There still is federal money available for lighthouse preservation, but there should be more. There’s an effort now under way in Congress to make that happen, and it could use your support.
First, what’s out there: Under a law passed in the 1990s, a portion of the proceeds from scrapping Navy and Coast Guard ships in the “mothball fleet” is supposed to go to maritime preservation and education. After a first round of $650,000 in grants to 39 projects in 1998, the program went dormant as scrap metal prices tanked and environmental concerns added costs to the scrapping. But that’s improved, and recently $7 million was made available to restart the process.
The program is administered by the National Park Service, which will be using its administrative percent to restart its Maritime Heritage Program, itself a good thing. And NPS has decided to stretch that $7 million pot four years, to allow groups to develop requests and build some momentum. Each year will see the distribution of $1.7 million, by law divided equally between education (grants up to $50,000) and preservation (grants of $50,000 to $200,000). The tight deadline for this year has passed, but NPS promises more lead time in getting next year’s round going.
The grants require a match, and are paid as reimbursements. Another catch — under new laws, everyone receiving federal money has to do so through the federal grants.gov website, and registration takes a little time. Getting started now would be a good idea. Check the NPS Maritime Heritage Program web page for details.
Next, what’s needed: In short, restoration of Congress’s original intent. It passed a law that provided 25% of the scrapping proceeds for this program and 25% for the nation’s maritime academies, but in 2010 the U.S. Maritime Administration, which oversees the National Defense Reserve Fleet, won an amendment giving it sole discretion over the money. MARAD decided to keep it all for the academies and its own ship preservation projects (surprise, surprise). A tug of war ensued, and in stages supporters got funding back to half of what it should be. Instead of 25%, it’s 12.5% We lost millions.
The National Maritime Alliance is spearheading a drive to regain that lost ground. You can help. An amendment to the original act is in Congress, attached to the huge Defense Authorization Act that funds the military. The action right now is centered on the Senate’s Armed Services Committee, which will report out the bill before everybody heads out to elections; the act probably will be passed quickly once the senators return.
Dr. Tim Runyan, a maritime studies professor at East Carolina University, is the Alliance’s point man on this. He’s asking groups and individuals to contact their home state senators and press for support on this. You can get information from Tim at firstname.lastname@example.org
There is 16 years’ worth of pent-up demand for a small-by-federal-standards pot of money here, but this is funding the entire maritime community, not just lighthouses, needs. You can help with the legislative effort, and check into applying for your education prog or preservation project grants.