This interview with Sen. David Shafer (R-48) is a good example of the benefits of communication. Lord knows I have my issues with Republicans (as a party, that is) and I am sure Sen. Shafer didn’t vote my way on tort reform in ’05. But, when I set up this interview with him to discuss the resolution he sponsored urging Gov. Perdue to get the northern boundary of the State with Tennessee settled after 180 years, I was pretty sure this was one of those hairbrained ideas that made no sense. I have certainly joked about joining the militia and invading Chattanooga. Jokes aside, this interview convinces me that it is a legitimate dispute which needs to be resolved.
There have been a lot of newspaper editorials and other commentaries criticizing the resolution primarily because it is what it is: a rather blatant power grab for water. Sen. Shafer doesn’t deny as much. Those that criticize it probably think it is a sleazy way to try to solve the water shortage in metro Atlanta. The idea is that Atlanta should resolve its water problems by realistically evaluating its ability to support development and growth and live within its means, water included. I don’t disagree with this either, but I am not sure it is a valid reason to ignore the northern border issue.
If you would like to know the history of this dispute, you can listen to the interview or you can read Senate Resolution 822 which enumerates the various surveys, resolutions and litigation between Georgia and Tennessee since 1818. There is one fact I want to make sure you are aware of: a lot of north Georgia land drains into the Tennessee River but, with the present location of the border, has no access to that water once it gets to the river.
Unless someone can add something to the factual scenario, it seems to me that two things are beyond dispute: (1) Congress established Georgia’s northern border and Tennessee’s southern border as the 35th parallel and that has never been changed, and (2) part of the Tennessee River flows through Georgia because the legal border runs along the 35th parallel.
Because these two statements are true, I cannot think of a single reason not to get the location of the northern border correctly established. If you are concerned about suddenly changing the citizenship of people who thought they were living in Tennessee, that is probably a legitimate concern. However, as Sen. Shafer makes clear, he has no real desire to annex citizens of Tennessee into Georgia. All Tennessee has to do is negotiate a resolution that gives Georgia access to the Tennessee River and only squirrels and possums will have to find a new polling precinct.
I doubt there are many of us who would agree to give up our land without a fight. People fight over boundary lines all the time. People fight over inches, feet and acres and spend thousands enforcing their claims to land they believe they own. While in any particular case, the cost might be considered a waste of resources, the same cannot be said of what is at stake with regard to correctly locating Georgia’s northern border.
What is at stake? The future. This issue has waxed and wained for 190 years and has yet to go away. Ignoring it once again will not make it disappear this time. I appears the main reason it has once again come to our attention is directly related to the impact of the drought in Georgia. Do you think this is the last drought? If the current drought ends tomorrow, it will not be forever. In 20 or 30 years there will be twice as many people in Georgia, and most of them will not be in Buckhead. As populations increase worldwide and within each of the United States, competition for scarce resources, including water, will only increase.
With the climate changing, droughts recurring, none of us know the needs of the future. To fail to secure a legitimate resource, to fail to even try, may well be looked upon as a disatrous failure 30 years from now. Until the issue is resolved, once and for all, this issue of access to the Tennessee River will come back, again and again. Talk about a waste of resources. If anyone thinks Georgia’s claim is invalid or barred by the passage of time, fine, but until the Supreme Court of the United States says so, it ain’t so. Thirty more years of delay will not make Georgia’s position more justified. Whether the issue is resolved by a negotiated settlement or by a Supreme Court decision, it needs to be resolved, sooner, not later.
That seems to me to be the only responsible course of action.