CONGRESS GIVES STATES TITLE TO HISTORIC WRECKS

CONGRESS GIVES STATES TITLE TO HISTORIC WRECKS

Congress gave final approval Wednesday to legislation awarding U.S. states title to abandoned historic shipwrecks lying within their waters.

By a 340-64 vote, the House of Representatives passed and sent to the White House for President Reagan's signature the same measure it narrowly rejected two weeks ago. At that time opponents complained they were denied the opportunity to offer amendments to the bill.The bill was brought up again Wednesday under different parliamentary ground rules that allowed consideration of amendments. But the major proposed change, an access guarantee sought in behalf of sport divers and salvors, was defeated on a 268-134 roll call.

The measure would give states title to the estimated 5 percent to 10 percent of the shipwrecks in state waters that are considered historically important. All others having no historic interest, plus all shipwrecks lying beyond three miles offshore, would be governed by federal admiralty law.

Admiralty law awards shipwrecks and cargoes to the finders and permits salvage operators to claim a major portion of the cargoes they raise.

Under the bill, admiralty law would not apply to the small number of historically significant shipwrecks in state waters, and American Indian tribes would have title to shipwrecks on their lands. The federal government would retain title to any abandoned wrecks on public lands.

Until now, both states and federal admiralty courts have claimed jurisdiction over such wrecks in state waters.

The bill passed the Senate by voice vote on Dec. 19.