SEGUIN ISLAND — Just days before volunteers are set to begin preparing Seguin Island Light Station for another season of visitors, the power is out on the island.

That leaves the coming season of lighthouse tours in the lurch as the organization that owns the island scurries to raise money for a generator. Opening day, normally in late May, will be postponed until power is restored.

Cyndy Carney, executive director of the Friends of Seguin Island Light Station, said the U.S. Coast Guard told her last week it had shut off the power to the island. Since the mid-1950s, the island has been fed electricity through an underground cable from Popham Beach in Phippsburg.

The rare First order Fresnel Lens at Seguin Island Light Station has the “highest” focal point of all operational lighthouses in Maine. The lens can cast a beam seen for 20 miles. Seguin’s lens was crafted by Henry Lapaute of Paris and installed in 1857. Friends of Seguin Island Light Station photo

A section of the cable running through dunes at Popham Beach has been exposed for about a year, “and they have deemed the cable unsafe and have turned off the electricity at the shoreline,” Carney said.

The 64-acre island, located 2.5 miles off the mouth of the Kennebec River, was given to the federal government from the state of Massachusetts sometime in the 1800s and deeded over to the Friends of Seguin Island in 1998.

According to Carney, the Coast Guard found there was no electricity to the island after the lighthouse went dark.

Carney said the Coast Guard told her the cable would be too expensive to replace and would install solar panels to power the light. The 1,000-watt light bulb would be replaced with an LED light, she said, and will only be on at night instead of around the clock as it is now.

“I just can’t even picture that weird blue light hanging out there,” she said. The current light is in the 9-foot-high, 6-foot-wide Fresnel lens with 242 prisms. “It’s just beautiful.”

Petty Officer Nicole Groll, with the Coast Guard’s public affairs in Boston, said the Coast Guard maintains the light and the power cable, and the Friends of Seguin Island Light Station maintain everything else on the property.

She confirmed that the power was turned off because the Coast Guard’s electrical cable was severely damaged at the terminal along Popham Beach.

“Emergency navigation lighting has been operating since, and we are in discussions with the Friends of Seguin about potential next steps,” Groll said.

She expected to have more information Thursday about how the Coast Guard plans to move forward.

Carney said operating the island as usual without power isn’t possible. Even if the Coast Guard runs the light using a solar array, “that’s not going to power the house where we house our keepers, our museum, our gift shop, our power tools and the whistle house.”

The island has 2,500 to 3,000 visitors a year, “and we’re educating people about the historic business of lighthouses and a Maine maritime history,” Carney said.

The island is the site of the state’s second-oldest lighthouse.

Carney said she is working to set up a GoFundMe page to raise approximately $5,500 toward a generator to power the island.

“It puts me in quite a spin because my keepers are coming May 18,” Carney said. “It means I have to find money for the purchase of a generator. I have to get it to the island probably by helicopter. I have to get an electrician up there to hook up the generator to the house electricity. I have to build a little house for the generator and stand in, and then I have to haul 100 gallons of diesel fuel up the hill. And that will only run me a couple of weeks.”

She’s looking for money, boats and people to help when that time comes.

While people can visit the island by boat, if power isn’t restored, volunteer keepers can’t live on the island, and won’t be available to give tours or maintain the trails.

The long-term plan is for the Friends of Seguin to install a solar array next year, which initial estimates have priced at $30,000 to $40,000. Funding for the generator and solar is not in the organization’s budget.

Asked if a move to solar power could ultimately benefit the island, Carney said, “Frankly, no.”

She argued an array of solar panels will distract from the beauty of the island. Because the island is on the National Registry of Historic Places, Carney said the Maine Historic Preservation Commission won’t let the Friends of Seguin put solar panels on the roof.


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