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Dec 1 2018

The Alabama Historical Commission has nominated a section of the Alabama River in Selma for consideration to be listed on the National Register of Historic Places. If successful then a mile section of it would be off limits to many activities. Diving and relic hunting would be some of those activities.  They are claiming it is a historic section. The problem is that nothing happened in the river. There are no shipwrecks or civil war battles or any known historic sites.

There were historic happenings and buildings on the banks of the river but nothing in the river itself. The closest to that would be that some debris was dumped in it after factories were destroyed by the Union army. That makes it a dump site and not an Archaeological site.

 Like any other river it has been used as a garbage dump. People have thrown garbage and junk in it for eons and other people have been pulling stuff out of it for just as long. So not only is it loaded with garbage but there is nothing in context therefor making it useless for any “historical” or “cultural resource” studies. The swift current and occassional flooding regularly pushes items into and out of the specified area. Older relics sit next to and even on top of modern junk.     

A survey was conducted in preparation of this listing attempt.  Many dives and at least $15,000 (of the publics’ money) later they came up with a few Civil War era bullets. That is the extent of the “cultural” material found.  Apparently a few bullets in a Civil War area is enough for them to decide it is some sort of historic treasure.

A big problem with this case is that according to the Alabama Underwater Cultural Resources Act any property that is determined eligible for the National Register is termed a cultural resource and therefore protected.  That means the simple “eligibility” would put it off limits.

Two meetings were held by the committee that makes the recommendations to the AHC. These were attended by some people speaking on the diving/relic communities behalf. Steve Philips and Heath Jones and a couple others spoke many times at both meetings making statements and refuting comments made by committee members. It was all for naught as they voted unanimously for the recommendation.

A recording of the second meeting is available and was played on American Diggers Relic Roundup in its entirety. It is available to listen to in the show archives. The general feeling of the committee is that everything out there “belongs” to the public. So it needs to be protected. It’s ironic in that it is that same public they are working to prevent from touching it!  Much of what is in that river was discarded. It was not wanted by the person who put it there.

The local area could also stand to loose revenue as it is a popular dive spot. Divers spend a lot of money in their past time.  Food, gas, hotels, air tanks filled, boating costs.

Here is what is required to be listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The National Register is for listing structures or for true historic areas with solid provenance of historical data.  Here is the basic outine straight from the website. This is the overview and not the specifics.

 Age and Integrity: Is the property old enough to be considered historic (generally at least 50 years old) and does it still look much the way it did in the past?

It’s a constantly changing river that is now much deeper then it was in “history’ due to daming. If a shipwreck was there then the shipwreck could be protected if it still remains but there are none. They are talking about the river itself.  

Significance: Is the property associated with events, activities, or developments that were important in the past? With the lives of people who were important in the past? With significant architectural history, landscape history, or engineering achievements? Does it have the potential to yield information through archeological investigation about our past?

The river DOES NOT have the potential to yield information through archeological investigation about our past. Anything that “may” have been in the river has either been washed away or previously recovered. Two sites they talk about in referencing the river were not in the river. This nomination is actually referring to the entire river bottom and water itself in general in this stretch.  Even if there had been a shipwreck that shipwreck and the river bottom immediately under it could be eligible but not the entire river bottom.  Therefore it does not meet the criteria.

This would be like saying that something historical happened on your front lawn. So by their criteria then the entire town should be protected. Or if a historic building burns and they truck off the debris and dump them somewhere then that dump spot should now be eligible for the National Register. The answers to these questions are at stake.

There has never been a river listed. If this occurs it will be a first and will rewrite of the criteria of eligibility. It would also open the door for waterways everywhere in the nation to be listed. What activities would be allowed? Diving, relic hunting for certain and possibly even fishing could be put off limits. You could not pick up anything. Not even a rock. You probably could not drop an anchor as it could damage something. If you have water-front property then your dock is now part of that historic registry.

If this goes through then expect other states to jump on board. Large swaths of this country could be placed off limits to the public. If the entire water area can be added to the registry then no place is safe as virtually every body of water had something happen in or around it at some point. The monetary lossses could be staggering. Shutting off our waterways to public use is not the intent of the National Register.   

Divers in Alabama have been allowed to pick up isolated finds without any permit necessary. Isolated finds means the random items that are not part of any protected historic sites or shipwrecks. These are the type of finds that exist in this river section. They have no context to any historic site. The designation would end this policy. If the debris fieId area is important then they should be nominating that area specifically. I believe this is a test case. They want to see if they can push it through. It is imperative that it be stopped.

There are three steps to a National Register listing. Step one is the nomination which has been completed. Step 2 is when that nomination is submitted to the register to determine if it is eligible. Step 3 will determine if it will actually be listed. The problem with this nomination is that if it makes step 2 then according to Alabama law this section of river will become protected.

So your task is to write letters to the National Register opposing this nomination.  LOTS of letters. 

They need to be an actual letter that you write out or type and put in the mail. Remember to always be polite. We have no isssue with the person reading it. We must get the point across to that person that the nomination that would include a section of the Alabama River of the Selma Waterfront District must not happen. It is a serious overreach to nominate a mile section of river without identifying any sites that encompass that entire section.

Send it to;

National Register of Historic Places
National Park Service
1849 C Street NW,MS 7228
Washington, DC 20240

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Older Breaking news

Attention everyone...... 

Just found out about this bill in the NH legislature. It has already passed the House and is in the Senate.  It apparently passed the house by a voice vote. The full text of the bill is below. Really simple as it says dredging is banned. I know this is not metal detecting proper but we are all in this together. Many people are involved in both hobbies. So lets act quickly to try to put the brakes on this one.

Also there are 2 cities that have recently banned detecting. We are working with them on a local level right now.

Here s a link to the NH senate committee where the bill is at right now. 

http://www.gencourt.state.nh.us/senate/committees/legislation/committee_legislation.aspx?CC=S38&r=0

Here is the senate contact page.

http://www.gencourt.state.nh.us/Senate/Senate_members.aspx

If you live in NH then please contact your senator. If you do not then please contact the committee and any senators and let them know about your vacation plans.

Mark Schuessler

FMDAC National President

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Archeological Statement Breaking News

To all FMDAC members and follow hobbyists: 

Please take some time and check out this link. Then comment on it. Read it over carefully and make some well thought comments. 

This appears to be a major step in the right direction for all. It remains to be seen what will come of it but if they are genuine then it could mean a big step in mutual co-operation. It appears that the academic world may be realizing that we are not going away and the only way they will enlist our aid is by showing some respect in our direction. 

https://taskforcearchaeologistsandcollectors.wordpress.com/author/taskforcearchaeologistsandcollectors/

Take the time to comment, even if only to say you like the direction it is taking and thank you. Lets show them that we are here, we are watching and are willing to take an active roll. 

Mark Schuessler 

FMDAC President