Nearly 1,000 lighthouses, including iconic ones at Cape Spear and Peggy's Cove, N.S., have been declared surplus property by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans.
That designation means they could be replaced with simpler structures, the department's website says.
"The Canadian Coast Guard undertook a detailed assessment of all the lighthouses it operates. The structures identified to be surplus under the Heritage Lighthouse Protection Act were those where Canadian Coast Guard officials have determined that they could be replaced with simpler structures whose operation and maintenance would be more cost-effective."
Just last year, Ottawa announced it would spend $25,000 for repairs and a new coat of paint on the Peggy's Cove lighthouse. Like many of the lighthouses on the list, the Peggy's Cove navigational aid is a major tourism draw, and tourists weren't happy about its condition.
In a seeming acknowledgment of the heritage value of such structures, the department says individuals, municipalities or community-based non-profit groups can seek heritage designation for lighthouses.
Such organizations can do this by forwarding a petition to the minister responsible for Parks Canada, within two years after the coming into force of the Heritage Lighthouse Protection Act.
Although all petitions for surplus lighthouses will be evaluated by Parks Canada, a written commitment to acquire and protect a surplus lighthouse must be received in order for it to be eligible for designation, the department says.
If heritage designation is granted, the department says, lighthouses could be used for such purposes as a restaurant or museum in order to generate revenue to cover maintenance costs.
DFO says inactive lighthouses that are no longer part of Canada's aids to navigation system have also been identified as surplus under the act.
The department says while none of the surplus lighthouses are staffed by lightkeepers: "It should be clear that while still active lighthouse structures can be transferred to the public, the actual navigational light will not be transferred and will remain the property of the department with the Canadian Coast Guard ensuring its continued operation."
Should the lighthouse contain a navigation aid that will remain operational, the new owner would be required to maintain and operate the aid or provide access to the site, DFO says.
DFO says it will not be doing any repairs prior to transferring surplus lighthouses to private organizations, but it may consider applications on a case-by-case basis for minor site and building improvements during the transfer process.
The list of active lighthouses that have been declared surplus can be found online at www.dfo-mpo.gc.ca/media/infocus-alaune/2010/02/lighthouse-phare-active-eng.htm