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VOL. 123 | NO. 27 | Friday, February 08, 2008

Tenn. Lawmakers Opposed to Georgia Tapping Tennessee River

By LUCAS L. JOHNSON II | Associated Press Writer

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NASHVILLE (AP) - Tennessee lawmakers say they sympathize with Georgia's water shortages but they will oppose an effort by its lawmakers to redraw the states' border.

A proposal in the Georgia Legislature argues that a flawed survey in 1818 mistakenly marked Georgia's border one mile south of the Tennessee River.

The legislation sponsored by two Republican legislators would create a "boundary line commission" to possibly resolve the dispute and give the state access to a stretch of the 652-mile long river and ease Atlanta's water shortages.

Changes to state borders have to be approved by legislatures in each state, then Congress.

Tennessee Sen. Andy Berke's district includes Chattanooga, which the river passes through. The Democrat believes every lawmaker in Tennessee would fight a boundary change.

"If they ever tried, the governor, and me, and everybody else would be waiting for them," he said.

Tennessee Gov. Phil Bredesen, a Democrat, was dismissive of the resolution when asked about it during a statewide tour of damage from this week's fatal storms.

"We will protect our borders here in Tennessee," he said with a laugh.

The resolution traces attempts to resolve the dispute as far back as 1887, when North Carolina - another border state involved in the dispute - authorized its governor to appoint commissioners and a surveyor to meet with neighboring delegations over the boundary. No record of the meeting exists, the resolution said.

Most recently, Georgia legislators urged the governor in 1971 to launch joint surveys with North Carolina and Tennessee, but the border fight was never settled.

Georgians' interest in the Tennessee River has grown with its recent drought. The river's volume is about 15 times greater than the river feeding Atlanta.

Nevertheless, Tennessee lawmakers - especially those in the southeastern part of the state near the border - just don't like the idea.

"I'd be reluctant to change any of Tennessee's water supply," said Sen. Jamie Woodson, R-Knoxville. "Although we're very sympathetic to Georgia's situation, I don't know that we'd want to go hurting ourselves."

Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey, R-Blountville, said the boundary simply needs to be left where it is.

"It's been there ... for 190 years, there's no need to start changing," Ramsey said.

However, Sen. Tim Burchett described Georgia's drought as "desperate times for desperate people," and that the resolution probably should be taken seriously.

"If they get some crazy court ruling then we could really be in trouble," said the Knoxville Republican.

Berke, however, contemplated a less serious resolution to the dispute.

"I would offer to settle this over a friendly game of football, but that would be unfair to the state of Georgia."

Associated Press writer Greg Bluestein in Atlanta contributed to this report.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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