The new sea wall at the base of the bluff...

The new sea wall at the base of the bluff supporting the Port Jefferson Country Club, which had been threatened by erosion. Credit: Newsday/John Paraskevas

The first half of a $10 million effort to restore and rebuild a collapsing bluff at the Port Jefferson Country Club is nearing completion as village officials try to save the club from the impact of storm damage, Mayor Margot J. Garant said last week.

The face of the 97-foot-high bluff has been covered with newly planted switchgrass and beachgrass and burlap netting to stem erosion, and a 240-foot-long concrete and steel wall runs along the base of the cliff beneath the village-owned country club's Waterview catering hall.

A year ago, the hall and adjacent tennis courts had been in danger of collapsing as the edge of the bluff crept closer due to decades of rain, wind and waves from Long Island Sound. Now, village officials think they'll get another 35 years of use from the facilities, Garant said.

"We really think this bluff has been stabilized," she said last Thursday as she gestured toward the wall, which rises about 5 feet over a beach and is buttressed by boulders at the base of the cliff. "It's like a fortress."

Village officials acted quickly last year to save the catering hall, which brings about $360,000 in annual revenue to the village, and the tennis courts, after an engineering survey and aerial photos showed the bluff had receded about 50 feet in about a decade.

Officials canceled last year's summer tennis leagues and classes, and then sold bonds to raise $10 million for the project. In January, officials announced a $3.75 million Federal Emergency Management Agency grant to help fund the work.

Some Port Jefferson residents had questioned the cost of the project last year and suggested the courts and catering hall should be relocated farther from the cliff, rather than rebuilt at their longtime locations.

Former village trustee Bruce Miller, who had supported the initial phase of the project as a village board member, said some residents felt left out of the decision-making because the village chose not to put the project up for a public referendum.

"The public elects officials to represent them, and they need to be aware of issues in a timely fashion," Miller said. "The harried rush to judgment is not a viable way to reach large decisions in the community.”

Garant said there had been little time to act because erosion had reached a critical stage. Demolishing the catering facility and rebuilding it would have cost about $7 million, but probably would not have received FEMA funding, she said.

"As public officials, part of our mission is to protect the assets," she said.

Tennis is canceled again this year after the village removed the courts as part of the rebuilding project. 

Garant said the project's second phase, expected to start this fall, will include new tennis courts and space for pickleball — a new offering for residents.

"We're trying to restore the racket sport facility as much as we can," Garant said. "But obviously, losing 50 feet has an impact."

CORRECTION:

An earlier version of the story misstated the type of vegetation planted to stem erosion on a bluff at the Port Jefferson Country Club.

Features of Port Jefferson's effort to rebuild an eroding bluff at the village-owned country club and restore tennis facilities there.

The wall: 240-foot steel plate wall, buttressed by boulders. Steel is dug into the earth and rises, covered by a concrete cap, about five feet over the village's East Beach at the base of the cliff.

Plantings: Above the wall are five tiers of beach plantings. Above the tiers and to the west, the face of the cliff is covered by plants and burlap netting to stem erosion.

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