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Opinion
Booth: Underwater Proposal Misunderstood
By STATE REP. JOSEPH BOOTH (R-37th)
Mar 2, 2005, 11:28

In the weeks that have passed since I unveiled my proposal to protect Delawareís underwater archeological sites, there has been a great deal of misunderstanding about its scope and intent.

My proposal, which has yet to be drafted, seeks to protect undersea archeological sites from accidentally being destroyed by dredging or other underwater activities. 

The bill would allow the Delaware Secretary of State to place a 90-day moratorium on any sub-surface activity that could damage an underwater site suspected of being historically important. 

The idea is to give state officials a chance to evaluate newly discovered seabed sites that may harbor significant artifacts or information about our past.

Dredging operations near Roosevelt Inlet last year apparently destroyed the site of a Colonial era shipwreck or village.  Unfortunately, no one realized this until beachcombers began finding broken pottery and relics in the sand.  Only a few small objects were left relatively undamaged by the dredging head.

Had my law been in place, and the artifacts discovered at the start of the operation, the Sec. of State could have temporarily halted the dredging until the find was evaluated.

Delaware law already provides protections to archaeological and geological resources located on land (Title 7, Chapter 53).  My proposal simply seeks to provide some protection to underwater sites.

Several other coastal states have already enacted similar laws.  I plan to draw on this legislation as I draft my bill.  Given our stateís long history, and its location along a heavily traveled waterway, Iím surprised this topic wasnít addressed earlier.

Many people, having only heard rumors about what the bill would do, have let their imaginations run wild.  Let me be clear.  My proposal would not interfere with people enjoying our coastline.  I also donít foresee any circumstances under which it would hamper boating or any of the activities usually associated with our beaches.

Aside from people who have been misinformed about what this bill would do, the feedback Iíve received on the proposal has been generally favorable.

I hope this clears up any misunderstanding.  As always, please feel free to contact me if you should have any lingering questions.



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