Georgians want access to Tenn. water; "redraw boundary" disp

Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by hacon1, Feb 8, 2008.

  1. hacon1

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    Georgians want access to Tenn. water

    They want to redraw state boundary

    By THEO EMERY • Staff Writer • February 8, 2008

    In 1993, Joel J. Kyle and his wife, Juanita, moved just over the Georgia border to Tennessee — and Joel Kyle vowed never to cross it again.

    Now, some Georgia lawmakers want the border to cross him, in a manner of speaking.

    A resolution in Georgia's legislature proposes to move the Tennessee-Georgia boundary about a mile to the north of where it now lies, which could put Kyle right back into the state he left 15 years ago.

    The proposal elicited instant ridicule from residents of the area on Thursday, as well as tongue-in-cheek saber rattling from Tennessee lawmakers.

    One state senator offered to settle the issue with a football game. Another suggested floating an armada of University of Tennessee fans down the Tennessee River to defend the state's territory.

    But behind the amusement is a serious issue that has bedeviled the Southeast: access to water. If the border is redrawn, the new state line would fall across Nickajack Reservoir. That would allow parched Georgians to tap into the waters of the dammed Tennessee River.

    Issue draws criticism

    Kyle, 69, said he has no desire to be annexed by Georgia, which he gladly departed because of its taxes, and hopes the idea is "just a pipe dream."

    "If it ever came to that, I would probably move," he said. "I've got seven acres here, and we're set up pretty well, but I wouldn't ever want to be in the state of Georgia again, to be honest with you."

    Georgia has been battling Florida and Alabama in federal court for about 18 years over water rights. Last summer, Lake Lanier, which supplies Atlanta's water, shriveled to historic lows.

    The resolution, which has passed early hurdles but has not received final passage, claims that the boundary was erroneously surveyed in 1818 and that Georgia has never accepted it. The resolution calls for the creation of a "Georgia-Tennessee Boundary Line Commission" that would perform joint surveys and change the line to the "definite and true" boundary line: exactly following the 35th parallel.

    "We're not talking about sucking it dry," said Rep. Harry Geisinger, a Republican who sponsored the resolution in the Georgia House. "We're talking about augmenting some water needs, and as you know, the Tennessee has got plenty of water in it."

    Gil Rogers, a staff attorney at the Southern Environmental Law Center, said the proposal was the wrong approach to water woes. Lawmakers, he said, should concentrate on conservation and sustainable development.

    "It's a matter of how we grow and planning ahead so we're not reduced to making these propositions about accessing rivers that are hundreds of miles away," he said.

    State Sen. Andy Berke, a Chattanooga Democrat, took the Senate floor and jokingly proposed a winner-take-all wrestling match or football game.

    Afterward, he was more circumspect, saying that there is a serious issue at hand about natural resources, planning and development, and calling the Georgia proposal an "irresponsible land-grab."

    "I think it is more productive to be up front about the future of water use," he said, "rather than disguising the intentions with discussions of grabbing our state's land."
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