Feds begin process of change in lighthouse ownership

Billings and Gordon/ Barrie Island will accept lighthouses

MANITOULIN—According to Manitoulin Lighthouse Association (MLA) co-chair Rick Nelson, a number of Manitoulin lighthouses will soon be divested by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans and turned over to local interests.

Mr. Nelson said that he was still awaiting the final paperwork on the transfers. “I am expecting the paperwork to be delivered any day now,” he said. “My understanding is that any issues surrounding the Kagawong and Janet Head lights have been resolved and that things were to be finalized right around this time.”

Mr. Nelson noted that he had been in contact with Andrew Anderson, the Department of Oceans and Fisheries official overseeing the transfer process, several weeks ago and Mr. Anderson had indicated the “process is moving along and they are ready to go to the next stage of the paperwork.”

Mr. Anderson had indicated at that time that issues surrounding other Island lighthouses at Strawberry Island, Manitowaning and the Mississagi Straits remain outstanding.

“But Mr. Anderson did say that the department is ready to make the transfer in Kagawong, and he will be sending in all the paperwork on this,” continued Mr. Nelson.

Even after the paperwork arrives, the transfer is not a done deal, cautioned Mr. Nelson. “There is still a lot of language that has to be looked at and to be approved by the municipal council,” he said. “We could have the lighthouse transfer in place by sometime in the fall. Mr. Nelson indicated that, as he understood the process, the transfer of the Kagawong lighthouse would also mean a designation of heritage status would be applied to the light.

In an email sent to The Recorder by David Walters of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans media relations department, Mr. Walters confirmed that “business plans have been submitted for the following lighthouses: Kagawong, Janet Head, Strawberry Island, Mississagi and Manitowaning. Due to privacy reasons, the department cannot disclose details about these negotiations.”

“As per the established process, a public notice will be published a minimum of 90 days prior to any proposed transfer of lighthouse ownership,” wrote Mr. Walters. “Potential transfers are proposed to take place before May 29, 2015 in order to enable the Heritage Lighthouse Protection Act’s designation process. After May 29, 2015, community-based interests may also be able to acquire ownership of surplus lighthouse properties through the Department’s regular divestiture program.”

“I guess we will all just have to stay tuned for further developments,” said Mr. Nelson.

Michael Erskine