Fire Island Breach

One of the things I was really keen on following during Hurricane Sandy was the status of Fire Island, one of my favorite places in the world.

After the storm had passed and proved to be historically powerful, I tried to get information about how the island had fared during the storm and whether Sandy had poked a hole through the island like what happened during a nor’easter in 1931 (Moriches) and during the hurricane of 1938 (Shinnecock).  Sure enough there were several breaches in the coasts of the area, including two on Fire Island.  One breach was by Smiths Point State Park and was filled in soon after but since the Old Inlet breach is in a designated wilderness area, it has been left open.

Picture of the Old Inlet breach – photo by the National Park Service


The Army Corps of Engineers is slated to fill in the breach but there’s a lot of evidence that the breach has been helping the Great South Bay flush itself more regularly and is becoming cleaner.  At the same time, there’s little evidence that the breach is contributing to higher water levels or greater incidence of flooding along the south shore of Long Island.

One thing that might be a great boon if the breach is left open is the return of hard-shell clams to the Great South Bay.  Clams thrive in water with high salinity and as the bay cleans itself, they will be able to thrive.  When the clam population thrives, they will filter a greater percentage of the bay’s waters.  This would benefit everyone who lives near the bay.

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