Fire Island Inlet shoaling impacts Coast Guards ability to respond

Northeast Atlantic Coast Guard News
NEW YORK – Fire Island Inlet historically experiences areas of shoaling, throughout the year. Sand routinely shifts dramatically during and after storms, and as a result can cause the inlet to be a challenge to navigate.

As a result of the current shoaling, Master Chief Petty Officer Chad Wendt, Officer in Charge of Coast Guard Station Fire Island, has had to temporarily suspend the unit’s offshore response capabilities when utilizing either of the unit’s 47-foot Motor Life Boat. The smaller 25-foot Response Boats from Station Fire Island are still able to transit the inlet to respond to emergencies, although they are more limited in their ability to handle heavy seas.

“We are pursuing all options, including regular soundings and possibly changing where the current channel lies, in order to provide the best level of response to the mariners in our community” said Wendt.

The Station’s crews respond to an average of 200 search and rescue cases annually, and are looking at alternative resources to temporarily assist in responding to mariners in distress offshore. Coast Guard Stations Jones Beach and Shinnecock, N.Y., boat crews can still respond to further offshore maritime emergencies, if Station Fire Island crews could not.

In the meantime, Coast Guard preventative safety measures are being taken to ensure mariners are informed of the risks when transiting the inlet.

“The Army Corp of Engineers is conducting dredging in the area, as part of ongoing beach replenishment project, replacing sand that was displaced by Hurricane Sandy. If Fire Island Inlet is transited, we recommend doing so at high tide and proceeding with extreme caution. Pay close attention to the Local Notice to Mariners and daily broadcasts made over VHF-FM channel 16 for the latest information on channel conditions,” said Lt. Ben Duarte, Waterways Management Division Chief at Coast Guard Sector Long Island Sound in New Haven, Conn. “The inlet remains open for vessel traffic, but mariners are reminded to consider the dangers of operating a vessel near shallow water and to have all required life jackets and safety equipment on board their vessel before transiting the inlet.“

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