Me Hard at Work at the East House
Dad really upset me the other day when he told me that the United States Coast Guard might turn off the light at Point Cabrillo (he was really upset, barked up a storm for over a minute). I guess people in Washington DC, which I think is in the United States, want to turn it off because it is no longer needed.
Well we know better, a lot of people need that light, visitors, fisherman, people who live along the Mendocino Coast and others too. Even some dogs need the light, who would come visit me at the East House and give me treats and take my picture? What would I write about in my blog, YIKES!
Anyway the PCLK board president Tanya Smart wrote some stuff about what is happening and what we can do about it and I have included it below. Dad and I will be writing our letter of concern, hope you will too.
Dear Volunteers and Friends of the Point Cabrillo Light,
As most of you know, we have been informed by the USCG that it is looking into decommissioning the 3rd Order Point Cabrillo Lens as the Federal Aid to Navigation. Our Coast Guard friends in the Humboldt sector have applied for a waiver that would allow the PCLK to operate the lens as a Private Aid to Navigation if and when it is decommissioned.
The Lens needs your help to accomplish this goal.
Please write a letter stating your opinion on the granting of this waiver. Address it to:
Curator Arlyn Danielson
c/o CWO Curtis Barthel
Sector Humboldt Bay
1001 Lycoming Way
McKinleyville, CA 95519
Some of the talking points that might help you formulate your letter:
The jewel of the Station is the Fresnel lens, which was physically restored by PCLK in partnership with the USCG and restored to operation as a federal aid to navigation in 1999 – the only instance of such restoration in the United States. PCLK has maintained the lens as part of the local USCG Auxiliary since its restoration.
The USCG has notified PCLK that it intends to decommission the lens as an aid to navigation. Upon decommissioning, the lens becomes a “historic artifact” under Coast Guard regulations, and is subject to myriad rules regarding how it must be treated. These regulations would require that the lens be extinguished and removed from the tower so that it can be preserved and public access can be maintained. By the Curator’s rules, this means putting it in the bottom of the Lighthouse. This would be a very expensive operation.
Losing the light would be catastrophic for the Light Station and the Park, effectively removing its heart – if the light goes out in the Lighthouse, the park’s soul will go dark with it. In addition, it is expensive to move the lens out of the tower. Given the budget issues the Coast Guard is dealing with, the most likely scenario is that they would have to leave the lens in place, unlit and shrouded. At this point, because the heat from the light is absent and no one will be taking care of the lens, deterioration will begin and public access cease, thus thwarting the goals of the Coast Guard and the good intentions of all concerned.
PCLK is able and willing to operate the lens as a “private aid to navigation”, a status the USCG has conferred in other locations. This means that the lens would stay in the tower and continue to operate, continue to be maintained by PCLK – USCG Auxiliary volunteers, and continue its value to local mariners and the visiting public. To do this, the USCG Curator needs to grant a waiver of the rules that would apply when it assumes the status of a historic artifact. The USCG has already applied to the USCG Curator for this waiver. To our knowledge no decision has been made.
When the State Coastal Conservancy acquired the Light Station, the parties entered into a license agreement regarding operation of the lens, and amended it when the lens was restored to operation; these agreements are still in force. We can say with utter certainty that this day was anticipated by the Coast Guard, the state, and PCLK (originally formed as the North Coast Interpretive Association). The Coast Guard anticipated that technology would outstrip the navigational need for the lens, but also anticipated that the lens would be best served by remaining in the Lighthouse and in operation. This was the plan and the promise that was made to our community and to everyone in exchange for the funds that were expended to restore the lighthouse and lens. Restoring the lighthouse and lens cost approximately $1.5 million taxpayer and local donor dollars. The PCLK and community supplied countless volunteer hours and our supporters supplied much of the funding. All parties agreed to embark on this adventure and achieved this miracle of restoration with the assurance that when (not if) it were to be decommissioned, it would continue to shine and be a beacon to our community as a Private Aid to Navigation.
The PCLK is able and willing to step up to fulfill our promise and our obligations. We are more than capable of doing so. The PCLK helped restore the lens and nterprets its history and the history of the Coast Guard at Point Cabrillo Light Station to more than 32,000 visitors annually. More than 1200 school children visit the Light Station every year and every one of them knows the “10 second interval” of the flash. The PCLK through the US Coast Guard Auxiliary have taken care of the lens for nearly 15 years. We have proven our capacity and are financially capable and willing to care for the lens. All we need is for the Coast Guard to allow us to do so. We need the Coast Guard authorities in Washington DC to honor their promise to this community that if we raised the money and did the work, then when (not if) they decommissioned it, we would be allowed to turn it back on as a Private Aid.
Thank you for taking the time to write.
Tanya Smart, President
Point Cabrillo Lightkeepers Association