neighborhood and the surrounding neighborhoods we are living it.....pods full of possessions that were salvaged after Sandy have been flooded twice since the super storm.....have you ever seen a Pod float? I have......this is in driveways that had never flooded in my 30 yrs of living in this neighborhood.....what did both of these post Sandy floods have in common? a strong easterly wind (not a storm, just some wind) and the new breach on Fire Island....... I would say my opinion is pretty informed.......to deny that we have become more susceptible to flooding since Sandy is ludicrous......

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