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East Beach

The failing jetties have been cited as a contributor to erosion at Port Jefferson Village's East Beach

Mount Sinai Harbor. File photo by Alex Petroski

Officials believe one of the few things that stands in the way of further erosion of Port Jefferson Village’s East Beach, which sits on the Long Island Sound at the end of Village Beach Road, are jetties, or rock pilings meant to protect the shoreline, at the mouth of Mount Sinai Harbor, just east of the Port Jeff beach. With the two town-owned structures in need of restoration, Brookhaven is looking for some additional funding.

The Brookhaven Town board voted unanimously at a July 12 meeting to submit grant applications to the New York State Green Innovations Grant Program and Local Waterfront Revitalization Program for additional money to work on the jetty reconstruction project.

The $8.6 million jetty project has been in the works for several years, but only truly got underway in 2016. The town is seeking reimbursement of about $1.3 million through the grants. The resulting $7.3 million net cost would be financed through an existing $3 million Dormitory Authority of the State of New York grant, originally provided through New York state Sen. Ken LaValle (R-Port Jefferson), and $4.3 million from a previous town bond resolution.

Councilwoman Jane Bonner (C-Rocky Point) said the old east and west jetties have holes from rocks collapsing, which allows sand to stream through. Age has not been kind to either structure, and the seaward sides of both jetties remain submerged at high tide. Hurricane Irene and Superstorm Sandy caused further damage to the jetties over subsequent years.

With the money the town already has along with these new grant bids, Bonner said she is optimistic reconstruction of the jetties will start some time in 2019.

“Those holes create a current at high tide that allows sand to get through,” Bonner said. “We are completely committed to taking all the necessary steps to make sure this gets done right.”

Brookhaven is the only Long Island municipality in charge of jetties, as the Army Corps of Engineers maintains all others, according to Bonner.

Brookhaven has also hired Melville-based Nelson & Pope Engineers & Land Surveyor, PLLC to at a cost of $151,800 for help in the Mount Sinai Harbor dredging project. The dredging will widen the inlet and relieve the pressure of the water hitting the jetties at high tide, according to Bonner. Widening the inlet will help flush out Mount Sinai Harbor, which would lead to cleaner water for both fish living in the harbor and the town’s shellfish at its mariculture facility.

The failing jetties have had an impact on the shoreline of Port Jeff Village. The bottom 15 feet of the bluff along East Beach had fallen 260 feet west of the rock revetment, according to a 2016 letter from Stony Brook-based GEI Consultants, a privately-owned consulting firm contracted by the village, to the village regarding its concerns about erosion. GEI also stated that repairs to the jetties should be the first step in alleviating erosion issues.

Bonner said some of the preliminary work already done has helped relieve the flow of water coming into the inlet and through the jetties, but until the real reconstruction starts the erosion of the local beach remains a problem.

Suffolk County Legislator Sarah Anker (D-Mount Sinai) said Mount Sinai Harbor contributes millions of dollars to community through tourism.

“It’s a very special harbor,” Anker said. “Repairing the channel should be a primary concern.”

A slumping bluff is raising eyebrows in Port Jefferson Village.

Bids are being accepted, and will continue to be through April 16, for a project that village officials hope will stave off erosion at Port Jefferson East Beach Area and Pavilion that is endangering a tennis court.

Port Jeff has been trying to figure out how to deal with its shrinking beach and slumping bluff at least as far back as early 2016. The new plan of action is to build a wall — it’s yet to be determined whether it will be built out of steel or a revetment of rocks — at the base of the bluff. Overhead images of the beach accessed via Google Earth show the shoreline nestled between the Long Island Sound and a bluff that leads to the grounds of the Port Jefferson Country Club clearly shrinking over the years. Officials are concerned about tennis court No. 4 at the country club, which has inched closer to the edge of the bluff as the beach has eroded.

Erosion of East Beach in Port Jefferson is causing trees to slump down an adjacent bluff. Photo by Alex Petroski

“The Village of Port Jefferson’s shoreline suffered significant structural damage, resulting from multiple state-of-emergency storm events,” said a Jan. 17, 2017, letter from GEI Consultants, a privately-owned consulting firm contracted by Port Jeff, to the village regarding its concerns about erosion.

After the East Coast was hit with four storms classified as Nor’easters by the National Weather Service in March, a walkway and pavilion on the eastern end of the parking lot at the end of Village Beach Road was severely damaged, and many trees can be seen uprooted and horizontal at the bottom west of the road.

“That whole area East Beach is just a disaster,” Trustee Stan Loucks said during a March board meeting after taking a look at the area.

Trustee Bruce D’Abramo called it “scary” to see how badly the beach is eroding.

