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Saving the lighthouse OPINION
August 29,2009  —  Charleston Post and Courier

Reprinted from the Post and Courier

August 29,2009

The ocean no longer presents the same threat to the Morris Island Lighthouse as it has in years past. A coffer dam now surrounds the 137-year-old structure, providing a substantial barrier between the lighthouse and the sea.

The dam's steel sheeting and the granite boulders around it offer a large measure of relief as the annual hurricane threat intensifies. Sand is building up around the dam, as well. The lighthouse has been cut off from Morris Island for years as a result of erosion.

But the work isn't complete. Save the Light hopes to soon authorize a contract to undertake the final phase of the stabilizing process for the coastal icon.

The next project phase will have a cement-type sealant injected under the lighthouse to preserve the existing wood pilings from further damage and provide new structural stability.

Save the Light board chairman Al Hitchcock explains that marine worms are eating the 264 wood pilings that comprise the foundation. The next phase "will keep the lighthouse foundation from deteriorating any more," he says.

Among the anticipated benefits cited by Mr. Hitchcock will be to stop the lighthouse from leaning any further. Apparently that slant is a long-term trend. The lighthouse is believed to have first shifted off plumb during the 1886 earthquake.

Finishing the stabilization work won't be an end to the lighthouse project. Save the Light already is making plans to improve its appearance and make necessary repairs to its interior. The capital fundraising campaign undertaken by the grass-roots organization 10 years ago will continue.

But completion of the work around the base has been the primary goal since the preservation effort got under way. It is essential to the continued existence of the long-threatened landmark. The good work of Save the Light and its supporters in both private and public realms continues.

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