Georgia Senate OKs Moving Tennessee Border to Tap River Water

ATLANTA — Thirsting for more water in the midst of a drought, Georgia lawmakers took a step Wednesday toward moving the state line and tapping into a powerful river in a neighboring state. The state Senate unanimously approved a resolution Wednesday asserting that a flawed 1818 survey mistakenly placed Georgia’s northern line just short of the mighty Tennessee River. The measure also calls for the governor to establish a commission to sort out the dispute. The state House later voted 136-26 to pass a similar plan, which could soon go to Gov. Sonny Perdue.

The legislation alone can’t move the state line. That would require an agreement between Congress and the states, a long-shot prospect that Tennessee officials have scoffed at.

But Georgia lawmakers say they only want what rightly belongs to Georgia.

“Allowing our neighbors to the north to hoard the water in the Tennessee River is simply not an option,” said state Sen. David Shafer, the measure’s sponsor.

Shafer appeared to be dead serious, but his colleagues had a bit of fun with the proposed territorial grab. As he began to speak, supporters in the Senate quietly sang “This Land is Your Land.”

The dispute traces back to a 19th century survey that misplaced the 35th parallel.

If Tennessee’s southern border stretched along the parallel, as Congress designated in 1796, Georgia would have a share of the Tennessee – a river with about 15 times greater flow than the one Atlanta depends on for water.

“At long last it’s time for this matter to be settled,” said Shafer, R-Duluth. “Some have suggested this boundary dispute is about water — and they are in fact right.”

Surveyors now know that the Georgia-Tennessee border was placed about 1.1 miles south of where it should be. But they say borders can’t be updated with every technological advance; that would leave uncertainty about borders everywhere.

Other critics also point out the proposed Georgia-Tennessee border change goes beyond a simple dip into the river. Not only would Georgia get a chunk of Chattanooga, Mississippi would get a slice of Memphis, and thousands of residents could have new home states.

The drought has whetted Georgia’s thirst for the river, but this is far from the first attempt to redo the surveying team’s math.

Shafer’s resolution traces efforts as far back as 1887, when North Carolina – another state affected by the line – authorized its governor to appoint commissioners and a surveyor to meet with neighboring delegations over the boundary. No record of such a meeting exists, it said.

“This body has passed resolution after resolution after resolution asking Tennessee to join with us and accurately mark the line,” said Shafer. “Each time our friends in Tennessee have declined.”

He urged Tennessee to respond in a “neighborly fashion,” but lawmakers there have been less than eager to settle the dispute. Tennessee Gov. Phil Bredesen, for one, has scoffed at the bill as a way to ratchet up a “PR war” between the states.

Some Georgia legislators say it might take a legal battle to prove they are serious.

“If they do not concede that line, we may find ourselves in court,” said state Rep. Harry Geisinger, R-Roswell. “And if you look at cases around the country, we may be in a strong position.”

8 Responses so far »

  1. 1

    Deborah said,

    Instead of looking to the north and a creating a “war” with neighboring land-locked Tennessee, perhaps Georgians should look to the east—to their coast—to a infinitely larger water supply–one that will grow more as the poles melt. Until we wake up to global warming.

    It seems to make sense to build a desalination plant on the coast and end the water woes. Saudi Arabia does this. Why can’t America do the same?

  2. 2

    swampie said,

    Well, Tampa has a desalination plant, the largest such plant in North America; however, if you look at the history, you’ll find that it was plagued with cost overruns, bankruptcies, and took a long time to become productive. I think Georgia is looking for a quicker, less expensive fix. *America* doesn’t need to build desalination plants; affected cities do.

  3. 3

    Robert D said,

    Until we wake up to global warming.


  4. 4

    swampie said,

    Heh. Well, here the ENSO is what I worry about effecting the weather. Gah! Lightning is striking everywhere, and ankle deep in water putting up metal cattle panels suddenly didn’t seem like a real wise thing to do, plus the ewe would have to go through knee-deep (on her) water to get to the new emergency lamb shelter, which is half of *Breeze’s* stable. I’m afraid the horse might hit the panel and injure herself so as soon as THIS cell rains itself out, I’ll take them back down. Momma ewe will just have to spend the night in hypervigilance. And I’ll be late for work again in the morning.

    I think we’re about to lose power; the lights are flickering. (I love my battery back up!) I need to find where I put the flashlight.

  5. 5

    Robert D said,

    Good luck with the critters Swamps, the fun never ends, does it?
    I think Deborah’s desalination idea is great. If the bugs have been worked out in S A and Florida it can work anywhere there is access to sea water. I’d like that a lot better than drinking recycled sewer water. That was on Foxnews a couple of weeks ago. eeeewwwww…….

  6. 6

    swampie said,

    Well, just so “America” doesn’t have to foot the bill. It’s Atlanta’s problem, Atlantans should pay for it.

  7. 7

    Robert D said,

    I agree on that part too. Just an agreeable feller now aint I. 😀

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