(CN) - An 11th Circuit ruling allowed a company that recovers sunken logs in Georgia rivers to proceed with claims that the state improperly seized some of its salvaged wood.
Aqua Log Inc. dredges up "deadhead logs" -- logs that have sunken in transit after being commercially harvested around the turn of the last century -- to recover the valuable old-growth wood.
Aqua Log challenged the state of Georgia over two seizures of such logs. A 1985 law gave the state title to submerged resources and established a permit program involving fees for recovery of the wood.
Such operations can affect water quality and wildlife, including endangered species, the natural resource division determined.
Georgia had asserted that it owns the logs Aqua Log recovered from the Altahama and Flint rivers, and sought to dismiss the company's lawsuits over the seizure.
The 11th Circuit upheld the lower court's determination that Georgia's property rights were merely legal and not physical, which prevents the state from claiming sovereign immunity under the 11th Amendment.
"Any alternative ruling would largely collapse the distinction between actual and constructive possession," Judge Black wrote for the Atlanta-based circuit.
The court provided no opinion on Aqua Log's property claims under admiralty law.
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