Looking out over the Long Island Sound from the sidewalk on the northern edge of the parking lot at East Beach in Port Jefferson, one gets a sense of peering over a precipice.

The feeling is both literal and figurative.

A jumble of sharp boulders stacked against the shoreline make up a seawall — meant to keep the Sound at bay — that stretches east, ending at a small spit of land that borders Mount Sinai Harbor and its western jetty.

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That jetty is a big part of the problem at East Beach.

Storms continue to batter the beach between Port Jefferson and Mt. Sinai Harbor causing severe damage to the eastern side of the parking lot.

An engineering firm contracted by the village has made suggestions on how to repair and strengthen the area to prevent further decay.

That’s another problem.

On the opposite side of the beach, to the west, the seawall cuts back — ending abruptly where a ramp leads down to the beach, arching out to the horizon toward Port Jefferson Harbor.

Trees and scrub seem on a bluff seem ready to take a swan dive into the water.

At the top of the bluff is the Port Jefferson Country Club, where Mayor Margot Garant says the village already had to make adjustments to lighting for the tennis courts — all due to the erosion.

Finally, the sidewalk along the seawall is losing its support as sand and rocks are scooped out from underfoot by the weather, creating a potential hazard.

Erosion and storm damage seems to be coming at an ever-increasing pace. At the same time, the village is dealing with layers of bureaucracy in trying to restore and protect East Beach.

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Photo: Mayor Margot Garant tours East Beach with GreaterPortJeff.com.

Problem 1: shifting sand

East Beach is losing sand at an alarming pace. And there is still more sand to lose.

It’s being lost through the century-old, sieve-like Mount Sinai Harbor jetty and being dug out from underneath the sidewalks along the seawall by Mother Nature, leaving an ominously dark hollow between the concrete and the sand, like a pie crust after someone has scooped out the sweet center.

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On an early spring day, Garant surveyed the damage once again and spoke animatedly about the conflux of problems that East Beach faces.

“We’re trying to figure out how do we get people back to here and utilize what we have,” she said. “This is a beautiful spot but there’s not that much usable sand.”

The village has been stymied by the red tape, sometimes waiting years for a solution to be reached.

“When I first took office we had beach here,” she said. “We had stairs that would go down to the beach.”

Then Mother Nature had its way.

“We had a Nor’easter in the fall of 2009, then we had Hurricane Irene. And those two storms did the most damage. They took out the beach. They took out the wall. They took out the stairs. They took out everything.”

Years ago, there was a mandate to save the structure that existed at East Beach and bolster the protection an existing seawall provided. Improvements were done to help make it more enjoyable for residents, like installing a canoe rack and a gazebo, and repaving the parking lot.

Back in 2012, the village wrestled with its problems, saying that replenishing the sand at East Beach would be a fool’s errand since it would just seep through the jetty again to be deposited in the harbor and on Cedar Beach.

Preserving the sand would have to wait until the jetty was fixed.

At high tide the jetty wall sinks beneath the water. Even with the wood dolphins marking the end of the harbor, high tide can cause a problem if an errant boater mistakenly runs aground traversing into the harbor where they think the rocks end.

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The jetty is the village’s biggest problem, and its one Garant says is out of her control.

“The biggest challenge is the breach of the jetties,” she said. “Our sand is getting scooped out and deposited over there.”

The Town of Brookhaven owns the jetty and hasn’t done the needed repair work that Garant says is imperative to fixing the woes at East Beach.

A little bit of the red tape seems to be loosening after years of waiting. Garant said that the town has a plan to fix the jetty.

“I think they finally have the money in place and they were supposed to start this winter, which they didn’t,” she said. “We lost another season.”

In 2016, Brookhaven Town put out a press release saying that it had secured upward of $3 million in grants from New York State to help fund the jetty repair.

A recent resolution passed by the town outlines the final costs of the project.

The total cost is estimated to be $8.6 million, of which the town will be reimbursed under a grant of $1.3 million. The remaining $7.3 million will be funded by the New York State grant of $3 million and a $4.3 million bond.

Garant said that the project finally went out to bid in late May.

Documents from the town show that the contract to reconstruct both the east and west jetties in Mt. Sinai Harbor was awarded to Bay Shore-based H&L Contracting for $7.4 million as the lowest responsible bidder on the job. Four companies in total bid on the work.

The town did not say when the work will begin.

Once the jetties are repaired, dredging the harbor will be another project. Garant imagines the town can help her cause to restore the beach by putting whatever it dredges out of the harbor on to East Beach.

“We want our sand back,” she said.

Problems 2 & 3: where the sidewalk ends

On the east terminus of the beach parking lot, storms have ripped into the lot and sidewalk — causing severe damage this past winter.

The engineering firm hired by the village recommends the seawall be extended to wrap around the eastern flank to provide further protection.

Access to the beach from this side will be incorporated into the design. The firm proposed extending the sidewalk 150 feet and putting in a permanent ramp to provide ADA accessibility to the area for residents.

If not properly reinforced, the area will continue to suffer from storm surge damage, causing public safety concerns at a critical pedestrian beach access point, according to a report generated by the firm.

In addition, the firm wants to put in clean sand with beach grass to backfill the area between the sidewalk and the parking lot.

At East Beach you can already stroll above the seawall on a concrete sidewalk that runs east to west facing the water. There is a buffer of sand, rocks and intermittent brush between the end of the sidewalk and the metal girders backstopping the seawall.

Yet, from underneath the sidewalk, the layer of rocks and sand is being scoured away, leaving the sidewalk hovering as much as a foot above the ground. Seemingly, nothing is holding it up anymore.

Garant says that the village is still waiting for DEC permits to begin shoring up the sidewalk as recommended by its engineering firm. Plans call for four inches of concrete between the sidewalk and the seawall.

“We have the workman lined up,” she insisted.

Problem 4: A fight on two fronts

At the other end of the beach is a slightly different issue.

“The high tide mark goes to the bottom of the hill,” Garant says, pointing out the bluff on the west side of East Beach. “And then we started having this.”

She’s referring to the landslide. Trees are tilted toward the bottom of the hill. They are becoming uprooted and anything that lands on the bottom, the tide takes away.

“This is been going on now for about two years. Probably longer.”

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Garant says that deforestation is part one part of this problem. There is a brown line on the trees where deer eat up to. She says that is impacting the root system of the trees, making the bluff vulnerable to erosion on top.

At the bottom of the hill, the tide makes it a two-fronted battle.

To save the bluff, the village plans to extend the existing wall at the base of the hill and put the same kind kind of break-wall against that.

Garant says she is still struggling with the DEC, not just for permits but the scope of the project itself.

“The DEC was like we don’t want you to go that far,” she said. “We were fighting with them for the last six months. I can only go as fast as these layers of government allow me to go.”

In an email statement to GreaterPortJefferson, a DEC representative said that the problem is one it takes seriously.

“Coastal erosion issues along Long Island Sound are a serious concern and DEC prioritizes a rigorous review of all permit applications to make certain they are protective of the environment and offers a solution that will not exacerbate erosion conditions,” the email said. “In addition to DEC review of these types of permit applications, Department of State authorizations may be required.”

In the meantime, waiting only makes it worse.

“The challenge is that the more time you wait the more the topography changes,” Garant said. “There’s no more beach left.”