Fire Island National Seashore Breach Management Plan/EIS
On October 29, 2012, Hurricane Sandy created three breaches in the barrier island system off the south shore of Long Island, New York, including one within the Otis Pike Fire Island High Dune Wilderness Area (Fire Island Wilderness) within the Fire Island National Seashore (Seashore).
Two of the three breaches were filled in immediately after the storm. The NPS has prepared an environmental impact statement (EIS) to identify best practices for managing the breach that occurred and remains open within Fire Island's wilderness.
Managing a breach in designated wilderness is different from managing breaches outside wilderness areas, as the NPS must manage federal wilderness to preserve wilderness character. Management of the Fire Island Wilderness must comply with the Wilderness Act of 1964; the 1980 legislation that established the Fire Island Wilderness, the Otis Pike Fire Island High Dune Wilderness Act; and the 1983 Wilderness Management Plan Fire Island National Seashore, which governs NPS actions taken in the Fire Island Wilderness.
The plan has several goals: ensuring the continued integrity of the wilderness character; protecting the natural and cultural features of the Seashore and its surrounding ecosystems; protecting human life; and managing the risk of economic and physical damage to the surrounding areas.
The previously existing Breach Contingency Plan was the only guidance in effect during Hurricane Sandy to address breaches along coastal Long Island from Fire Island Inlet east to Montauk Point. The Breach Plan/EIS was created because the Breach Contingency Plan did not adequately address management of breaches in the Fire Island Wilderness.
To support the development of the EIS, existing and ongoing research pertaining to the pre-breach and post-breach conditions in Great South Bay and surrounding areas was collected, compiled, and synthesized into a technical synthesis report. This report is a compilation of the best available information and describes the current state of the science for the physical and natural resource issues specific to Great South Bay and surrounding areas, as identified by NPS. This report provides the technical information needed to analyze alternatives in the plan/EIS.
A Draft Plan/EIS was available for public review and comment for 45 days in late Fall, 2016. The final plan includes the NPS response to the more than 800 public and agency comments received during the public comment period. A Record of Decision (ROD) was signed by the Northeast Regional Director on July 23, 2018, finalizing the planning process for management of the wilderness breach.