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St. George dome flies home today

The St. George Lighthouse dome is moved into position yesterday in preparation for  today's flight. Crews will be taking the reconstructed dome to its resting place atop the lighthouse by helicopter. (Stephen Corley/The Daily Triplicate).
The St. George Lighthouse dome is moved into position yesterday in preparation for today's flight. Crews will be taking the reconstructed dome to its resting place atop the lighthouse by helicopter. (Stephen Corley/The Daily Triplicate).

By Jennifer Grimes

Triplicate staff writer

Rain or not, the mission to put the dome back on St. George Reef Lighthouse will push forward today.

Preservation crews are flying off this morning at 7:30 a.m. from Crescent City's airport to the lighthouse six miles offshore. The crew will remove a temporary covering put in place after the lantern room was taken off for renovation. Then the new latern room dome will be flown from the Crescent City Harbor to the lighthouse for installation.

"We're pushing it to the max. As soon as I get a call from the crew saying they're ready for it, we'll fly the dome out to them," said Phil Acton, one of the organizers of the project.

Plans were changing by the hour yesterday as organizers struggled to coordinate the expensive helicopters coming from Redding and Medford with the less than ideal weather forecast.

"We're trying to beat Saturday, because the weather is supposed to get gruesome," Acton said.

Now two years in the works, the expensive effort to renovate the lantern room of the lighthouse and put it back on the historic tower will finally come to a dramatic end.

Originally, the St. George Reef Lighthouse Preservation Society hoped to replace the room last summer. Trouble getting the room rebuilt and furnished with bullet proof glass delayed the mission.

Organizers then planned for March 23 and 24, which didn't work out. Plans were stretched to April 6 and 7, but fears of bad weather cancelled them.

Now, fearing this may be their last chance to rent the huge sky crane helicopter needed to lift the heavy dome for the 14 mile journey, the operation will be tried this morning – rain or not.

According to Acton, a three-man crew will use their hands to pull the lantern room in place as it is dangled from the sky crane.

Each man will grab a cable hanging from the crown to guide it in, then they will fasten on and free the cables so the helicopter can return to the harbor.

Guy Towers is the mastermind of the operation and president/founder of the preservation society.

Towers took out a $1 a year lease on the abandoned lighthouse from its owner, the Del Norte County government, several years ago.

Since then, he has begun restoration efforts to halt the 100 year old beacon's deterioration.

Towers and his colleagues' struggle has recently been documented by a film crew from the History Channel. A show titled "Save Our History: American Lighthouses" profiles the history of St. George Reef Lighthouse along with current film footage of its deteriorated state.

The film airs at 8 p.m., April 18 on the History Channel. Dramatic film footage of the helicopter removing the old lantern room from the tower to bring it in for renovation is included.

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