The East Brother Light Station has been a Bay Area icon since its construction in 1873. It was built as an aid to mariners navigating the San Pablo and San Francisco Bay waterways. Over the following decades (100+ years) the station went through several upheavals and threats to its existence. Yet due to the commitment and passion of locals and community groups it has managed to endure, and even evolve. What was once simply a lighthouse station eventually also became a Victorian lighthouse bed-and-breakfast inn, offering beautiful views and gourmet foods. Now this is all in jeopardy.
On April 1, the power cable connecting the station to the rest of the world broke. Unfortunately, the news was not a joke. Not only did the lights go out, the entire island was left without power. Lightkeeper Desiree Heveroh spoke with SFGate about the situation she now finds herself in. ‘”It gets real cold on this rock. If it was at all possible, I’m living even further back in time here now, I get the fireplace packed every morning with eucalyptus bark and branches from around the island that I collect.”‘
The failed submarine power cable is owned by the US Coast Guard. Whereas in the past USCG has organized repairs as needed — for example when the cable was damaged after a lightning strike in 1991 — it now seems unlikely that they will foot the bill for a full power restoration. The backup battery and generator systems that are in place are enough to keep the light blinking, but not enough to power the rest of the island’s energy requirements.
Heveroh told SFGate, ‘”The light itself is working now, it charges when I run the generator, so I’ve been watching it like the days of old. The Coast Guard told me when they came out that if the light goes out I need to notify them.
‘”We showed [the US Coast Guard] around, and they basically said, ‘It would be cheaper for us just to put the light in the tower on a solar panel.’ So they’re not going to replace the cable, which leaves us with no power at all. And their responsibility is done.”‘
In an effort to keep the island running and returned to its pre-blackout state, Desiree has organized a fundraising drive on GoFundMe. Her goal is to raise $150,000 to restore power to the island, whether through repair of the cable or installation of a renewable-power system such as a solar, wind, or wave generator. At last look, the tally was $42,816. Once again the community is rallying to save this historic landmark — it is the oldest wood-frame lighthouse left in the United States; it’s listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and it is a registered California Historical Landmark. Plus, if you’ve ever been to the lighthouse, or have even stayed overnight in the B&B, you’ll have some idea of the joy the island brings to locals and visitors alike.
Desiree wrote on the station’s GoFundMe page, “Our History includes being saved 42 years ago by a large group of people [who] cared enough to pool their collective resources, connections, donations & love to save East Brother Light Station. We are once again in historic times & we need your help to save her again.”
So what do you say, folks? Can you add your dollars to the growing funds to help save East Brother Light Station? Donations can be made here.