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Final Fire Island Wilderness Breach Management Plan / Environmental Impact Statement

The National Park service has released the Final Fire Island Wilderness Breach Management Plan / Environmental Impact Statement (final Breach Plan/EIS) for Fire Island National Seashore (the Seashore) that presents three alternatives for the management of the wilderness breach that was created in the Otis Pike Fire Island High Dune Wilderness in Fire Island, New York during Hurricane Sandy on October 29, 2012. When completed, this plan will provide direction to the National Park Service for the management of the wilderness breach. The National Park Service will use the management framework established by the Breach Plan to ensure the continued integrity of the wilderness character; protect the natural and cultural features of the Seashore and its surrounding ecosystems; protect human life; and manage the risk of economic and physical damage to the surrounding areas.

This final Breach Plan/EIS evaluates three alternatives. Alternative 1 (Closure Using Mechanical Processes) would mechanically close the breach as soon as possible. Alternative 2 (Status Determined Entirely by Natural Processes) is the no-action alternative; this alternative would allow the management of the breach under natural processes, to include evolution and potential growth and/or natural closure. Alternative 3 (No Human Intervention unless Established Criteria are Exceeded), the proposed action, is identified as the Seashore's preferred alternative. Under alternative 3, the evolution, growth, and/or closure of the breach would be determined by natural barrier island processes, and human intervention to close the breach would occur only "to prevent loss of life, flooding, and other severe economic and physical damage to the Great South Bay and surrounding areas," as allowed by the Otis Pike Fire Island High Dune Wilderness Act. If the breach were to close by natural processes, no human intervention would be taken to reopen it. The breach would be closed mechanically if evaluation of annual monitoring data indicate that changes in the conditions of the breach could elevate the risk of severe storm damage in the form of loss of life, flooding, and other severe economic and physical damage. The final Breach Plan/EIS analyzes the potential consequences of these three alternatives on the following resources: wilderness character, sediment transport and geomorphology, water quality, ecosystem structure and processes, benthic communities, finfish and decapod crustaceans, transportation (vehicle access), flood conditions, and socioeconomics.

A 30-day "no-action" period will begin on the date the US Environmental Protection Agency publishes a Notice of Availability of the final Breach Plan/EIS in the Federal Register. Following the 30-day period, the alternative or actions constituting the approved plan will be documented in a Record of Decision that will be signed by the Northeast Regional Director. For further information on this project, please visit http://parkplanning.nps.gov/FireIslandBreachManagementPlan. Questions regarding this project may be directed to Kaetlyn Jackson, Fire Island National Seashore, (631) 687-4770.
 
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