Chilkat Valley News - Serving Haines and Klukwan, Alaska since 1966

Lighthouse committee on third round attempt to lease Eldred Rock


April 19, 2018

The Eldred Rock Lighthouse Committee hopes it’s near the end of an almost 20-year battle to access the island and restore the historic lighthouse.

Longtime lighthouse committee member Pam Randles said the group is on its third attempt to lease the island for five years from the Coast Guard in hopes of completing annual maintenance on the historic structures.

Eldred Rock, located in Lynn Canal about 20 miles south of Haines, is the oldest original Alaskan lighthouse building. It was built in 1906 and is on the National Register of Historic Places.

The United States Coast Guard owns the island and its buildings, including the octagonal lighthouse, a boathouse, carpenter shop and helicopter pad. Coast Guard members lived in the lighthouse until its light was automated in 1973.

With passage of the National Historic Lighthouse Preservation Act in 2000, a number of interested people from Haines began to pursue obtaining Eldred Rock Lighthouse under the act, Randles said.

Through the act, the Coast Guard turns its lighthouses over to the General Services Administration. According to Sheldon Museum records, Eldred Rock appeared briefly on the administration’s list of lighthouses to be transferred under the act in 2004 but was quickly pulled off as the result of a claim made by the U.S. Forest Service. 

Passage of The Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation Act of 2006, as well as Department of Conservation concerns about contaminated soil, allowed Eldred Rock and three other small lighthouses to be transferred back to the Coast Guard. But Eldred Rock and the committee’s attempts to restore it were put on the backburner, Randles said.

In 2013, when the Eldred Rock Lighthouse Committee was associated with the museum, it was granted a “historic license” to restore the lighthouse. Committee members, as well as Coast Guard and Marine Exchange of Alaska officials, made a trip to the island for an assessment. The committee became its own nonprofit organization later that year.

The Marine Exchange is a nonprofit seeking to track boats and ships statewide, including by high-tech gear. Its interest is in stationing tracking gear on the island, but it also has helped restore lighthouses elsewhere in the region, according to its website. The group, staffed with former Coast Guard employees, has dedicated $1,000 per year plus labor toward restoration efforts. Representative Jonathon Wood has partnered with the local lighthouse committee. Randles said the group’s help has been “invaluable.”

The committee’s restoration plan, in conjunction with the state historic preservation office, includes getting rid of asbestos and lead paint, updating plumbing and electric and making the lighthouse’s three large bedrooms and kitchen livable spaces for guests to stay or host events. Randles said they hope to convert the carpenter shop into a hostel for passing boaters.

“Eldred Rock Lighthouse is well-loved by the public,” Randles said. “It’s important for historical reasons, and everyone that passes on the ferry and cruises take a look. We would like to not only preserve it but make it accessible.”


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