Alabama Underwater Cultural Resources Act: proposed amendments may be voted on by the Alabama Senate at any time now.
A bill before the Alabama Senate (H.B. 104) would amend the Underwater Cultural Resources Act and would drastically limit its effectiveness in preserving underwater archaeological resources within the state’s waterways. By redefining the term “cultural resource” to limit it to shipwrecks, the bill would open our waterways to the unregulated looting of significant archaeological sites including those eligible for or listed on the National Register of Historical Places or the Alabama Register of Landmarks and Heritage. Prehistoric remains, Civil
War artifacts, and a wide variety of historical cultural material would be rendered unprotected.
Under existing law, the Alabama Underwater Cultural Resources Act, underwater cultural resources are subject to regulation by the state. A permit is required from the Alabama Historical Commission prior to the exploration or excavation of underwater cultural resources or for recreational diving related to cultural resources. The theft or disturbance of underwater cultural resources is subject to criminal penalties.
This very reasonable law was crafted after much public input from recreational and professional divers and has been working effectively since 2006. One of its primary benefits is to prevent the recovery and sale of artifacts, which would go largely unregulated if HB 104 passed into law. The bill is moving swiftly through the legislature. It passed the House almost before the preservation community was even made aware of it. The Senate Governmental Affairs Committee held a public hearing on April 19 and those closely watching the issue were not made aware of it until the afternoon of the day prior. A vote on the bill could come at any time.
Accordingly, we urge you to consider contacting both the members on the committee and your local Senators and urge them to vote against the bill.
It is our understanding that:
1) The current system was recently implemented in 2006 and is working.
2) HB104 will open the door to widespread looting and the undocumented mining and recovery of artifacts from Alabama waters.
3) Artifacts are worth money. Selling artifacts is a business that makes dollars. Under HB104, artifacts will be legally recovered, transported out of Alabama and sold.
4) HB104 only benefits a small group of artifact collectors and sellers – to the detriment of the people of Alabama.
5) State lands belong to the people of Alabama. On state-owned land, Alabama law prohibits the cutting of trees, mining of coal or digging of artifacts with a shovel or backhoe without following first applying for a permit. The passage of HB104 regarding underwater digging would be inconsistent with existing laws governing state land.
Preservationists across the state are raising awareness of the potential destruction and detriment that HB104 would allow if passed by the Senate. Momentum to reject HB104 is growing among those who wish to keep Alabama’s treasures at home for the common good of people of Alabama. Time is critical. Vote no on HB104.
Jimmy Holly(R) Chairperson, Roger Bedford (D) Vice Chairperson, Scott Beason(R), Dick Brewbaker(R), Linda
Coleman(D), Priscilla Dunn(D), Vivian Figures(D), Arthur Orr(R), Tripp Pittman(R), Paul Sanford(R), and Bryan
Senator Holly (334) 242-7845 email@example.com
Senator Bedford (334) 242-7862 firstname.lastname@example.org
Senator Beason (334) 242-7794 email@example.com
Senator Brewbaker (334) 242-7895 firstname.lastname@example.org
Senator Coleman (334) 242-7864 email@example.com
Senator Dunn (334) 242-7793 firstname.lastname@example.org
Senator Figures (334) 242-7871 email@example.com
Senator Orr (334) 242-7891 firstname.lastname@example.org
Senator Pittman (334) 242-7897 email@example.com
Senator Sanford (334) 242-7867 firstname.lastname@example.org
Senator Taylor (334) 242-7883 email@example.com