Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone, at his announcement today that he was in favor of closing the breach, was unable to name JUST one scientist he spoke with who supported his view. So the question is ‘Do you want science driving policy, or politicians?’ There is a lot of flooding. People are scared. They want something done now. The politicians focus on the breach as the cause right away, declare from the outset that it must be closed, blame it for the flooding, and people believe them. Contemptuous of science, we have Bellone bellowing “The time for debate is over!” repeatedly and making snide comments about how this can’t become some academic parlor game and that we must focus on the victims. Mr. Bellone, the scientific community studying the bay and the breach very much ARE thinking of those being flooded out. We believe they are best served by solutions that are based on a clear understanding of what in fact is going on, and not just in the bay, but within a global ecosystem that is changing rapidly and dangerously.
The entire Eastern Seaboard has been flooding out regularly starting with Sandy. It’s not one puny breach. It is an entire ecosystem out of whack. The way to truly protect people who live on the South Shore is to: First raise their houses, build bulkhead by using the money that would otherwise literally be thrown in a hole, and Second, to rebuild the bay as a dynamic ecosystem, with the Old Inlet flushing the Eastern Bay until nature again closes it, and with the massive reintroduction of oysters, clams, eel grass, marshes and wetlands. In mid-January 2013, Governor Andrew Cuomo’s New York State 2100 Commission, formed Post-Sandy to come up with a long term sustainability plan for the Greater New York area, proposed just that — using natural defenses to help combat the effects of rising seas, larger, more violent, and more frequent storms, appreciating the dynamics of barrier beaches and breach formation as part of a natural process.
Sandy, with all its peculiarities may be a harbinger of storms to come. Indeed post Sandy we saw a parade of Nor’easters that continued to batter the shores and flood communities from Cape Hatteras to Cape Cod. What will the next storm bring? What will next winter? Of course people are scared. We are all scared. We are in uncharted territory. In this situation, it would be easy to blame one thing — the breach at The Old Inlet — but the science says that it will still be flooding as much after you close the breach because the breach is not the cause of the flooding. People more than twenty miles away from the Old Inlet in Babylon and Lindenhurst are being told that a breach a tiny fraction of the size of the Fire Island Inlet, which is just a few miles away, is the source of their problems. The Army Corps of Engineers is dredging 3 million cubic feet of sand out of The Fire Island Inlet, yet the Old Inlet is labeled the culprit. It defies logic, but then fearfulness leads to this kind of scapegoating – and poor decision making, even though the politician can look like he’s doing something.
The fact is, The Old Inlet’s flushing the bay could lead to its rebirth. I know speaking to a bayman yesterday in Sayville that there is bay bottom now visible that was hidden in the murk for at least 20 years. That means eel grass, clams, and fish. The bay is healing. With that, our shore communities can become stronger economically, and better able to handle what Mother Nature will be doling out.