By Todd Wels

Triplicate staff writer

More than six months after the ill-fated transport of its dome, another portion of the St. George Reef Lighthouse will be airlifted to shore soon.

A boom used for lifting visitors or cargo to the small island lighthouse is scheduled to be airlifted to shore in late November or early December, according to St. George Reef Lighthouse Preservation Society member Philip Acton.

Acton flew over the lighthouse in a chartered plane Thursday to determine how much the boom had drifted and how much damage it had sustained since the dome and lantern room were airlifted in April.

According to Acton, the boom was originally held together by 12 one-inch cables. Currently, all but one of those cables has snapped and the single remaining cable has begun to fray.

Its just strands now, Acton said, adding that he believes unless the boom is airlifted and repaired soon, it will fall into the ocean.

Acton said the boom will be airlifted to the Crescent City Harbor, and placed in the same location near Sandies Fish and Frys Restaurant as the dome occupied.

This latest round of repairs comes on the heels of an announcement by the society that it believes it will have repairs to the dome and lantern room in time to return it to the lighthouse in April 2001 the one-year anniversary of its ill-fated airlift to the shore for repairs.

Last April, an Army National Guard Chinook helicopter transported the dome and lantern room to shore. As the helicopter approached the landing site at the harbor a collision with the ground, referred to as a tap by the pilot, severed the cables securing the dome and lantern room to the helicopter, and sent the dome and lantern room crashing to the beach.

When it hit the ground, it looked hopeless, Acton said.

That assessment has since been disproven.

It was probably the best thing that could have happened, Acton said of the crash. The damage caused by the crash proved how much the original cast iron frame that held the dome and lantern room together had rusted during the lighthouses century-plus of existence.

In electing to repair the damage, the Lighthouse Preservation Society decided to use less-expensive and longer-lasting stainless steel in place of the original cast iron, after securing permission from the National Parks Service to do so.

Another planned upgrade to the dome and lantern room is the replacement of the glass with three eighths-inch plexiglass.

According to Acton, all of the glass plates surrounding the lantern room had been removed prior to transport.

Many of them had sustained damage prior to that, due to passing fishermen.

They figured it was deserted and used it for target practice, Acton said.

He said the plexiglass would be strong enough to deflect most bullets without shattering.

According to Acton, the total price of the repairs and renovations will total between $16,000 and $18,000.

After having spent several thousand so far, the Lighthouse Preservation Society has approximately $8,000 in the bank currently.

He said the expense of the repairs and renovations have been offset somewhat by the fact that Fashion Blacksmith owner Dale Long is not charging for the labor involved in repairing the facilities.

Hes taking quite a hit, Acton said.