Alabama Dive Law

It’s time to update the public on what happened this year in the Alabama legislature with House Bill 54. This is the bill that was to clear up some confusing words in the Alabama Underwater Cultural Resources Act. Representative Jim McClendon did a great job getting our bill through the two committees in the House and passed on the House floor with a very large majority supporting HB54 in the public interest. HB54 went to the upper House, the Senate, and bogged down as usual. Senator Cam Ward took charge of our bill and with Rep. McClendon’s help got our bill moving with much difficulty due to much opposition by the elitist professional archaeologists and the colleges that teach archaeology programs. These people see their money threatened by the public. Preserving history does not enter the picture except by the amateurs who are not being paid. I along with Kevin McCauley and Ronnie Hyer made many trips to Montgomery and met with most of the Senators. As always, there was much confusion about what our bill would do. Our opponents are masters at blowing smoke and yelling fire. My job was to count heads of Senators who would commit to support HB54. We had a strong majority of committed Senators so we would win when the bill came to the floor for a vote if we could get it there. Several amendments were added to our bill that really didn’t hurt anything or limit the public from finding isolated finds that are not cultural resources. After much effort HB54 was passed out of the Governmental Affairs Committee and went to the Rules Committee. Sen. Ward and Sen. Waggoner got the bill out of Rules and on the special order calendar to be voted on in the Senate floor. Time was running out and opposing Senators started delaying tactics which they are all masters of. Republican Sen. Ben Brooks of Mobile who we had met with and had never told us that he opposed our bill, threatened to filibuster HB54 when it was first brought up on the floor. This caused Republican Sen. Whatley of Lee County (Auburn) to have our bill carried over and not voted on. This is a tactic used to kill a bill. An intense campaign of writing and calling by Kevin McCauley helped Senators Ward and Waggoner get our bill up once again for a final vote on the last day of the session. At this time Senator Brooks and several democrat Senators said they would filibuster HB54. Senator Figures had told me twice that she supported HB54, but she stabbed us in the back. She is a nice and pretty lady, but she should have had the backbone to do what was right for the public and not to serve the bureaucrats and colleges who have created so many of the problems that face Alabama. I am very disappointed in Senator Figures. I am also disappointed in Democrat Senator Linda Coleman of Birmingham. Senator Coleman has supported us in the past and represents the area in Alabama where we have the strongest support and no opposition. She let down the people of her district. I don’t know why she turned on the public except that she answered to Democrat Senator Hank Sanders of Selma. Selma continues to be the most racist city in Alabama. HB54 has nothing to do with racism. The other Democrat Senators that were going to filibuster HB54 are Senators Singleton and Ross. HB54 was supported by people who love history and wanted to preserve all history, warts and all. We don’t want our history to be flavored, colored, or interpreted to be politically correct, or anything but the truth. 
HB54 died without being voted on in the last hours of the session.
Now I want to explain why we have opposition and who they are. The colleges that have Archeology programs are defrauding students and parents by telling them that professional archeology is a viable profession. It is not. Archeology is a great hobby and a good minor in college, but is not a profession except for a very limited few. There are no jobs for these kids that major in archeology and the colleges need to quit pretending that there are. They cannot expect to fleece or extort enough monies from the public to support the professional archeologist wannabees. The public has a right to pursue their archaeological hobbies on their own public lands and waters. The rights of the many (the public) are more important than the rights of the few (the academic elite). More important than either of these groups are the rights of the individual. One of the senators that I spoke to this week said he just did not care about our bill one way or the other. I won’t mention his name because I have hopes that he will become a good senator. A half second after he said that to me I jumped down his throat and said that he should care. I said there are 100,000 divers in Alabama and they care. Anyone who is an elected legislator should always care or should not be there.
We did not need HB54 to pass for divers to legally dive and find isolated finds in Alabama. All we were doing is trying to make our confusing law easier to understand. We already have legal rulings that divers can dive anywhere in Alabama waters and can find isolated finds on underwater state lands. The only exceptions are inundated lands like TVA on the Tennessee River or Alabama Power lands. Even there, the TVA or Alabama Power only owns the inundated lands. The original navigable stream belongs to the state (the public). You can dive and find relics and artifacts in all original navigable streams. Certain historic shipwrecks are cultural resources and are off limits to any recovery of relics. These ships are what the original law was written for in 1999 and you must be permitted by the Alabama Historical Commission to do any type of salvage on these ships. Permits are not issued except to their cronies. The other exception is any burial ground that is underwater. As it should be, it is illegal to rob graves under federal and state laws. The only people who legally rob graves are professional archaeologists, and I wish that activity was stopped. I don’t want my ancestor’s graves molested by these professional ghouls. There are no Indian burial mounds located in the original navigable streambeds of Alabama. The mounds that are underwater are on  inundated lands that do not belong to the state and are off limits. Indians never buried their dead in an original navigable stream, and that is the only place that this law concerns.
You can get copies of all letters and laws at Southern Skin Diver Supply webpage. www.ssdsupply.com Print pages from this link and carry with you on your boat. http://www.ssdsupply.com/success.htm Please obey all dive and boating laws. Make sure your boat has all required dive flags and equipment. If anyone is unduly harassed by law enforcement or archaeologists please let me or my sons know. We will help if possible. Phone 205-595-3052.
Thanks for reading this long message.
Steve Phillips
Government big enough to supply everything you need is big enough to take everything you have.
The course of history shows that as a government grows, liberty decreases.
Thomas Jefferson