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Lighthouse Fans Seek Support for Endangered Structure

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CAPE HATTERAS — The Atlantic Ocean is taking its toll on a piece of North Carolina's history as it attempts to beat a path toward the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse. Most people want to save it, but no one can agree on just how to go about it.

A contingent from N.C. left for Michigan Thursday to talk to one man who claims to have the answer.

It's hard to believe the windy shores of Lake Michigan could have much in common with Cape Hatteras, but both suffer from beach erosion. The head of the Committee to Save the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse, Hugh Morton, flew a group of community leaders and journalists to Michigan with a goal of showcasing one man's solution to the erosion dilemma.

"We'll lose it if we move it, so we've got to protect it where it is, and this looks like a good way to prevent erosion," said Morton.

The 'solution' is called an underwater stabilizer, a fancy name for bags filled with mortar. Before they were put in the water line was much higher, but now there really is a lot more beach.

"Do you believe the system saved the beach?" asked WRAL-TV5'sAmanda Lamb.

"I believe it nurtured it and made it a deeper beach," said homeowner Jim Lancaster.

Unlike a seawall which speeds up the current, the stabilizers act like speed bumps, slowing it down. Dick Holmberg, creator of the stabilizers, says these structures build up the the north beach without eroding the south beach.

"We want to have less currents, to work with nature, coexist with the harbor," said Holmberg.

He adds that he thinks his invention could save the Cape Hatteras lighthouse, but others do have doubts...

"I don't want to say move it or lose it," said "Currently we support the state's position and we want to see it moved as currently planned."

"We're always willing to look and listen," said "That's why we're here, but we have no decision on this at this point."

The underwater stabilizers would be used in addition to a fourth groin. The project would cost between $1 million and $2 million. Moving the lighthouse would cost about $12 million.


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