Pair could be in big trouble due to underwater logging in the Savannah River

AIKEN, SC (WRDW / WAGT) – Two men from South Carolina made the Aiken County Jail newspaper for something you might not have expected.

They had been searching for timber that has been at the bottom of the Savannah River for more than 100 years, authorities said.

And it’s against the law if you don’t have permission to do so.

Many logs fell from barges or sank as they floated downstream during logging operations in the 1800s, and they remain at the bottom of the region’s waterways.

They’ve come through the years better than you might think.

After being deep below the surface where there is no oxygen, there is virtually no rot, and the nutrients in the water give the wood unique textures and colors.

The wood is transformed into high-end furniture and works of art, with cypress particularly in demand, according to Department of Natural Resources spokesperson David Lucas.

“It can be very lucrative,” Lucas said.

In South Carolina, logs are considered archaeological artifacts and it is illegal to retrieve them without a permit.

This is what Nathan L. Tarpein Sr., 41, of Summerville, and Nicholas R. Fox, 24, of Ravenel, had done before being arrested in Aiken County on Tuesday, according to Lucas.

He said his agency had met them before and that they had been warned that they needed a license, which can cost $ 500 per location for residents of the state or $ 1,000 for residents out of. the state.

For some reason, Lucas said, they didn’t get a license.

So when they were caught trying to start over, the Department of Natural Resources decided to lay charges under the South Carolina Underwater Antiquities Act.

“It’s a little unusual for us,” Lucas said of the agency that deals most often with hunting and fishing issues.

The law states that the state owns all submerged historical archaeological objects that have not been claimed for at least 50 years on state-controlled submerged land. The law does not apply to private property.

A commercial license is not required to inspect, study, explore or take photos. But recovery is different.

The logs are considered artifacts because they were cut and have saw marks, as opposed to logs from trees that may have fallen naturally and ended up in the river, Lucas told News 12.

Amateur diving for paleontological resources also requires a license – a license that costs as little as $ 5.

Lucas said those finds include fossilized shark teeth.

As to whether the law has teeth, it’s up to you.

The offense of violating the hobby license category can result in a penalty as low as a fine of $ 50. But commercial violators face a fine of up to $ 10,000 and can spend a year in jail.

Copyright 2021 WRDW / WAGT. All rights reserved.

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