Moving day arrived Tuesday at the Cape San Blas Lighthouse.
The U.S. Air Force began the move of the keepers’ quarters and oil house on the grounds of the Cape San Blas Lighthouse in the fight to save the lighthouse and buildings from encroaching erosion.
The Air Force out of Eglin Air Force Base, which owns the property on which the lighthouse and buildings sit, contracted with CCI Contractors out of Shalimar, which in turn subcontracted the work of moving the keepers’ quarters and oil house to Stone’s House Movers out of Sneads.
The keepers’ quarters are being moved back roughly 100 feet, leaving them essentially the same distance from the coast as the lighthouse which is not considered in imminent danger.
“This was an Air Force initiative to move these buildings,” said public information officer Mike Spaits. “We contracted to have the buildings moved and secured the $50,000 to fund the move. We had a partner in the (U.S. Army Corps of Engineers) but this was an Air Force initiative.”
Tuesday the first of the two keepers’ quarters was moved. The second and the oil house will be moved later this week.
The moves are being made to buy time. The Air Force has already rendered the lighthouse and buildings surplus and the application for applying to take possession of them expired the last week of November.
The National Parks Service is now reviewing the applications for a final award. The Board of County Commissioners and city of Port St. Joe both submitted applications.
“We are responsible for protecting our historic resources,” said Maria Rodriguez, chief administrator for historic resources with Eglin AFB. “That’s why we are moving them back, to get them out of harm’s way.”
Hurricane Isaac this year was effectively the final straw in the protection of the lighthouse, which has long sat in an area of Cape San Blas that is rapidly eroding.
Isaac took an additional 27 feet of shoreline, rendering the one entrance road into the lighthouse grounds impassable.
A new entrance road was constructed to facilitate the move of the lighthouse and buildings once a final destination has been determined.
The keepers’ quarters and oil house will remain on temporary moorings to facilitate the move to a new location. The county is proposing Salinas Park; the city a bayfront area which would be part of George Core Park.
After the buildings are moved, the Air Force will begin to clear debris from the shoreline surrounding the grounds.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration provided a grant to the University of Florida to facilitate the debris removal. The hope is that once clean, what is left of the beach may once again become a nesting area for sea turtles.