Commonwealth Journal

Local News

February 2, 2007

Lost treasures?

There is a policy concerning lake ‘digs’

Somerset — The wide, bare banks of Lake Cumberland, suddenly lowered for repairs to Wolf Creek Dam, are a haven for treasure hunters. However, seekers of lost treasures should be aware of a policy snare.

Brant Norris, conservation ranger, and Troy Hawks, park ranger, both with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, said picking up or digging for cultural resources could get a treasure hunter in a lot of trouble. He or she could be cited to federal court, Hawks noted. Cultural resources are such things as Indian artifacts, including arrowheads, and other things of historical significance.

That aside, no doubt sailors with the “Ohio Navy” have accidentally dropped valuables into the lake and watched the items disappear in deep water, apparently forever.

But unforeseen events can turn the tide. While the lake was low for repairs to Wolf Creek Dam during the 1970s, a local resident found a valuable wrist watch in the mud.

After the finder wiped mud and silt from the Bulova Accutron, the watch was still humming and looked as if it had just come from a jewelry store. The waterproof electronic timepiece, powered by a tuning fork with a high-pitched hum instead of a tick, sold for just under $200 when it was introduced in 1960. It now costs more than $300.

This type of thing is fair game, Hawks said. “Anything modern — watches, rings, boat parts — it’s OK.”

But don’t go digging for treasure. Digging anywhere except on beach areas is against Corps policy and the digger could end up in federal court, Hawks said.

And don’t take your metal detector, he added. The only places a metal detector can be used are in beach areas. A metal detector usually beeps when valuables are beneath the surface and a shovel or spade is needed. Digging along the lake bank outside a beach is prohibited.

In summary, treasure hunters may walk along bare banks and pick up any valuable item they see outside of cultural resources. If you can’t see it, don’t dig for it, warned Hawks and Norris.

Lake Cumberland is being lowered 43 feet below the tree line because of serious leakage problems at Wolf Creek Dam. A $310 million rehabilitation of the day is underway and may take up to seven years.

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