The federal government will soon let it be known whether or not it intends to close the Fire Island breach at Old Inlet.
In the meantime, some elected officials in Brookhaven Town are voicing — or reiterating — their opinions with respect to the breach on the other side of Bellport Bay.
Keep it open, insists town Supervisor Ed Romaine and Councilman Michael Loguercio, who represents the Bellport area for the town.
The 1,500-wide breach was ripped open during superstorm Sandy in 2012, after which several public officials up and down the South Shore immediately called for its closure — fearing bay waters would rise and lead to repeated flooding of shoreline homes.
Proponents of keeping the breach open, including leading marine scientists on Long Island, contend the breach is not causing bay waters to rise.
Not only that, it’s making for a cleaner bay and healthier ecosystem, they contend.
Those are the major issues the National Park Service, which controls the property, is grappling with as it decides on whether or not to initiate a closure of the breach, which would be conducted by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
A Draft Breach Management Plan/Environmental Impact Statement is expected to be released for public review and comment in September, according to a National Park Service spokeswoman, Elizabeth Rogers.
Brookhaven Town officials attended meetings on January 24, 2014 and July 27, 2015, to provide comment to the National Park Service on the scope of the environmental impact statement, or EIS, according to a Brookhaven Town spokesman, Kevin Molloy.
“At these meetings the town noted the improvements in water quality in Bellport Bay, the benefits to the shellfish resource, and the data from Charles Flagg, Ph.D. that indicated the breach had not worsened flooding in the town’s south shore communities,” Molloy said.
“My position is to let nature take its course as it has for the past four years,” said Romaine, a Center Moriches resident. “The breach has made such a positive impact on the fish and wildlife in and around the bay, and once you get out there it becomes very clear that this is the right thing to do.”
“I ask the federal government to leave it open,” he added, “while at the same time, monitor the breach to see if it expands in size.”
His statement followed a boat trip last week with Loguercio and others, including Bellport Village Mayor Ray Fell and state Assemblyman Dean Murray.
“There aren’t many places like this where you can see the bottom of the bay,” said Loguercio, of Ridge. “It’s obvious that the water is much cleaner as you get closer to the breach. Those who make their living on the bay or just people who enjoy fishing and other recreational activities, have made their opinions clear that they want to see it remain open.”
It wasn’t immediately clear when the draft plan/EIS will be released; the National Parks Service newsletter from last year on the FIIS Wilderness Breach Management Plan only mentions the Summer 2016 (see below).
In a comment to greaterfireisland.com and greaterpatchogue.com, Murray harkened back to the fall of 2012, when there were repeated calls to close the breach over flooding fears.
“However, in the four years since we have seen enormous benefits as a result of the formation of the new inlet,” said Murray, of East Patchogue. “Clearer, cleaner water and tremendous benefit to marine life in general, so I think the best thing for us to do is to continue to monitor while allowing nature to take its course.”
Top: This photo was taken following a nor’easter in March 2013 from the west cut of the Fire island Breach, one of the post-Sandy storms that created flooding tides. (Credit: Mike Busch/greaterfireisland.com)
Middle: (L-R) Supervisor Ed Romaine, Bellport Mayor Ray Fell, Brookhaven Town chief environmental analyst Anthony Graves, town Councilman Michael Loguercio and state Assemblyman Dean Murray. (Credit: Brookhaven Town courtesy)