Cape Breton Nova Scotia, photo from 2011 shows the Margaree Harbour Range Lights, over 100 years old. Questions over environmental cleanup hang over the fate of these historic structures

Cape Breton Nova Scotia, photo from 2011 shows the Margaree Harbour Range Lights, over 100 years old. Questions over environmental cleanup hang over the fate of these historic structures
Photo Credit: Dennis jarvis- wiki commons

Fate of Canada’s lighthouses to be revealed soon

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970 lighthouses declared surplus in 2010

The federal government will reveal plans for hundreds of it surplus lighthouses in the next 90 days.

The lighthouses have fallen victim to technology. First came automation in the past couple of decades, meaning lighthouse keepers and their residences were redundant. In many cases, those extra buildings were demolished.  Then came GPS which meant ships no longer needed lights to warn them of the shoreline or dangerous rocks as they knew their precise location, which made the lighthouses themselves redundant, at least according to the government.

Hecla Lighthouses at Gull Harbour, Lake Winnipeg, Manitoba. The original lighthouse was built in 1898. The taller tower came 30 years later.
Hecla Lighthouses at Gull Harbour, Lake Winnipeg, Manitoba. The original lighthouse was built in 1898. The taller tower came 30 years later. © Karen Pauls/CBC)

However, many locals living near the lighthouses say they’re still important for inshore boaters and fishermen, and perhaps more so, are heritage artefacts of Canadian lifestyle.  Indeed, 348 have been the subject of public petitions for preservation under the federal Heritage Lighthouse Protection Act.

By law, the federal government has another 90 days to reveal exactly which structures it will declare as heritage lighthouses.

Historic lighthouse to be restored (Apr 2015)

Future dim for lighthouses (2013

Nova Scotia Lighthouse Preservation Society

Lighthouses of Canada

A Nova Scotia Member of Parliament (MP) for the governing federal Conservative Party, Scott Armstrong revealed earlier this week that 74 lighthouses will be granted heritage status with 32 going to community groups or other levels of government which will then act on preservation, while 42 will remain as navigation aids owned by the Crown (government).

March 2014-Locals said the iconic Church Point lighthouse in southwest Nova Scotia,was destroyed by hurricane force wind druing a violent March blizzard.
March 2014-Locals said the iconic Church Point lighthouse in southwest Nova Scotia,was destroyed by hurricane force wind druing a violent March blizzard. © (Courtesy Dan Robichaud
The Church Point lighthouse, which was built in 1874, as it was before its complete destruction in the storm.
The Church Point lighthouse, which was built in 1874, as it was before its complete destruction in the storm. “The community is in shock” said nearby store owner Dan Robichaud © courtesy Dan Robichaud

 

One of the main problems for community groups taking over maintenance and preservation of the lights, is the cost. In some cases there are environmental concerns and possible liabilities such as contamination of the surrounding soil from decades of flaking and repainting of lead paint.

Barry MacDonald, former president of the Nova Scotia Lighthouse Preservation Society, insists the government list of structures to be declared as “heritage” sites worthy of preservation, isn’t long enough.  He has worked for 17 years to protect lighthouses across the country, but says Ottawa’s five-year plan to transfer ownership of surplus lighthouses to community groups, individuals and other levels of government has been bogged down by a lack of funding and environmental obstacles.

Built in 1870 the unusual lighthouse in Ferryland, Newfoundland, was original from stone, but then covered over with iron plates in 1890. It was staffed until 1970, occupied by an artist for some years, then abandoned for the next two decades. It was saved from demolition by the town who now own it, but suffered from vandals. It is now leased by a restaurant operator who has restored it giving visitors a stunning view out onto the surrounding ocean and landscape.
Built in 1870 the unusual lighthouse in Ferryland, Newfoundland, was original from stone, but then covered over with iron plates in 1890. It was staffed until 1970, occupied by an artist for some years, then abandoned for the next two decades. It was saved from demolition by the town who now own it, but suffered from vandals. It is now leased by a restaurant operator who has restored it giving visitors a stunning view out onto the surrounding ocean and landscape. © CBC

Soil contamination from decades of lead-based paint is one  of the concerns of the non-profit group hopin to take over and  preserve the Margaree Harbour range lights in Nova Scotia. The government offered them the lighthouse but without the money to remove contaminated soil, and they have so far declined to accept due to the potential cost and liability

The lead-contaminated soil on an island near Port Mouton N.S, had to be removed and replaced in 2011 by helicopter at the exhorbitant rate of $1,400 per hour.

In other cases, such as the lighthouse on Flint Island, Nova Scotia, and others, mercury was used to suspend the heavy rotating fresnel lens and there have been cases of spills.

The potential costs of environmental clean-up are far beyond the local non-profit community groups, and have scared some from seeking to preserve their local structure.

MacDonald says in some case federal officials have told local groups there will be funds for environmental clean-up but only after they assume ownership which could expose them to some degree of liability.

MacDonald says, “The communities I’ve talked to are very afraid of that liability word.”

 

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One comment on “Fate of Canada’s lighthouses to be revealed soon
  1. Toni Raugust says:

    William H. Moore was Contracted for the foundation Gull Harbour Lighthouse. He Drowned there at Lake Winnipeg 38yrs old who has the contract for putting in the foundation of Coal Hurting Lighthouse in Lake Wpg drowed on Saturday. It appears the small boat which he owned in his work, by some means got away from him and in attempting to regain it he slipped into deep water and drowned. The body was recovered shortly after the accident and brought here by the steamer Lady of the Lake. The funeral took place this afternoon to Mapleton Cemetery (July 28th 1898) Mr Moore belonged to Portage La Prairie, But has lived for some time at Selkirk. He leaves a wife and child. This was the son of James Moore and Ann Roe of Portage la prairie and pioneers of Osborne MB. One of his sisters was Adeline Moody of Selkirk MB. He was my GG Uncle brother to my gggrandmother Eliza Moore Jones. Just a tid bit on the history of the lighthouse early days.