No rush for submerged log harvest permits - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

No rush for submerged log harvest permits

January 4, 2006

Albany -- So far no one has applied to harvest sunken logs from the bottom of the Flint or Altamaha Rivers. The state hopes to make a lot of money by salvaging logs from the South Georgia Rivers, but some environmental groups worry it could pollute the water and harm wildlife.

The old growth longleaf Pine cuts into a beautiful board for custom flooring or cabinets. It can cost up to ten times more than conventional lumber, from 6 to 26 dollars a board foot. South Georgia rivers are one of the last few remaining sources of these logs.

During the 1800's and early 1900's thousands of pine and cypress trees were cut, lashed together and floated down the Flint River to sawmills and ports. An estimated five percent sank, and are still well preserved on the bottom. Department of Natural Resources Fisheries Biologist Adam Kaeser said "These older growth timber, the pine and the cypress, have some natural agents that resist that kind of decay."

For the next three weeks Prospective loggers can apply to the Department of Natural Resources for permits to harvest the sunken logs. If approved, the loggers would have to pay $10,000 for an annual permit, that gives them exclusive rights to a two mile stretch of the river. They must put up a $50,000 bond, and pay the state $1.28 for each board foot of lumber they remove.

Because of the hefty fees and regulations the loggers must follow, they are not sure how many people will apply. Kaeser said "we have a handful of people we think are interested. We're expecting some applications soon."

Environmentalist and fishermen oppose the underwater logging, because of water quality, fishing and boating concerns. D.N.R. officials admit they don't know what the logging will mean to river wildlife, like protected mussels. Kaeser said "With these mussels species there is not a lot known, so what we are going to do is try to take the most precautions to protect those organisms."

Logging on the Flint will stretch from the Broad Street Bridge in Albany to Bainbridge, except for areas around springs and hatching sites.

 So far no one has applied for a permit to harvest the sunken logs, and try to capitalize on a valuable resource that could be laying under these waters.

Underwater logging has been illegal in Georgia since 1998, but the legislature authorized a two year trial program to bring it back.

Some opponents say the state is not charging the loggers enough to fund the inspection program.

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