The Fire Island breach created by Superstorm Sandy in 2012 demonstrated the positive influence that greater ocean exchange can have on estuarine waters. The “Wilderness Breach,” as it came to be known, delivered clean ocean water to a stagnated and polluted section of Great South Bay, resulting in a cascade of ecological benefits. Water clarity improved, nitrogen levels were reduced, fish and birds returned and even wild set mollusks took hold.
Long Island is facing a water crisis, with regard to both the fresh drinking water aquifers that sustain our daily lives and the salty coastal waters that enrich them. This crisis is reflected by what has been a steady, many decades-long deterioration in water quality, from excess nitrogen fueled by human sewage, to toxic plumes and spills, all while we “mine” our water supply by taking out more water than is being replenished.