Feds may auction five lighthouses along the Florida Keys

If the U.S. Coast Guard can't transfer the lighthouses to another government entity or a non-profit group, the General Services Administration will sell them at auction

Alligator Lighthouse off Islamorada (Credit: Media Counselers | YouTube)
Alligator Lighthouse off Islamorada (Credit: Media Counselers | YouTube)

The federal government may auction off five lighthouses that once helped ship captains avoid crashing into the coral reef along the Florida Keys.

The U.S. Coast Guard will try to transfer ownership of the lighthouses to another government agency or a non-profit group because it determined they are no longer needed.

If no agency or non-profit wants them, the federal General Services Administration (GSA) will sell them in a public auction, according to GSA spokesman Adam Rondeau.

In an email exchange with the Miami Herald, Rondeau said the lighthouses will be disposed “in accordance with the National Lighthouse Preservation Act.”

Rondeau also told the Herald that “GSA understands that lighthouses are an invaluable part of America’s maritime culture and cherished by their local communities.”

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The five lighthouses that the Coast Guard wants to unload are located off Key Largo, Islamorada, Marathon, Sugarloaf Key and Sand Key. A sixth lighthouse off the Keys, called Fowey Rocks, is maintained by Biscayne National Park.

Maintaining the five lighthouses is costly, in part because they are bolted to the coral reef in the Atlantic Ocean.

Islamorada artist Larry Herlth, 58, is forming a non-profit organization to take ownership of at least one of the five lighthouses, the one located off Islamorada, called Alligator Lighthouse.

Herlth founded an annual eight-mile open-water swimming race called Swim for Alligator Lighthouse. The event raises money for student scholarships and drew more than 350 participants this year. [Miami Herald]Mike Seemuth