Richmond's East Brother Light Station finds temporary power source but seeks long-term solution

The historic East Brother Light Station, Richmond's oldest structure, has found a temporary solution to restore power to the bed and breakfast that operates within the light station after its 30-year-old submarine cable broke in April.

"We've been scrambling ever since to figure out what to do," said Tom Butt, Richmond city mayor and president of the board of East Brother Light Station Inc., the nonprofit that supports the light station, said.

In the last few days, an electrical contractor came and spliced what's left of the broken cable to restore power, Butt said, adding that it's not a permanent solution.

"It's very tenuous. Whether it's going to last or not, we don't know," Butt said. "But for the time being, we do have power back."

Desiree Heveroh is a light station board member and trained volunteer serving as a light station keeper along with a professional light station keeper and Captain Jarrod Ward. Both of them have been living inside the lighthouse during the pandemic. 

When the light station lost power, Ward was sent elsewhere while Heveroh lived at the light station alone, relying on antique generators, solar phone chargers, and rainwater for showers prior to having power restored.

"I was peeling bark off the eucalyptus trees for kindling," Heveroh said.

She started a GoFundMe in April that's raised more than $80,000 to help pay for a long-term solution to the light station's power supply. It's nowhere near to the roughly $1 million it could cost to pay for and install a new submarine cable, or the $200,000 the board may need if they approve a less costly option, using an off-grid solar system, according to Butt.

"The costs, they seem insurmountable, but I don't believe this community is going to let anything happen," Heveroh said.

Community businesses are stepping up to fill the funding gap. 

Timothy Manhart, the founder of Richmond's Catahoula Coffee, decided to start selling a special lighthouse blend of coffee beans, along with an array of merchandise online and in the cafe, with proceeds going to the light station. 

Manhart got two other local businesses on board too. Tacos El Tucán is selling tokens for free tacos, and The Factory Bar invented a "Lighthouse" cocktail to bring in additional funds to the cause.

"It's not that we're going to set the world on fire through small businesses, but it's nice to create awareness," Manhart said.

The East Brother Light Station Inc. board will meet Monday to determine if the temporary power source is sufficient to re-open the bed and breakfast by the end of the summer and if solar power could work as an alternative to a new cable. If they sign off on bringing the bed and breakfast back open, they want to begin advertising for new innkeepers later in June.

"One way or another we're going to reopen. One way or another we're going to get some power. One way or another there's a future for the East Brother Light Station.," Butt said. "We don't know exactly what it is, but that's where we're headed."