Selma Mayor George Evans said he’s not only excited about the project but is convinced the study will produce a number of artifacts that have been lost to the river since the Civil War. -- Katie Wood
Selma Mayor George Evans said he’s not only excited about the project but is convinced the study will produce a number of artifacts that have been lost to the river since the Civil War. -- Katie Wood

Survey first step in preserving Selma’s underwater treasures

Published 11:00pm Thursday, March 28, 2013

The city of Selma is preparing for a real live treasure hunt, as they get ready to enter phase one of the Alabama Historical Commission Maritime Study of Underwater Resources in the Alabama River.

The purpose of the project is to preserve the Alabama River and the historic artifacts that lie within it, Selma Mayor George P. Evans said.

“We believe that this study will certainly bring about information that we need to reflect what’s in that river, which could be something we could use for our historical branding,” Evans said.  “We don’t know what’s down there. If we get someone to go down there who’s licensed and who’s not going to take it away and use it somewhere else, I think it could really give us some background as to what happened hundreds of years ago.”

Evans said he’s not only excited about the project but is convinced the study will produce a number of artifacts that have been lost to the river since the Civil War.

Selma’s planning and development department have received multiple bids for phase one of the project — bids the department is currently examining.

“Now that the bids are in, it won’t be very long [before we begin the study],” Warren Hinson, historic preservation and revitalization coordinator said.

State Archeologist Stayce Hathorn said the city of Selma is entering into the study because they want to protect the site since it is a National Register eligible site.

“Before you can make any plans for that you have to know how big the site is and where exactly the site is,” Hathorn said. “This phase of the study is to say where the site is and how far the site extends.”

Hathorn explained that a typical archeological investigation is comprised of three phases, but noted this study is a little different because it’s a maritime study in black water — the first of it’s kind in Selma.

“It’s a really important site,” she said.

Hathorn estimated the project would be completed in three phases. Phase one, which contractors have just put bids in for, is basically to map the site, she said. Whoever wins the bid will use remote sensing technology to access the location of cultural resources in the area. The site will be mapped using high-resolution magnetometry at 15 feet lane spacing and high-resolution sonar imaging at 60 feet lane spacing.

The winners of the bid will use the data to prepare an underwater site map of the findings.

“They drive back and forth with that lane spacing and they read the data,” Hathorn said. “The data that comes back tells them where the site is — where the artifacts are dispersed. They come back with that data and then we’ll have that information from this phase of the study and we’ll be able to plan the next phase.”

Phase two of the study answers questions of integrity.

“Basically it says, [whether] this site tells a story, because that’s what we’re trying to say — does this site have information that is important for us?” Hathorn explained. “And then phase three is data recovery. Phase three is when you actually go in there and you start to get the information and read the story that the site has to tell. And that’s what takes a really long time.”

Mary Shell, preservation planner for the Alabama Historical Commission said the study is funded in part by a certified local government grant.

“Selma is one of 29 Alabama communities that are eligible for these grants, and that’s because they have a local preservation commission and local preservation program. The funds come through the national park service to our agency, annually,” Shell said.

The grant was awarded in the 2012 fiscal year for the two-year project, meaning the city of Selma has until Sept. 30 of this year to complete the study.

  • captain113

    nicely said mr.Steve Phillips

  • Glenn Green

    The city off Selma does nothing to protect any history other than that of CIVIL RIGHTS. The scum of Selma has done everything in its power to destroy all vestiges of Confederat

  • Steve Phillips

    Mrs. Hathorn is wrong about the Alabama River being eligible for the National Register of Historic Places. No river in the United States is eligible for listing. The dry land of the riverfront is eligible and listed. The reason the navigable streams are not listed or eligible is because of the tumbling action under the water and there is no context on what is there. The survey that is written about has already been done by the Corp of Engineers several years ago and is available. The Historical Commission has a copy of the results. The report states that the site is not eligible for listing in the National Register. This article reads like another money scheme for paid archaeologists to get money for doing nothing while amateur archaeologists and competent black water divers do much better for free. Tannehill State Park has many relics from Selma and North Alabama on display and these were put there by myself and other divers and relic hunters. I also intend to put a large display in the Archives and History building in Montgomery.
    Myself and other divers would be happy to put artifacts on display in Selma if Selma had a decent museum. All they have to do is ask. We will preserve and display for all the public to see but we will not allow the paid employees to sell the artifacts to pay their salaries as they have so often in the past.
    Steve Phillips
    Southern Skin Diver Supply

  • captain113

    that would be great if they could find any thing in all that mud after all these years,and if they can bring some things up too see.

    • popdukes12

      It’s pretty clean soapstone and sand(with some logs) out about 50 feet from the bank along the old Arsenal location. The water is about 35 feet deep and you can only see about a foot in front of your face with a good light. All of the big stuff is gone as the water used to get that low before the dams were put in, and the big stuff was picked up. Grape shot, canister plates, square nails, and fragmented bayonets are about all that is left. Occasionally a canon ball will show up, but that is rare. pops

  • popdukes12

    Having dove there in the early ’70′s, I’ll say the sand along the soapstone bluff from Carrneal’s to Mabry St. changes every year. What can be seen this year will be buried next year. Below Maby St. is all mud. If you find a large magnet tied to a green ski rope, it’s mine. pops

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