DISCOVERY BAY -- Boaters in this water-based town now have a guiding light to find their way home.
A 36-foot-tall lighthouse with New England-like, 19th-century architecture was installed last week atop the levee at the point where the vast Delta waterways meet local channels of backyard decks and boat ramps.
Discovery Bay is the first Delta community to have a lighthouse, said residents Ed and Jean Stewart, who worked on and off for nine years to bring the project to fruition.
"It's beautiful. Lighthouses and boating communities go hand-in-hand," Ed Stewart said
Added Jeff Conway, general manager of local Reclamation District 800: "It's going to be a true monument for Discovery Bay."
Avid boaters, the Stewarts paid about $125,000 out of pocket for the structure, including $25,000 to the reclamation district for maintenance and to tie into its power source.
One caveat that makes the new Discovery Bay lighthouse unique is that it can be removed from the levee in case of repairs, Ed Stewart said. The design is such that a crane could move it in an hour, Conway added.
Work on the project started in 2004, when Ed Stewart, a now-retired concrete worker, and a couple of framing contractors decided to build a permanent lighthouse.
The idea was shot down by the reclamation district, the agency that manages local levees. A permanent structure would have restricted its ability to make repairs, Conway said.
That decision pretty much meant lights out on the idea.
However, the Stewarts' interest in the beacon resurfaced after Ed Stewart retired in 2008.
The inspiration reached its zenith during an October trip to Rockwell, Texas. After seeing a lighthouse they saw that they thought may work on Discovery Bay's levees, the Stewarts contacted its Michigan-based manufacturer, JRC Fabricating.
"(The city of Rockwell) let us go in and take a look. The quality was very nice," Ed Stewart said.
The Stewarts went back before the reclamation district board, where it was decided that a concrete slab would have to be put on the levee, secured with piers that go down about 4 feet. The lighthouse itself has eight stainless steel bolts around it that are epoxied to the building and secured to the slab, Ed Stewart said.
"It's not going anywhere," Conway said.
After months of work in the Detroit suburb of Canton, Mich., the 10,000-pound structure arrived in three pieces on June 16. It took eight volunteers, a forklift and a crane to erect the beacon on the levee the next morning, Ed Stewart said.
The reaction to the lighthouse has been overwhelmingly positive, said Bill Grummel, harbormaster at the Discovery Bay Yacht Harbor.
"We've had a lot of walkers (along the levee), especially, come in to the office, saying that they love it and 'It's about time,' and 'Gee, I wish we had this years ago,'" he said.
The lighthouse provides boaters safety and a landmark, Jean Stewart said.
"When we use to have a group of us meet up to go boating, we would say 'Let's meet by the barrier.' Now, everyone can say 'Let's meet by the lighthouse,'" she said.
The beacon's rotating light completes one turn every four seconds, and the beam from the 200-watt fluorescent bulb points down toward the water.
"We were worried that some people might be upset about the light shining on them all night," Ed Stewart said. "But, to get such a strong reaction in support of it, it's pretty special."
Bob Ellsworth, a 33-year resident who lives along the water within proximity of the lighthouse, expressed his approval to the Stewarts while out on the water with his grandsons Friday.
"It's just beautiful. It's something these waterways have been missing. I was a bit worried that there may be a problem with the light. But there's not. It's perfect."
Contact Paul Burgarino at 925-779-7164. Follow him at Twitter.com/paulburgarino.