Shipwrecks in Hudson pose historical dilemma

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FORT EDWARD -- Imagine finding an unexpected gift. But you can't open it or touch it. And in fact, not long after you discover it, it must be destroyed. Permanently. If you're lucky, you can take a picture of it. That's roughly the situation for upper Hudson River residents who embrace the area's rich history. An archaeological firm hired by the General Electric Co. to survey the river bottom and shoreline before the massive PCB dredging project begins next year has unearthed some unexpected treasures.

Sonar and diving teams have found up to seven boats, including one that may date to the 18th century. The remains can provide clues about history, from prehistoric Native American settlements to the French and Indian War and beyond.

But a preliminary report, not yet made public, suggests the artifacts won't be pulled out of the water -- because they're too polluted with PCBs. So, as of now, the rich material will be dug up and processed as toxic waste, just like the rest of the 2.65 million cubic yards of PCB-laden muck that is to be dredged.

That infuriates locals such as Neal Orsini, who owns the Anvil Inn, a restaurant and hotel on the site of what used to be Fort Edward itself.

"We don't want our history scooped up and taken away," Orsini said. "Let's get in there and pull it out."

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