Fire Island Inlet Shoaling Limits CG Efforts

Petty Officer 1st Class Brian Meehan, of Station Fire Island, N.Y., maintains situational awareness of nearby vessel traffic as he drives one of the station’s two 47-foot rescue boats (2011). U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Thomas McKenzie.

The Coast Guard has announced that Station Fire Island will have limited ability to respond to emergencies off Fire Island, New York, due to severe shoaling of the inlet.

“Station Fire Island’s boat crews’ response capabilities are greatly affected by severe shoaling, which has been reported to extend the entire width of Fire Island Inlet and in the vicinity of buoy No. 4 and No. 5,” read a Coast Guard press release. There have been reports of water depths as low as 4’ at high tide, and less than 1’ at low water in these areas.

As a result of the shoaling, Chief Warrant Officer Timothy Woody, commanding officer of Station Fire Island, temporarily suspended the unit’s offshore response capabilities utilizing the unit’s 47-foot Motor Lifeboats, since it draws more than 4’. The smaller 25-foot response boats from Station Fire Island are still able to transit the inlet to respond to emergencies.

“While there is concern about our response capability, we are still able to patrol the area and advise mariners to operate their vessel safely,” said Woody. “Since the shoaling may limit the Coast Guard’s response, other local agencies may be available to render assistance.”

The station, whose crews respond to an average of more than 200 search and rescue cases annually, will work with nearby resources, including Stations Jones Beach and Shinnecock to assist in responding to mariners in distress.

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

“We are relocating aids to navigation to mark best safe water,” said Lt. Ben Duarte, Waterways Management Division chief at Coast Guard Sector Long Island Sound in New Haven, Connecticut. “We recommend transiting Fire Island Inlet 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.” 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 aboard their vessel before transiting the inlet.

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