Steve Kuchera, Forum News Service, Published May 19 2013
Government seeks steward for Superior lighthouse
The federal government is making the offer under the National Historic Lighthouse Preservation Act, which aims to find stewards for lighthouses in an effort to save tax dollars while preserving the past. The program is administered by the General Services Administration in partnership with the Coast Guard and National Park Service.
“Advancements in navigation technology have reduced USCG’s requirement to own and operate light stations,” GSA spokeswoman Cat Langel said. “While the USCG may continue to maintain active aids to navigation at or near specific light stations, the structures themselves are often no longer critical to the USCG’s mission needs.”
Whoever takes control of the Superior lighthouse will have to agree to several conditions. The structure is on the National Register of Historic Places, and any new owner must maintain the structure to federal standards. In addition, the Coast Guard will reserve an unrestricted right to enter the structure to service, replace or move the still-operating aids to navigation.
The Superior lighthouse is not the only one the federal government is offering this year for free transfer under the National Historical Lighthouse Preservation Act. One in Connecticut and five in Michigan are also available.
Since enactment of the lighthouse preservation act in 2000, the GSA has conveyed 92 lighthouses to new owners required to maintain their historic standards.
“Historic lighthouses are unique in that they have sentimental and tangible value as historic landmarks in local communities,” GSA Great Lakes Regional Administrator Ann P. Kalayil said. “Through the preservation program, GSA helps find new stewards for lighthouses that are no longer considered mission critical to the United States Coast Guard.”
New owners have put the lighthouses to several uses.
“The North Point Lighthouse in Milwaukee has been restored and is now a public museum,” Curran said.
The NPS has approved a group’s application to own a different Milwaukee navigational light.
“They plan to use it as an educational facility,” Curran said.
One plan for that light is to use it to help teach people construction skills.
“They will be working on part of the rehabilitation of that building,” Curran said.
Some lighthouses are landmarks – a highly visible sign of a community’s presence on the lake.
“Sometimes communities like to own those lighthouses because of that importance,” Curran said.
Not all of the transfers have been free. If an eligible public body or nonprofit organization doesn’t come forward, surplus lighthouses might go on the auction block.
That happened with the light tower next to the Aerial Lift Bridge on Duluth’s south breakwater. It was offered for free transfer under the program in 2007. After no public, nonprofit or educational group expressed an interest, the government sold it in 2008 to Steve Sola and Matt Kampf of Duluth for $31,000 on an online auction.
Such sales have raised more than $3 million over the years. The money goes to the Coast Guard to help maintain lights that are still in federal ownership.