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Progress Report on Morris Island Lighthouse from Save the Light, Inc.
April 20, 2004  —  Save the Light, Inc.

April 20, 2004

Dear Save the Light member,

It has been a while since we have communicated with you about the status of our project to preserve the Morris Island Lighthouse. We are writing to bring you up to date.

Save the Light Inc. bought the lighthouse from a private owner in April of 1999 and transferred ownership of this maritime treasure to the State of South Carolina in 2000. Since that time Save the Light has done all of the work of evaluating the structure, and designing and receiving approval for a plan for its stabilization and preservation. The preservation of the Morris Island Lighthouse is a 6 million dollar multiple phase project. The first phase will stabilize the piling foundation that has been exposed to the damage of surf and shipworms since the early 1960’s. The first phase will involve placing a new sheet pile cofferdam about six feet out side of the remains of the 1940 cofferdam. Outside of the new cofferdam, the United States Army Corps of Engineers (USACOE) will construct a typical erosion control construction, building a jetty size stone “island” around the lighthouse some 200 feet in diameter. Phase two will to be to use a jet grouting technique to fill any voids that exist between the lighthouse and it’s piling foundation and then filling the space between the new cofferdam and the lighthouse with concrete. Phase three will be to rehabilitate and paint the tower to its original day mark black and white striping.

As of November 1, 2003, all of us here at Save the Light Inc. were elated. Our plans for phase one and two had been approved and the US Army Corps of Engineers had finished the conversion of our project-funding source from Section 14 to Section 103 funding resulting in a $ 600,000.00 increase in available funding. We had in hand, cash and pledges that exceeded our requirements for funding the first phase of the foundation stabilization, and we were anticipating an early summer of 2004 awarding of the first phase contract. While it was a stretch, we hoped that we would be in construction in the coming summer (04).

We have been on hold since November for a number of reasons:

  1. The Department of Natural Resources, as sponsor, is unwilling to sign the Section 103 USACOE letter of agreement because of its “Hold Harmless” requirement. The state is uncomfortable with the hold harmless language as, in their eyes, the agreement constitutes an unfunded liability in a year in which money everywhere is tight.SCDNR is also unhappy with what they see as unacceptable exposure to cost overruns in the original contract and wants clearer language in the contract that will prevent a cost over run from creating an unfunded liability. After four months of negotiation, we are presently trying to get the Budget and Control Board to take possession of the lighthouse. It is hoped the problems of unfunded liabilities and cost containment will not be overwhelming when viewed as a part of the overall State budget rather than part of SCDNR'S budget. If we can get the State to accept ownership of the lighthouse, we are confident that language can be arrived at that will allow the Budget and Control Board to sign the letter of agreement. Getting to that point has and will take time.
  2. We have been concerned that our funding may be dispersed to other projects because of the delay. We are told that the state is confident that the funding can be bound until these issues are settled.
  3. There has been a protracted debate about guaranteeing construction access for the three phases of preservation through the North end of Folly Island. The North end of Folly Island is a significantly important historical site and as such the Department of Natural Resources and Charleston County Parks and Recreation Commission are studying our proposal for that construction access very carefully. It is important that we attain agreement to use the end of Folly because any other access approach will greatly elevate the price of preservation. There is little disagreement that the access through Folly North is necessary for the first two phases. Both DNR and PRC feel confident that Save the Light will be able to use this most proximate of sites as its staging area for phase III, the preservation and subsequent maintenance of the tower. We are in the process of ironing out the details.

There is an old saying that goes… “Every Form of Shelter Has a Price.” The down side of funding our project with both public and private funds is the delay caused in satisfying the additional requirements that public funding requires. We are confident that between the State and Save The Light, we can find a way to complete the project that so many of us have worked so hard on. The devil is always in the details. We will prevail.

We are writing to ask you to continue your support and be patient. We still believe that it is possible to begin the first phase in the spring of 2005. We thank you for your patience and enthusiasm. We will keep you informed of our progress.


Ernie Passailaigue
Save The Light, Inc.

Richard L. Beck DMD
Vice Chairman,
Save the Light Inc.

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