The town of Aquinnah is one step closer to taking ownership of the Gay Head Light, with the Department of the Interior approving the town’s application to take possession of the endangered lighthouse.

Once approval comes from the General Services Administration, the town will become owner of the 1856 brick lighthouse perched on the westernmost edge of the Island. One of the town’s first acts as steward will be to move the lighthouse, which is now less than 50 feet away from an eroding bluff.

In March, the town submitted an initial application to the federal government to take possession of the lighthouse. The U.S. Coast Guard declared the lighthouse surplus property last August because it was no longer mission critical. The National Historic Lighthouse Preservation Act allows the Coast Guard to transfer ownership of surplus lighthouses at no cost to qualified state or local governments or nonprofit organizations.

The application to acquire the lighthouse was extensive and included plans for preservation, maintenance and management as well as a financial plan. A review committee of National Park Service employees, including an architectural historian, an outdoor recreational planner and a landscape architect, reviewed the application.

According to a Sept. 12 letter sent to the town, the National Park Service recommended Aquinnah as the recipient of the lighthouse, and secretary of the interior Sally Jewell accepted that recommendation. Three letters of interest were received for the light station, according to the National Park Service, but Aquinnah was the only town to submit an application by the due date.

Ms. Jewell requested that the General Services Administration transfer the lighthouse at no cost to the town and she commended the town for being community minded with an eye toward preservation.

“I applaud the commitment of the town of Aquinnah to the preservation of our nation’s maritime heritage in accepting stewardship of the Gay Head Light Station,” Ms. Jewell wrote.

Aquinnah is the second Island town to go through the process of acquiring a lighthouse. In May 2012, the Coast Guard announced that the Edgartown Light was surplus property and the town began taking steps to acquire the white lighthouse on the harbor. After a lengthy application and approval process, the town took ownership in January 2014.

By comparison, Aquinnah’s process was speedy. “We’re thrilled that the process got done somewhat expeditiously,” Aquinnah town administrator Adam Wilson said Wednesday.

The application process started last November, with a final, revised application sent in May. “Here we are today,” he said. “We’re taking over ownership of the Gay Head Light.”

Quick action was essential, as the lighthouse acquisition is a key step in the town’s large-scale effort to relocate and restore the lighthouse. The effort began more than two years ago, when it became clear the lighthouse would have to be moved or it would fall into the sea.

“It’s a real milestone that we’ve reached, allowing the project to move forward,” said Len Butler, chairman of the lighthouse relocation committee. “We’ve been told many times we can’t move it until we own it.”

The next task is no easy one: moving a 400-ton, 51-foot-tall lighthouse. The lighthouse is currently 45 or 46 feet away from the cliff, Mr. Butler said. The moving company the town plans to use estimates that a distance of 40 feet is required to excavate around the lighthouse before moving it. “We really don’t want to endanger the cliff in any way,” Mr. Butler said. Historically, the cliff has eroded by about a foot every year.

The town has been arranging the logistics and finances for the effort. International Chimney Corporation, a company based out of New York that has moved other lighthouses, was chosen for the job. This summer, town committees decided on a new location, about 190 feet inland.

“The Coast Guard has stated on several occasions that they have no interest in moving it,” Mr. Butler continued. “If it did fall into the sea, they would put up a steel tower with a blinking light on it.”

Mr. Butler said that all the stakeholders involved recognized the urgency of the town’s efforts. “I think it’s probably a credit to the strength of our application and also the concern from all parties involved to preserve our maritime treasure.”

Mr. Wilson, the town administrator, said the town had already been working on site preparation and engineering plans. “This gives us clearly the green light to go forward with the plans to do the relocation next April, or perhaps sooner, depending on circumstances,” he said. The April timeline was set in anticipation of taking ownership of the lighthouse in the beginning of 2015, he said, and could be changed.

Under the town, the lighthouse will continue its navigational duties. Mr. Wilson said the application was unusually complex because the Gay Head Light “had to be relocated and yet still maintain its functionality as navigable beacon.” This put additional restrictions on where the lighthouse could be moved; for example, the light could not lose elevation.

The proposal to move the lighthouse will also require permitting from the town planning board; selectmen are scheduled to meet with the planning board about the subject on Sept. 23. The conservation commission will also be consulted, Mr. Wilson said.

It is unclear if the Martha’s Vineyard Commission will require review of the project as a development of regional impact, Mr. Wilson said. Town representatives gave a preliminary presentation to the commission, and Mr. Wilson said the town is waiting to see whether the commission will ask for a review. “We’ll cross that bridge when we get to it,” he said.

Approvals for acquiring the lighthouse and moving it have been granted by residents at town meetings. The 2013 vote about whether to acquire the light station “was 100 per cent that they were in favor it,” Beverly Wright, chairman of the Save the Gay Head Light committee, said Thursday. “I don’t think anybody, even the people on the committee, realized what a process it is and it still is.”

The cost of relocating and restoring the lighthouse is estimated at $3 million.

Raising money has been an Islandwide effort. Each of the other five towns voted this year to donate Community Preservation Act funds — a total of $440,000 — to the lighthouse project. Dana Gaines of Edgartown raised more than $13,000 by paddling his kayak around the Island. There have been tennis tournaments and T-shirt and poetry book sales, and Rosanne Cash played a benefit concert in July. The second annual Gay Head 10K race, A Race Against Time, will be held Oct. 5 to raise funds for the move.

Ms. Wright said some fundraising efforts, like the road race, will continue after the lighthouse is moved as “something to still focus on the lighthouse, what we’ve done, and also add some money to the coffers to help maintain the lighthouse.”

She said there will also be a push this fall to collect donations from Islanders.

The recommendation from the National Park Service recognizes the unique circumstances surrounding the Gay Head Light.

“The town and the Save the Gay Head Light Committee should be commended on their efforts to date to raise funds in excess of $1,300,000 toward the relocation and preservation of the light station,” the recommendation states. “In addition, the towns of Chilmark, Edgartown, Oak Bluffs, West Tisbury and Tisbury have also committed a portion of their Community Preservation Act funds to the effort ($440,000 combined), demonstrating the sense of connection that all Islanders feel for this light station and their dedication to saving it.”

National Park Service deputy director Peggy O’Dell said: “The town of Aquinnah has demonstrated a commitment to preserving and maintaining the lighthouse for future generations.”