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Roll Call

The House : Shipwrecks

April 24, 1988

By a vote of 340 to 64, the House passed and sent to the White House a bill (S 858) to protect valuable shipwrecks from encroachment by sport divers, commercial salvagers and archeologists. The bill assigns states title to historic shipwrecks submerged within three miles of shore or embedded in coral reefs, giving them power to control access and determine allocation of any discovered treasure. Federal courts could no longer assert jurisdiction under admiralty law.

Between 5% and 10% of the estimated 50,000 abandoned shipwrecks off U. S. shores are thought to be of significant historic or commercial value.

Supporter Walter Jones (D-N. C.) said "only states can balance the legitimate interests of all groups interested in shipwrecks. . . . "

Opponent Jack Fields (R-Tex.) said "the real goal of this legislation is to severely restrict, if not prohibit, access to these vessels."

Members voting yes wanted states rather than admiralty law to determine access to certain historic shipwrecks.

How They Voted Yea Nay No vote Rep. Anderson (D) x Rep. Dornan (R) x Rep. Dymally (D) x Rep. Lungren (R) x

Access to Wrecks

By a vote of 134 for and 268 against, the House rejected an amendment to S 858 (above) requiring states to allow sport divers and commercial salvagers access to shipwrecks under state ownership. Sponsor Norman Shumway, (R-Stockton) said that without his amendment, states would "throw a wet blanket on the private sector incentive to go out and discover shipwrecks."

Opponent Jack Brooks (D-Tex.) called the amendment redundant because the legislation already assured that states would provide "reasonable access" to their shipwrecks.

Members voting yes wanted the bill to contain strict guarantees of private access to state-owned shipwrecks.

How They Voted Yea Nay No vote Rep. Anderson (D) x Rep. Dornan (R) x Rep. Dymally (D) x Rep. Lungren (R) x

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