The National Historic Lighthouse Preservation Act of 2000 (NHLPA), 16 USC 470,
authorizes the disposal of historic lighthouses and stations. The Act amends the National Historic Preservation
Act of 1966 and establishes a national lighthouse preservation program. NHLPA recognizes the cultural, recreational, and
educational value associated with these historic resources by allowing lighthouse
properties to be transferred at no cost to federal agencies, state and local governments,
nonprofit corporations and community development organizations for park and recreation,
cultural, historic and educational uses.
The NHLPA provides for a federal panel to review applications for each lighthouse. The US Secretary of the Interior would then make
the final selections. Applications will be judged on the merits of the preservation and
use plan, and financial and management plans. Under
the NHLPA, the new owners must agree to adhere to the Secretary of the Interior Standards
for Rehabilitation and make the site available to the public.
The law states:
For the first time, nonprofit entities are on equal footing with federal agencies
and other public bodies to obtain historic lighthouse properties. It goes on to say A groups financial ability
to maintain the historic light station and adhere to historic covenants and other terms
and conditions of the transfer will be given significant consideration in the review
When it was
announced by the United States Coast Guard that the Currituck Beach Lighthouse was going
to be transferred under the NHLPA, the Outer Banks Conservationists began their bid for
consideration. The Outer Banks
Conservationists, a private, nonprofit group with more than 2000 members, was founded in
1980 for preservation and conservation purposes. They
hold a 50-year lease with the state of North Carolina for the compound, and a 20-year
lease on the lighthouse with the US Coast Guard. Over
the past two decades, they have raised more than $1.5 million to restore, maintain, and
operate the Currituck Beach Lighthouse. As
such, they would seem to be in good standing to have the Currituck Beach Lighthouse
conveyed to them under the NHLPA.
Working against the
Outer Banks Conservationists, however, is US Rep. Walter B. Jones, Jr. (R-NC). He has introduced into legislation, entitled the
Comprehensive Natural Resources Protection
Act of 2002 (HR. 5569), Section 1670, a bill that would transfer ownership of the
Currituck Beach Lighthouse to the Currituck County government. Section 1670 reads:
CONVEYANCE OF HISTORIC LIGHTHOUSE
Notwithstanding any other
provision of law, the historic light station known as the Currituck Beach Lighthouse shall
be conveyed, by quitclaim deed and without
consideration, to Currituck County, North Carolina. The
conveyance shall be completed as soon as practicable after the date of the enactment of
if approved, would give the Currituck Beach Lighthouse to the Currituck County government,
without the review process called for in the National Historic Lighthouse Preservation Act
of 2000, an Act that Congressman Jones co-sponsored.
Jones, and others, argues that nonprofit organizations, such as the Outer Banks
Conservationists, are here today and gone tomorrow, and that the County of Currituck will
always be there. They continue that local
governments can do a better job of maintaining and restoring lighthouses.
Where was Currituck County more
than two decades ago, when the Currituck Beach Lighthouse was run down, and the
Outer Banks Conservationists raised private donations to refurbish it?
Where will the County be when they face a
deficit in funding, and choices must be made between providing money for roads, schools,
public safety, etc., or for maintenance of the lighthouse?
While it may be true that the Outer Banks
Conservationists do not reside in Currituck County (according to Rep. Bill Owens), that
hasnt stopped them from raising more than $1.5 million for the restoration,
maintenance and operation of the Currituck Beach Lighthouse over the past two decades.
Under the NHLPA, the new owners must
agree to adhere to the Secretary of the Interior Standards for Rehabilitation and make the
site available to the public. Congressman
Jones amendment does not include such language.
In todays age,
with rising taxes, and groups of every sort requesting public dollars for their cause, is
it sensible for the County of Currituck to undertake such a task as would be required to
maintain and operate the Currituck Beach Lighthouse?
Or would it be more prudent to give permanent ownership of the Currituck Beach Lighthouse
to the Outer Banks Conservationists, a group of dedicated individuals that, based on their
record of restoration, maintenance and operation of the Currituck Beach Lighthouse, have
proven their financial ability to maintain the historic light station.
At the very
least, the Outer Banks Conservationists deserve the opportunity to have their application
to obtain the Currituck Beach Lighthouse reviewed by the federal panel as outlined in the
NHLPA. For Congressman Jones to allow it to
just be given to the county government under a quitclaim deed would undermine and destroy
the National Historic Lighthouse Preservation Act. Again,
an Act that Congressman Jones co-sponsored.
I support the transfer
of ownership of the Currituck Beach Lighthouse from the federal government to those who
currently oversee its success the Outer Banks Conservationists.
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