To appear: Shore & Beach, Vol 72, No. 1, 2004.
Currently, dredging costs for Fire Island Inlet are million per year. If the
navigation channel were not regularly maintained, it would close due to shoaling
within the inlet. A potentially more cost-effective way to deal with the perpetual
inlet shoaling would be to relocate the inlet.
barrier island morphology, inlet migration, spit
formation, sediment transport, littoral drift, regional sediment management, and
geographic information systems
Received: 6 Feb 2004
Accepted: 20 Feb 2004
Fire Island Inlet is located on the south shore of Long Island, New York
(Figure 1) and provides a navigation channel between the Atlantic Ocean and
Great South Bay. The south shore of Long Island is 120 miles of headlands and
barrier beaches, breached by six inlets (Panuzio, 1968).
The channel is
positioned between Oak Beach to the north and the western tip of Fire Island to
the south (Kraus et. al., 2003). In its present condition, the inlet has a depth of
about 10 to 14 ft at mean low water, a total length of about 3.5 miles, and a width
of approximately 3,500 ft (USACE, 2002).
Records show that Fire Island Inlet has existed since the early 1700's
(Figure 2) and that Fire Island has undergone considerable extension to the west
since the opening of the inlet. The Fire Island Lighthouse, built in 1825, was
originally less than 500 ft from the end of the island. Engineering activities began
in 1927 around Fire Island Inlet starting with the placement of 40 million cubic
yards (cy) of embankment fill to create an Ocean Parkway from Jones Inlet to
Captree State Park (Figure 3). By 1940, Fire Island had extended such that the
terminus of Democrat Point was 5 miles west of the lighthouse (Gofseyeff, 1952).
To halt the rapid westward migration of Fire Island, a 5,000-ft jetty was
constructed at Democrat Point in 1941 by the USACE (Figure 4).