Digest>Archives> December 2002

SECRETARY APPLAUDS LIGHTHOUSE PROGRAM, HOUSE MOVES TO VIOLATE IT

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Photo by: Janice Stone

By Preservation Action

Two weeks ago, as Secretary of the Interior Gale Norton sat before the cameras on NBC’s Today Show trumpeting the import and success of the National Historic Lighthouse Preservation (NHLP) program, the U.S. House of Representatives was debating a bill that could undermine the program entirely. Section 1607 of the Comprehensive National Resources Protection Act of 2002 (H.R. 5569), which the House failed to pass last week, directs the Coast Guard to convey by quitclaim deed, the Currituck Beach Lighthouse to Currituck County, North Carolina. This conveyance would be made wholly outside the process and procedures put in place by the National Historic Lighthouse Preservation Act of which Secretary Norton is rightly so proud.

Norton explained that the program is designed to transfer lighthouses and light stations from the Coast Guard to non- profits or government entities. She stressed that in order to assure that the lighthouse is well cared for, the National Parks Service carefully screens prospective owners through a competitive process. She said, “we are fairly picky, and we make sure that people will comply with the historic preservation standards, and that they are people who really have the ability to take care of them.” Under the program, the new owners must agree to adhere to the Secretary of Interior Standards for Rehabilitation and make the site available to the public. The transfer contract also includes a reversion clause that require return of the property to the federal government if these conditions are not met. The Currituck transfer proposed in H.R. 5569 includes no such language. Instead, it would transfer the lighthouse without conducting a formal application process, and without any of the safeguards that Secretary Norton enumerated.

Preservation Action, the National Trust and a host of North Carolina groups and lighthouse activists are objecting to Section 1607 sponsored by Walter B. Jones (R-NC). Such a transfer would set a dangerous precedent that may encourage other Members of Congress to act outside of the established program putting at risk the architectural integrity of these special maritime resources. To voice your objection write to Resources Committee Chairman James Hanson (R-UT), 242 Cannon House Office Building, Washington, DC 20515-4401 and Ranking Member Nick Rahall (D-WV), 2307 Rayburn House Office Building, Washington, DC 20515-4803. Ask them to remove Section1670 from the Comprehensive National Resources Protection Act of 2002.

We need everyone’s help now - today - Please do not delay, contact your Congressman and your Senators in Washington, D.C.

This story appeared in the December 2002 edition of Lighthouse Digest Magazine. The print edition contains more stories than our internet edition, and each story generally contains more photographs - often many more - in the print edition. For subscription information about the print edition, click here.

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