*** NATURAL RESOURCES COMMISSION POLICY ***
2608 - LANDS
- PROTECTION AND UTILIZATION OF THE G.L. BOTTOMLANDS, HISTORICAL ANTIQUITIES,
Issued January 1, 1977
LANDS - PROTECTION AND UTILIZATION OF THE GREAT LAKES BOTTOMLANDSAS A RECREATIONAL RESOURCE, PROTECTION OF HISTORICAL ANTIQUITIES ON THE BOTTOMLANDS, AND ESTABLISHMENT OF UNDERWATER DIVE TEAMS
When the State of Michigan was admitted to the Union, it acquired title to submerged lands of the Great Lakes for the use and benefit of all the people. Act 17, Public Acts of 1921, the Act creating the Department of Conservation, placed general responsibilities on this Department for protecting and enhancing the natural resources of the State, and this has been construed to include the bottomlands. In 1929, Act 173 was passed which stated that salvage of historical antiquities on State lands could not be performed except under permit from the Department of Natural Resources. This has been interpreted to include the bottomlands. In 1955, Act 247, the Submerged Lands Act, was enacted which placed certain responsibilities on the Department concerning protection of the bottomlands from trespass and alterations of use or character. In addition, the Department of State is authorized by legislation as having responsibility for the collection of historical antiquities of every description which is interpreted to include material of historical significance (primarily shipwrecks) resting on the bottomlands.
Inspection and monitoring of underwater salvage activities needs to be performed in order to adequately protect the public interest.
The Department shall protect and enhance the bottomlands of the Great Lakes as a public trust, the same as State-owned uplands. In the case of historical materials, this responsibility shall be shared with the Department of State according to legislated authority regarding material resting on the bottomlands. Underwater dive teams shall be established in each Region for purposes of underwater identification, inspection, salvage, and rescue operations.
1. The Department shall study and prepare plans concerning protection, enhancement and utilization of the bottomlands for the cultural and economic benefit of the public. Concepts involving underwater parks, bottomland interpretive centers, research centers and similar activities shall be developed and implemented.
2. The Department shall continue and refine a system of permits allowing sports divers and commercial salvors, under certain conditions and in certain areas, to take certain articles from shipwrecks on the bottomlands of the Great Lakes. This system will be designed and operated in conjunction with the Department of State. Arrests will not be made for violations of the permit system as it will not sustain a criminal action. Persuasion and referral to the Law Enforcement Division are the two permitted courses of action in the field.
3. Each Region, utilizing existing personnel, shall establish and train an underwater dive team to serve in the Region for underwater identification, monitoring, inspection, salvage and rescue. The teams shall be available to local communities for emergency search and rescue operations. The activities of dive teams are not limited to the Great Lakes.