Local News

Cape Hatteras: To Move, Or Not To Move

Posted April 8, 1998 7:00 a.m. EDT

— The Cape Hatteras lighthouse has warned generations of boaters to beware of the Outer Banks.

Now, the lighthouse itself is in danger of being overtaken by the same rough sea.

Thursday, heated debate over how to save the lighthouse took place in Dare County at a public meeting.

The Cape Hatteras lighthouse is apart of North Carolina history because it is a not only a monument, but the biggest and most photographed lighthouse as well.

Engineers are discussing whether to move the lighthouse about half a mile away from the ocean which will leave it 1,800 feet from the water. Currently, the lighthouse is located only 120 feet away.

The National Academy of Sciences, researchers from N.C. State and the National Park Service said that to save the lighthouse from the ocean, it has to be moved.

Dr. Ellis Cowling, an engineer, said, "The lighthouse would be destroyed by the Atlantic ocean, unless it is moved further from the sea."

Many locals who spend time on the beach or in the water said that moving the historic landmark would destroy the integrity and structure of a piece of North Carolina's heritage. Most locals favor building a sea wall to prevent beach erosion.

Dare County Resident Delbert Melton said, "There is another way besides moving it, its not going to be any better than where it is now.

The problem with building any preventive wall is that North Carolina prohibits hard structures on the coastline. In order to consider that option, a special exception to the rule is required.

Congress will make the ultimate decision, and decide whether to use $10,000,000 in federal money to move the lighthouse. Any construction will not happen until the spring of 1999.