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Reprinted from the Charleston Post and Courier
August 24, 2004
The state Budget and Control Board's recent action on behalf of the Morris Island Lighthouse should finally break the logjam over plans to stabilize and restore the historic structure. Thanks to the board, there should be no impediment to starting the project next year.
The board's letter of support to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers acknowledges the importance of preserving the 128-year-old landmark. A group of local residents known as Save the Light Inc. has worked for years to that end, raising private funds to acquire the structure for the state and to assist in its restoration.
While the lighthouse hasn't functioned since its abandonment by the Coast Guard in the 1960s, it remains one of the best-known structures on South Carolina's coast. It also is one of the most threatened landmarks in the state, since erosion has left it in a precarious location in the inlet between Morris and Folly islands.
As our report noted, the unexpected accretion of land around the lighthouse should help stabilize the structure until a contractor can be hired to put a Corps plan for its long-term preservation into effect.
Nevertheless, the lighthouse remains at risk, particularly if a hurricane strikes. Every effort should be made to expedite work around the base of the lighthouse before the 2005 hurricane season.
The project had been stalled over liability and contract questions cited by the state Department of Natural Resources. DNR had been granted title to the structure, which had been purchased by Save the Light. The Legislature transfered title to the Budget and Control Board this year. State ownership is viewed as necessary for the Corps' involvement and to obtain public funds for the project. State, federal and local governments have allocated money for the stabilization work.
Rep. Bobby Harrell says the board's commitment is a message that the preservation of the structure is a state priority. "It's an important asset and we need to protect it," the Charleston Republican says. As chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, Rep. Harrell is a member of the five-man board, with the governor, the treasurer, the comptroller general and the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee. The board has broad responsibility over state policy, administration and finance.
The board's strong support has removed a major obstacle to a solution for the much-admired landmark. The sooner that work gets under way, the sooner its protection will be finally ensured.