In an article entitled “Forgotten North Shore vulnerable to sea level rise” published by TBR News Media in January, R. Lawrence Swanson, the interim dean and associate dean of the Stony Brook University School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences, said staving off erosion of bluffs is a complicated problem on the North Shore that will require more research from New York state.

Several strong March storms caused damage at East Beach in Port Jefferson. Photo by Alex Petroski

“What can be done in the way of resiliency to preserve the character of the North Shore and yet also protect individual properties on the Sound — both those on the cliffs and those on the barrier spits?” he wrote. “Is hardening the bluffs and beaches at great expense the answer? Do we let nature take its course? Do residents on the barrier beaches have rights to the sediment of eroding cliffs in much the same way that downstream California claims rights to Colorado River water? If hardening of bluffs is allowed, will there be enough sediment at the toe to maintain a beach to reduce wave run-up? New York State needs to examine this issue and develop guidance that works for all.”

He warned that construction of sea walls can hinder the natural process of erosion from the base of North Shore bluffs, reducing the materials available to maintain barrier spits, or formations caused by the lateral movement of water along a shoreline, subjecting bluffs to “over washing.”

“Beaches fronting the bluffs will disappear so that waves will be beating directly on the seawalls,” he said. “This is a regional issue that cannot be solved property by property or even on a town-by-town basis. With the state of development on the North Shore, some form of intervention or adaptation is probably required; nature cannot be left totally unchecked, given the grim climate projections for this coming century.”

East Beach in Port Jefferson is getting smaller due to erosion, according to a consulting firm contracted by the village. Photo by Alex Petroski

By Alex Petroski

Port Jefferson Village is shrinking. East Beach, which lies within the parameters of the Port Jefferson Country Club bordering the Long Island Sound, is experiencing erosion that has caused Mayor Margot Garant to take notice and seek assistance in the hopes of reversing the trend.

“The Village of Port Jefferson’s shoreline suffered significant structural damage, resulting from multiple state-of-emergency storm events,” said a Jan. 17 letter from GEI Consultants, a privately owned consulting firm, to the village regarding its concerns about erosion. “These storm events appear to be occurring in greater frequency and severity.”

East Beach in Port Jefferson is getting smaller due to erosion, according to a consulting firm contracted by the village. Photo by Alex Petroski

Representatives from GEI, the village and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation met on the beach May 26 to examine the area and assess its condition. The village is seeking recommendations from GEI and the DEC so that they can then apply for grants from the state to financially assist in projects that would stabilize an already slumping bluff.

“We found that the shoreline erosion has continued to claim significant portions of this recreational area,” the letter said of a Nov. 1, 2016, visit to the beach to view the condition of a bluff that lies below the golf course and adjacent to Port Jefferson Country Club tennis courts and a dune near the mouth of Mount Sinai Harbor.

The bottom 15 feet of the bluff had fallen 260 feet west of the rock revetment, a man-made pile built to preserve the eroding shoreline, according to the letter. Dredging of sand from the Mount Sinai Harbor navigation channel could be used to revitalize the eroding shoreline, and GEI also suggested dead trees be removed on the slumping bluff near the borders of the PJCC to relieve some of the weight on the sand. Removal of trees would require a permit from the DEC.

“These two actions are critical for long term coastal management of this beachfront,” the January letter said, referring to dredging and the eventual repair of a jetty near the mouth of Mount Sinai Harbor, which is owned by the Town of Brookhaven. “In the meantime, East Beach will continue to erode unless stopgap measures are implemented.”

Aphrodite Montalvo, a representative from the DEC’s office of communication services, addressed the May 26 meeting in an emailed statement.

“DEC and GEI have met to discuss erosion issues in the area, as well as options for, and alternatives to erosion control,” she said. “DEC does not currently have any pending permit applications from GEI for the vicinity of East Beach.”

The department referred further questions about the matter to GEI or the village.

The village installed a ramp in May 2016 from the road to the sand at the end of Village Beach Road, the road that leads to the waterfront through the country club, which is becoming exposed at its base due to the eroding sand, according to Garant. GEI representatives said the erosion issues had gotten worse since previous checks during the winter and fall.

The mayor added she plans to go after grant money from the county, state and federal government in the hopes of sharing the cost of potential repairs.

GEI and Garant reiterated that the repair of the Brookhaven-owned jetty would be the first step in alleviating the beach’s erosion issues. In September 2016, Brookhaven committed nearly $6 million in funding to go toward the jetty repair. At the time, Brookhaven hoped Port Jeff Village would contribute dollars for the repairs, because according to Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) the village would receive a direct benefit from the fix, but Garant has yet to show an inclination to do so. The repairs are expected to begin sometime during 2017. The total cost of the repairs is expected to be about $8 million, with grant money secured by state Sen. Ken LaValle (R-Port Jefferson) also going toward the project.

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