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RACINE — The Racine Reef Light has been out of commission since October 2017, according to the Racine County Sheriff’s Water Patrol. There is no known timetable for when it may be fixed.

The reef light, a 50-foot-tall tower that functions similarly to a lighthouse, stands on a concrete platform less than three miles east of Reefpoint Marina, and warns boaters of a nearby shallows.

“There’s a reef that runs to the south of it,” a Racine County Sheriff’s Office Water Patrol deputy said. “It gets pretty shallow.”

The pilings and concrete base that the tower sits upon have been deteriorating, leaving the tower unstable, according to the Water Patrol. The light itself is also broken, rendering the Reef Light’s warning practically useless.

Chris Nitz, a member of the Racine Yacht Club, said that he and other boaters noticed the damage starting last fall and that it got drastically worse over the winter, with more pieces falling off in the past week.

Some reconstruction of the base platform started in 2011. Steel beams were added as supplemental support for the structure, Nitz said, but they are almost all gone now, having been beaten away by storms and rough waters.

“The government spent a bunch of money on that thing and it’s all gone now,” Nitz said.

Long a location for lights

A lighthouse was originally constructed on the platform in 1905, according to the United States Coast Guard Historian’s Office. The lighthouse became unmanned in the mid-1950s and was demolished in 1961 and was replaced by the simple steel tower that stands today.

Terry Pepper, a lighthouse enthusiast, warns on his website ( of the “dangerous rocks (and uncounted tons of riprap) that still lurk beneath surface” near the concrete podium. Riprap is a term referring to the stones used to build breakwaters and other permanent aquatic structures.

AAA for boaters coming to Racine

Waterway Guide — a website and print handbook for waterway navigation — advises keeping boats at least 100 feet away from the structure for safety.

The Racine County Sheriff Water Patrol said that it has notified the U.S. Coast Guard of the broken light and deteriorating platform, although no steps have been taken to repair the Reef Light or its base as of yet.

The Journal Times was unable to make contact with the U.S. Coast Guard about pending repairs.

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Adam Rogan (St. Catherine's '14, Drake University '17) has been covering homelessness, arts & culture, politics and business for the JT since March 2018. He enjoys mid-afternoon naps and loud music played quietly.

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