Tell Your Representatives NO to SB362. Take action AGAIN to protect your fishing rights.
Despite thousands of emails sent to the House Natural Resources Committee and the House Rules Committee opposing deadhead logging, the House Natural Resources Committee voted to pass SB 362. Now, we must defeat it in the entire House.
If passed in the House, Senate Bill 362 will make it legal to mine deadhead logs from the Oconee, Ocmulgee, Altamaha, and Flint rivers. Deadhead logs are “sinkers” from the rafts of old-growth trees (primarily pine and cypress) that were harvested 100 to 150 years ago during the “big cut” and floated down our rivers and larger creeks. They are highly valued as beautiful “river wood” that when milled and used in floor and finish work command a very, very high price. However, deadhead logs, when exposed above the stream or river bed, serve as valuable fish habitat for Georgia’s panfish, bass, and other fish species. Removing these ancient logs will destroy aquatic habitat and hinder fish growth and reproduction.
Partially or completely submerged logs are covered by sediments that in many cases hold high concentrations of toxic heavy metal pollutants that have accumulated from our upstream activities over the last 150 years. Mining of these logs allows the toxins to be liberated into the water column and therefore flushed downstream, potentially polluting drinking water, fish habitat, and recreation areas. Research shows suspended sediment directly affects fish populations in several ways:
•Suspended sediment decreases the penetration of light into the water. This affects fish feeding and schooling practices, and can lead to reduced survival.
•Suspended sediment in high concentration irritates the gills of fish and can cause death.
•Sediment can destroy the protective mucous covering the eyes and scales of fish, making them more susceptible to infection and disease.
•Sediment particles absorb warmth from the sun, increasing water temperature. This can stress some species of fish.
•Settling sediments can bury and suffocate fish eggs.
•Sediment particles can carry toxic agricultural and industrial compounds. If these are released in the habitat they can cause abnormalities or death in the fish.
•Eroded soil and loosened sediments could destroy critical habitats for sport fish, particularly largemouth bass, and the aquatic species they need for food.
•Negative effects on fish will result in lower quality recreational fisheries. This could result in a negative economic impact for the area.
•The extraction and mining of 20 to 25-foot sunken logs from river bottoms and banks could degrade water quality by altering current flow patterns and bank destabilization, especially during periods of heavy flooding.
Removing these logs doesn’t help our rivers or our fish populations. It just robs the state of its natural resources and puts money in a few pockets. Georgia first prohibited the practice of mining deadhead logs in 1998, when commercial deadhead logging was on the rise. In 2003, a state-appointed Submerged Timber Task Force advised against allowing deadhead logging before undertaking scientific studies. There was concern about the potential harm to largemouth bass and endangered mussels as well as other biological resources, public recreation, and cultural resources. Two years later, with no studies completed, the General Assembly moved ahead anyway when they passed a law that Senator Williams sponsored to create a pilot logging program on parts of the Altamaha and Flint rivers. Instead of accepting bids, the DNR itself studied the market and set the price at roughly $500 a log. Loggers complained the price was too high and stayed away. The program expired in 2008.
The current bill would set up a bidding process. Very few bidders are expected to participate, guaranteeing a price well below market value. Such a low price could be considered an unconstitutional gratuity, an underselling or giveaway of timber belonging to the citizens of Georgia. In order for the price not to be considered a gratuity it will have to reflect the fair market value of the logs and cover the state’s cost in administering the program. In all likelihood, the state will get very little revenue from selling the logs and a small group of miners will stand to make a lot of money.
We don’t want these non-renewable resources disturbed. We don’t want to destroy fish habitat and pollute Georgia’s rivers. We don’t want to give away our state’s rich natural assets. The Oconee, Ocmulgee, Altamaha and Flint rivers are not the only places that deadhead logs exist. The Satilla, Ogeechee, Alapaha and others have such resources and can be expected to be targeted next. Now is the time to stop this practice, before it gets started. Please take action and encourage your representative to vote NO on SB 362; preserve our fish habitat, keep our rivers clean, and don’t give away a public resource.