A public comment period on an environmental assessment (EA) for the future rehabilitation and restoration of the Ocracoke Light Station ends on Wednesday, April 13.
Two lightly-attended meetings were held in Ocracoke village on March 28 about the upcoming project, which seeks to repair and possibly raise historic buildings that are located at the Light Station site.
Buildings within the Ocracoke Light Station complex include the double keepers’ quarters, carpenter’s shop, store house, cisterns, privy, oil house, generator house, and the 1823 lighthouse itself, which is the oldest functioning lighthouse in North Carolina, and the second oldest lighthouse still in service in the United States.
The Ocracoke Light Station project is needed because these historic structures have been damaged from recent storms, and if the buildings are left as they are, it is expected that they will be damaged further by future weather events.
“To me, this is a really important project because of sea level rise issues in the area, and the very low elevation of that light station,” said David Hallac, National Parks of Eastern NC Superintendent. “A lot of the landscape there is at an elevation that is two feet above sea level, and it doesn’t take much when you’re at such a low elevation for the landscape to be flooded.”
“We really don’t have a lot of options if we want to preserve that light station,” added Hallac. “We either have to raise the buildings or move the buildings, and our proposal is to raise them.”
The EA evaluates three alternatives, with Alternative B being the preferred option for the National Park Service:
- Alternative A is a “no action” alternative, which only includes storm damage-related repairs to the exterior and interior of the structures.
- Alternative B is an alternative to elevate some of the structures at the Ocracoke Light Station, and repair storm damage.
- Alternative C is an alternative to remove the Double Keepers’ Quarters and replace it with a ghost structure, which would mimic the size, shape, and location of the existing building.
Under all alternatives, the Ocracoke Lighthouse would also be rehabilitated, which includes the following actions:
- Removing the shotcrete from the exterior of the lighthouse and replacing it with a coating that will allow appropriate protection of the masonry and moisture control.
- Replacing damaged masonry, including replacing bricks and mortar.
- Repairing or replacing all windows with historically appropriate windows.
- Repairing leaks at the top lantern and repainting.
- Recoat interior masonry.
- Exposing the original stone foundation.
Funding for the project will come from a disaster-related supplemental appropriation from the U.S. Congress, which stemmed from the impacts of 2019’s Hurricane Dorian. The funds will cover the cost of addressing the Double Keepers’ Quarters, (which will be rehabilitated first), and additional funding will be sought for the eventual lighthouse repairs.
Once the public comment period ends, the National Park Service will review all comments, make any changes to the EA as needed, and then start to prepare a detailed design for the upcoming renovations to the double keepers’ quarters and outbuildings.
“We’re hoping to contract the work during 2023, [and the project] could start by the end of 2023 or early 2024,” said Hallac.
The three alternatives and a summary of their potential impacts are listed in the Ocracoke Light Station Rehabilitation Project newsletter at https://parkplanning.nps.gov/CAHA_ocracoke_lightstation.
Comments may be submitted electronically, the preferred method, or mailed to: Superintendent, Attn: Ocracoke Light Station, 1401 National Park Dr, Manteo, N.C. 27954.