Friday, May 08, 2009

SCUBA Law: Interesting Michigan Attorney General’s Opinion on Intentional Wreck-making

If you sink a ship in Michigan waters in the Great Lakes on purpose does anybody care?

More importantly who owns it once it touches the bottom?

These questions are answered in Michigan Attorney General Opinion No. 7299, dated May 7 2009 and published today.

The opinion letter, consisting of 10 pages can be read online.

The Opinion is in answer to the question as to what happens if an organization intentionally sinks a vessel in Michigan waters for the purpose of turning it into a wreck for recreational SCUBA diving. I believe there is a group trying to obtain an ex-US navy vessel for sinking in the US for divers, which would be a neat addition to the Michigan preserves.

The opinion states that the vessel would not necessarily become property of the State of Michigan and the owner could still be liable for issues involved with the sinking of the wreck. I’d suggest the potential sinkers of such vessels inquire if gifting the vessel to the State of Michigan before the sinking would help in relieving them of such liability.

As a SCUBA diver, the opinion is of interest as not only is it a very interesting and well-written opinion that touches on all the laws related to Michigan’s claim to wrecks and items on Great Lkes bottomlands and the interface of those laws with Federal laws, but it also gives a great overview of the laws that will get you in serious trouble if you try and remove artifacts from shipwrecks in Michigan’s underwater preserves and also where the authority comes from to prohibit such activities.

No comments: