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Coast Guard plans to reinforce historic Cattle Point Lighthouse's foundation in summer

Cattle Point Lighthouse is one of the most photographed historic structures in the San Juans. A neighbor believes it
Cattle Point Lighthouse is one of the most photographed historic structures in the San Juans. A neighbor believes it's also one of the most threatened. Top photo, erosion has caused concrete to break away from the foundation. Middle photo, Anne Haskins looks under the lighthouse, a corner of which has been cleared. Bottom photo, a view of the lighthouse from the bluff reveals erosion has removed soil and sand from beneath two corners of the lighthouse.
— image credit: Richard Walker

Cattle Point Lighthouse is one of the most photographed historic structures in the San Juans.

A neighbor believes it's also one of the most threatened.

Anne Haskins said she and her husband Ken take frequent walks to the lighthouse and were so shocked this week by the cumulative erosion that she was prompted to call the U.S. Coast Guard.

Wind has eroded sand from beneath a portion of the 74-year-old structure. Concrete has broken away from the foundation.

Former county fire marshal Rick Galer submitted a photo to the Coast Guard in July, showing what he estimates is 25 percent of the footing exposed due to wind erosion.

"I hope something can be done to save Cattle Point Lighthouse," Galer wrote July 12.

Turns out, the Coast Guard has plans this summer to reinforce the foundation. John M. Barberi, waterway management projects officer in the Coast Guard's 13th District office in Seattle, said his office customarily visits each aid to navigation in the district once every two years and, last summer, photographs were taken of the lighthouse's condition. Based on that condition, work to reinforce the foundation was scheduled for summer 2010.

Barberi, a retired Coast Guard senior chief, said a crew of five guardsmen will reinforce the foundation with sheet piles — driven piles of thin interlocking sheets of steel to obtain a continuous barrier in the ground — and concrete. Barberi said the concrete will probably be flown in by helicopter.

Barberi said the work will "make solid the portion of the foundation that is eroding away." He said the work will cost about $2,000. That's not including any permits that might be required.

While the project is scheduled for summer, Barberi was expected to review photographs taken Dec. 29 by The Journal, adding that photographic evidence of significant erosion "could step it up a bit."

Situated on a sandy bluff at the entrance to Cattle Pass and San Juan Channel, Cattle Point Lighthouse is as much a part of the island's maritime history as it is the breathtaking beauty of the point.

Cattle Point's first light was a lens lantern on a post erected in 1888. In 1921, the U.S. Navy installed a radio compass station, which has been restored for an interpretive center; that building and grounds are now owned and maintained by the state Department of Natural Resources.

The 34-foot, octagonal, concrete lighthouse was built in 1935 and since then has been a safeguard for vessels transiting the channel and the Strait of Juan de Fuca. The lighthouse is now owned by the Coast Guard and maintained as an aid to navigation. The lighthouse is a periodic wedding venue and was the backdrop for a 1984 television commercial.

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