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Maine lighthouse keeper works through island-wide power outage

Goat Island Light still blinks, but all other power to the island is cut off.

KENNEBUNKPORT, Maine — The job of a lighthouse keeper might seem like a solitary existence.

But Scott Dombrowski has been the keeper of the Goat Island Light since 1993, and he is practically an ambassador.

Being so close to mainland Kennebunkport, the island is a constant summer attraction for kayakers and Boy Scout troops. When staying at the house, Dombroski often greets the throngs of visitors to the property, which is open to the public. And, each Christmas season, Dombrowski happily lights up the property for the shore to see.

The Kennebunkport Conservation Trust now owns the island and the lighthouse, which was built by the United States Coast Guard in 1935. The grounds are Dombrowski’s second home, May through October, and they are a journey through time. 

The light, now two massive LED bulbs, used to be a flame lit by whale oil, stored in a nearby stone building. That building became a power station when the Coast Guard ran an underwater cable to the island to power the station's original bulb. Since 2008, the light, and a foghorn, has been powered by solar panels. 

That’s a very good thing because, on November 4, the submarine cable failed.

"Initially, we just think there’s a power outage on the mainland, but it was very quickly determined that that was not the case," Dombrowski recalled.

While the warning light still blinks at the top of the tower, everything else, since that day, has been dead and uninhabitable. The power stops somewhere along the sea bottom. The trust is considering adding more solar panels to power the whole property, but that could strain the system during peak need. They could also lay another cable on the sea floor, but that is a pricey job.

"We were given a cost of $60 a foot…" Dombrowski said. "At 5,000 feet, we’re somewhere around $300,000 just for the cable."

The good news is, they have the winter to figure out a solution and try to raise money. Trust Executive Director Tom Bradbury said it was a massive silver lining.

Until a solution is found and funded, the island will remain without power. That means no Christmas lights this year, possibly no scout camps next summer, and no Scott Dombrowski looking out his window each morning, making sure no one ventures too close to the rocks.

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