Old Inlet Breach on Fire Island
John Vahey, Stony Brook University
A Powerful Storm
Within 48 hours of the storm the Breach Contingency Plan (BCP), put in place in 1997 to address any breaches that impact coastal Long Island from Fire Island Inlet east to Montauk Point, was implemented by a multi-agency group including the National Park Service (NPS), U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), and New York State Department of Environmental Conservation.
The BCP calls for filling breaches which do not occur in the federally designated wilderness area. For the breach at Smith Point County Park, which is within Fire Island National Seashore boundaries but is not within the wilderness area, BCP actions were implemented immediately to close the breach by mechanical means. Closure was completed in November 2012.
The Wilderness Breach
Between January and mid-March 2013, when a series of winter storms affected the island, the new inlet migrated to the west and its channel deepened. The breach remains dynamic, but by early 2014 no monitoring data has triggered the immediate closure of the breach.
The Breach Contingency Plan and Breach Management
Fire Island National Seashore's enabling legislation (Public Law 88-587, September 11, 1964) allows for shore erosion control or beach protection measures within park boundaries, under certain criteria. (See Sec 8)
The Otis Pike Fire Island High Dune Wilderness Act (Public Law 96-585, December 23, 1980) designated approximately 1,363 acres as wilderness in Fire Island National Seashore. This wilderness designation does not preclude the repair of breaches that occur in the wilderness, under specific circumstances. See (d)
A 1983 Wilderness Management Plan (WMP) for Fire Island National Seashore also addresses breaches in the wilderness area. (See page 18 of the WMP.)