New England

Maine Lighthouse Goes Dark After Coast Guard Cuts Power

A beloved Maine lighthouse is darkened after an electrical problem.

The U.S. Coast Guard says it cut power to Seguin Island Light Station last fall after noticing a problem with a submerged cable, one of only two like it left in New England.

In November, the USCG went to the light station to investigate a report that the light inside, a constant white beacon, had gone out.

According to Matthew Odom, chief of waterways management for USCG Sector Northern New England, no power was reaching the island, but there was power on the mainland pole before the underwater cable.

Odom expects there is some break or other issue with the two-and-a-half-mile cable that goes underground at Phippsburg's Popham Beach and resurfaces on Seguin Island.

Since the cable had become exposed by beach erosion and the cable is decades old, the USCG deemed it unsafe and decided not to restore power.

"The Coast Guard stopped servicing submarine cables in the 1990s," said Odom.

While a permanent power solution is reached, a temporary LED system has been set up by USCG technicians that only operates at night.

But the lighthouse is also used by the Friends of Seguin Island Light Station, a group that restored the 162-year-old light tower and its out buildings in the 1980s.

The group's executive director, Cyndy Carney, says FOSILS only found out about the lack of power two weeks ago, and it's causing a major disruption to the 2019 season.

"We need it for hot water, we need it for the stove, we need it for the well pump," said Carney.

To restore power temporarily, FOSILS plans to buy a generator and have it delivered by helicopter, a project that Carney expects will cost $5,000 to $10,000 and delay visitors from coming to the island by two weeks.

"The timing stinks," she said. "Scrambling is a nice way to describe what we're doing right now."

Eventually, Carney explained, a $30,000 or $40,000 solar array will be installed as a permanent power source, along with what will likely be a new, Coast Guard-mandated light system that will only shine at night.

"Most of ours have been switched over to LED, powered by solar," said Odom.

For fans of the incandescent beacon, used to seeing the warm, golden beam, the temporary LED system and its eventual replacement will not glow the same way.

"I cried for two days when they told me this, and then when they told me they were going to do an LED light," said Carney.

The group hopes to have the lighthouse powered and open for visitors by June.

It has a GoFunMme page set up to raise money for the generator and is also accepting donations for the eventual solar power system.

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