Deadhead log permits collect dust

February 20, 2006

Cairo -- A program approved last year to harvest old wood from Georgia riverbeds may sink before it gets a chance to float. No one has applied for a permit, because loggers say it could bankrupt them.

A deadhead log that might be pulled from the bottom of any Georgia river. But, in Georgia to harvest this log, the average logger would lose $200 because of Georgia's price structure.

"The Department of Natural Resources has spent a year coming up with a program that nobody will participate in, because you'll go bankrupt if you do," said Ryan Lee of River Wood Flooring.

The deadline to file a petition to harvest these deadhead logs was last Friday. Lee says he hasn't applied for a permit because, "There's a lot easier way to go broke than give my 60,000 bucks to the state."

In fact, no one had applied for a permit before Friday's deadline, that's because it's simply cheaper to get these logs from another state. In Florida, loggers pay a flat $6,500 fee to harvest a five mile stretch. "In Louisiana, it's a $500 permit, and it's a nickel a foot, for all the log that you recover. In Georgia, it's a 10 thousand dollar permit fee, a $50,000 cash bond and $1.28 a board foot for the logs that you recover."

The problem is the state could be losing out, in the last two weeks, Lee paid the state of Florida over $70,000 for materials, taking money he could have been paying Georgia. "We pushed to get this law passed in the state of Georgia simply because it's an untapped resource," said Lee.

Lee says there's enough of this deadhead wood in the Flint River near Newton to keep his crews busy for a year, but until the state can come up with a better fee system that wood will remain untouched.

It's something he fears is exactly what the Department of Natural Resources may want. The Department of Natural Resources is scheduled to meet on Wednesday, but is not expected to discuss the fee structure.

There has been some indication from the sponsor of Senate Bill 283, Senate Majority Leader Tommie Williams that the legislature may go back and look at the bill.