Bellone calls for closing of Old Inlet Breach

Bellone calls for closing of Old Inlet Breach

Posted: Updated:
The Old Inlet Breach on Fire Island. (National Park Service photo) The Old Inlet Breach on Fire Island. (National Park Service photo)

By ANDREA GRYMES, Fox 5 News

NEW YORK (MYFOXNY) --The waters were calm and peaceful Wednesday but Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone said the the Old Inlet Breach on Fire Island is a major contributor to extensive flooding on the south shore of Long Island.

Bellone and other local elected officials are asking the Army Corps of Engineers to close the breach, which the officials say was widened during Superstorm Sandy.  They say it played a big role in the flooding in Lindenhurst and Mastic Beach during the recent nor'easter.

"We've seen flooding in places that have never flooded before," Bellone said.

But not everyone believes this will help.

"To spend $10 million or $16 million closing something that may not solve this problem is a complete waste of taxpayer money," said Tom Schultz of Bellport.

Opponents point to research from Stony Brook University that found no clear evidence of flooding as a result of the breach. They want nature to take its course unless other research emerges.

"The data would suggest that high tides and low tides we're experiencing on the Great South Bay are being held up and down the East Coast," Schultz said.

Paul Mandella, a fisherman, said the inlet is doing better things for the water quality on the bay.

When asked what scientists Bellone consulted, he responded they met with the state's Department of Environmental Conservation.

"I'm not concerned with the debate," Bellone said. "I'm concerned with the residents of the south shore who have suffered enough."

An Army Corps of Engineers has not yet received a formal request from the state to close the breach, a spokesperson said.

"The Corps of Engineers developed a breach contingency program in conjunction with the state of New York some time ago," said Ken Wells, the chief of public affairs. "If we receive a formal request, we would initiate planning and coordination to close the breach."

Bellone could not tell us exactly how much closing the breach would cost, but his office does say it would be federally funded.

Fox 5 reached out to the state DEC but have not yet heard back.

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