How to Relight an Extinguished Lighthouse
There are a number of lighthouses throughout the Great Lakes which have been considered as no longer necessary to serve navigational needs. As a result, their lights have been extinguished and removed from the Light Lists. As navigational technology improves, it is probable that the Coast Guard will consider yet more lights as unnecessary, and they will be extinguished.
To lighthouse stewards, historians and lighthouse aficionados in general, a lighthouse without a light is like a day without sunshine. But fear not if your favorite lighthouse is deemed to be unnecessary and extinguished. It is imminently possible, and relatively easy to have an extinguished light re-established.
Our hands-on experience
Over the years, the Great Lakes Lighthouse Keepers Association has been involved in re-establishing a number of aids to navigation on the Great Lakes.
The first light to be reactivated as a result of our efforts was the Round Island lighthouse which was extinguished permanently by the Coast Guard in 1949 after the establishment of the Round Island Passage light. In this particular situation, GLLKA applied to have the light reestablished in 1996 on behalf of Hiawatha National Forest, the current owner of the lighthouse.
In the second instance, GLLKA served on an advisory basis to the Alcona County Historical Society when the Coast Guard decided to extinguish the light at the Sturgeon Point lighthouse. The Society successfully applied to have the light registered as a Private Aid to Navigation, and it has been shining brightly ever since.
In our third, and most recent reactivation on behalf of Emmet County, we successfully applied to have the McGulpin Point light re-established as an active aid to navigation in 2008. The lighthouse will officially re-exhibit its light at a ceremony on May 30, 2009 - 103 years after the station was extinguished by the Lighthouse Board in 1906.
After contacting us in 2012, we referred the fine Folks with the Crisp Point Lighthouse Society to the information on this page, and after reading through they successfully applied to relight their lighthouse as a PATON ion 2013.
As such, we can report that once the Coast Guard no longer feels a light is necessary to serve mariners, it is both possible and relatively easy to have a lighthouse re-established as a private aid to navigation. (PATON)
What is a Private Aid to Navigation?
A Private Aid to Navigation is any buoy, light or day beacon owned and maintained by any individual or organization other than the United States Coast Guard. Private aids to navigation are at times erected and maintained by private citizens, marinas, yacht clubs, municipal governments, state governments, construction companies, dredging companies, research and non-profit organizations, beach front associations, and large industrial companies.
Private aids to navigation are designed to allow individuals or organizations to mark privately owned marine obstructions or other similar hazards to navigation, or to assist their own navigation operations.
Why is it necessary to register a private light with the Coast Guard?
Approval for Private Aids to Navigation (PATON) is regulated by the U.S. Coast Guard under Title 33 of the Code of Federal Regulations, Part 66. (See link to 33CFR66 at the upper left of this page.) For the Great Lakes area, this responsibility lies with the Ninth District Aids to Navigation Branch.
How to go about registering a Private Aid to Navigation
The establishment of a Private Aid to Navigation on the Great Lakes requires the completion of Coast Guard form CG-2554. Three copies of the completed form are then to be mailed to the PATON Program Manager at the Ninth District Headquarters in Cleveland, Ohio. (See link at the upper left of this page to download form CG-2554.
The PATON Program Manager can be of invaluable assistance in processing their paperwork and can provide copies of federal regulations governing aids to navigation and copies of previously issued permits to serve as a guide in completion. The approval process can take anywhere from two to four months to complete.
Approved PATON owners are reminded of their responsibility for the proper operation and maintenance of their private aids to navigation. When owners receive discrepancy reports from the Coast Guard, they are obligated to take immediate action to correct the discrepancy.
Where can I buy the necessary illuminating equipment?
Without a doubt, the simplest and least expensive way to re-illuminate a lighthouse is to install a modern acrylic optic in the lantern. Such systems are available in configurations which allow direct connection to existing 110-volt AC power systems, or as stand-alone, solar-powered 12-volt DC battery powered systems in locations where city power is unavailable. State-of-the-art systems now incorporate power saving and durable LED technology and feature remote flash characteristic programming.
If it is your desire to re-establish your light with a historically accurate Fresnel lens, you are likely best off considering installing an acrylic replica lens in order to protect the original historic artifact. These modern replicas are virtually indistinguishable from the original crown glass optics, but they can withstand the high variation of heat, cold, humidity and ultraviolet light which are always present in an exposed lantern. Click the "Illumination Manufacturers" button at the upper left of this page to view a list of all current known manufacturers of illumination systems.