Point of Beginning

Ga. lawmakers want to redraw border for some of Tennessee's water

February 15, 2008
Lawmakers in drought-ridden Georgia hope to correct a 1818 surveyor's error and alleviate their state's thirst for water.


Ga. lawmakers want to redraw border for some of Tennessee's water

ATLANTA --Desperate for water amid a historic drought, some Georgia lawmakers are trying to reopen an 1818 border dispute with Tennessee.

They have set their sights on a stretch of the 652-mile long Tennessee River that flows tantalizingly close to the Georgia line - and by some historic accounts, should be within Georgia's borders.

"It's never too late to right a wrong," said state Sen. David Shafer, R-Duluth.

Shafer's Senate resolution says a flawed survey in 1818 mistakenly marked Georgia's border one mile south of the 35th parallel - and thus excluded the Tennessee River from Georgia's reach.

There's a reason thirsty lawmakers are eyeing the river: It has a flow about 15 times greater than the river feeding Atlanta.

The resolution would not change Georgia's borders, but it would create a "boundary line commission" that aims to resolve the dispute. It was co-sponsored by all of Georgia senators, and a similar proposal was introduced in the House.

The border debate centers on an 1818 survey that has entered the folklore of north Georgia. As the story goes, surveyors charting out the 35th parallel were either frightened by a nearby Indian party or simply used flawed math to draw the line.