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Water Wars
March 25, 2013 7:45 PM   Subscribe

Georgia Senate passes resolution to move state line, claim Tennessee River water. A TPM reader provides interesting background.
posted by maggieb (47 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite

 
If America had listened to Jimmy Carter this problem would have been solved decades ago. Is this true of all of America's problems or does it just seem that way?
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 7:56 PM on March 25, 2013 [29 favorites]


You realize of course, this means war.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 7:58 PM on March 25, 2013 [4 favorites]


Georgia's been desperate to steal water from her neighbors for years. With the Mississippi drying up, a lot of barge traffic will move to the Tenn-Tom Waterway and the port of Mobile, a boon to the residents of northeast Mississippi and southwestern Alabama.

Unless Georgia sucks the Tennessee River dry watering their lawns.

One glance at a map of the Tenn-Tom is enough to show just how ridiculous Georgia's claim to this waterway is.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 8:16 PM on March 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


Well, in a comical fashion it'll sure be fun to watch all those "well-regulated militias" turn out to fight for their state's rights to the water.
posted by Purposeful Grimace at 8:30 PM on March 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


One glance at a map of the Tenn-Tom is enough to show just how ridiculous Georgia's claim to this waterway is.

The border is wrong. Both states acknowledge that. It is wrongly drawn in Tennesee's favor. Georgia's claim is actually quite strong.
posted by Ironmouth at 8:36 PM on March 25, 2013 [6 favorites]


BitterOldPunk: "Georgia's been desperate to steal water from her neighbors for years."

Eventually, they'll go mad with water-envy, and move Atlanta to the middle of the ocean.

It won't end well.
posted by schmod at 8:38 PM on March 25, 2013 [10 favorites]


You realize of course, this means war.

It means Supreme Court original jurisdiction, baby!

Note the resolution authorized court action for the first time.
posted by Ironmouth at 8:38 PM on March 25, 2013


They can do that? Just vote to move the state line? Could, say, Texas try to annex New Mexico?
posted by DecemberBoy at 8:52 PM on March 25, 2013


Why isn't Georgia abstracting water upstream where the river is in Georgia already and avoiding this whole mess? Are all the water storage facilities in Tennessee?
posted by fshgrl at 9:04 PM on March 25, 2013


Here is a good map. Would be better if it marked the 35th parallel north.
posted by maggieb at 9:37 PM on March 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


I realize that this is a real issue that affects real lives, but the kid in me can't help but think "do it!" because I'm fascinated with anything that changes tons of maps.

(I am also still waiting for the 51st star on the US flag.)
posted by MCMikeNamara at 9:38 PM on March 25, 2013 [5 favorites]


They can do that? Just vote to move the state line? Could, say, Texas try to annex New Mexico?

Both sides have in the past agreed that there is an error in the border survey. However Georgia can not just say "we're moving the border." Instead they file a case in the Supreme Court directly if no settlement is reached.

In 2002 Virginia did the same thing in a dispute over the Potomac.
posted by Ironmouth at 9:39 PM on March 25, 2013


DecemberBoy: "They can do that? Just vote to move the state line? Could, say, Texas try to annex New Mexico"

Well, Texas does have something of a tradition for this...
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 9:39 PM on March 25, 2013


This map shows both the border and the 35th parallel, and provides some more information on the Georgia side of the dispute.
posted by Jugwine at 9:46 PM on March 25, 2013 [4 favorites]


Could, say, Texas try to annex New Mexico?

I've only lived here for a couple years, but I believe our historical disagreement is with Old Mexico.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 9:55 PM on March 25, 2013 [3 favorites]


So this would mean that Alabama gets some of Tennessee, too?
posted by dunkadunc at 10:13 PM on March 25, 2013


This is one of those arguments that sounds ridiculous the first time you hear about it, but when you look at, Georgia has a very strong case. Plus, they are asking for a very reasonable accommodation. They don't insist that the boundary be moved to the correct line--they just want access to the water they would have if it were. It is not a frivolous or insubstantial case, and I'm really interested in seeing how this plays out.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 10:15 PM on March 25, 2013 [4 favorites]


seeing as how nickajack lake is man-made, could Tennessee respond by just draining the lake far enough to remove their riparian claim? or moving the storage lake downriver? that'd be some awesome state-level jerry springer action. sure, you can have your access .. to a big hole in the ground!
posted by gorestainedrunes at 10:36 PM on March 25, 2013


(just as an aside, part of me hopes they come to a peaceable agreement that provides atlanta with a few more million gallons of water a year. and part of me wants to see tennesee and mississippi play a game of keep-away with a couple billion gallons of river water.

but not really.

ok, maybe a little.)
posted by gorestainedrunes at 10:49 PM on March 25, 2013


Perhaps this will inspire Chicagoans to finally secede from Illinois.

MCMikeNamara—are you ready for Chicago to be the 51st state?
posted by she's not there at 10:55 PM on March 25, 2013


They can do that? Just vote to move the state line?

I think it's more that they're voting to collectively resolve / officially be on record as affirming that the "true" border is improperly recognized.
posted by threeants at 11:01 PM on March 25, 2013


Also-- real talk here for a sec-- can't we just go ahead and lay a claim on Chattanooga while we're at it? GO BIG OR GO HOME Y'ALL
posted by threeants at 11:04 PM on March 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


I'm trying to get Google Earth to show lat/long lines so I can determine if ROCK CITY should really be part of Georgia.
posted by thecjm at 11:51 PM on March 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


Nevermind. Rock City is already in Georgia. I had such a strong association of it with Chatanooga I assumed it was on the Tennessee side.
posted by thecjm at 11:54 PM on March 25, 2013 [3 favorites]


In other Tennessee water news: Crisis Averted When Tennessee Lawmakers Discover Muslim Foot Bath Is Actually Just a Mop Sink
posted by homunculus at 11:56 PM on March 25, 2013 [7 favorites]


Well, Alabama tried to get the 'true' border recognized in court... and given that Alabama is currently still level with Georgia on its northern border it's no surprise that Georgia went for, unless I'm mistaken in this, technically-act-of-war legislation.
posted by Slackermagee at 12:28 AM on March 26, 2013


Would be better if it marked the 35th parallel north.

Judging by Google Earth (turn on View Grid) the difference is just over one mile, so wouldn't be visible on a map of the scale that you posted.

I realize that this is a real issue that affects real lives

This is the bit that baffles me -- how this has gone on for 200 years without a substantive court challenge from anyone in the "wrong" state (because the survey affects all three states on TN's southern border) for whatever reason.
posted by dhartung at 1:37 AM on March 26, 2013


There is a dispute K about the border between NC/SC. It's "under study" but the residents and businesses impacted are not necessarily pleased.
posted by mightshould at 2:29 AM on March 26, 2013


Mmmm. Begun, the water wars have!
posted by barnacles at 3:00 AM on March 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


This conversation -- about trying to "fix" the NW border of Georgia -- is really about economic development in Atlanta and has been going on in the Georgia legislature since at least 2008 and the study that led to this resolution was ordered in 2011. The driver here is Atlanta's explosive growth over the last couple of decades and its consumption of water. While the City of Atlanta is about 430,000 people, the greater metro Atlanta area has a population of about 5.5M people. It also isn't the first dispute Georgia has been in with its neighbors over water; Georgia has been locked in a lawsuit with Alabama and Florida since 1990.

That lawsuit is over whether Atlanta can use Lake Lanier for drinking water -- it was originally built as a flood control measure and for power generation. Now 3M Atlanta residents depend on Lake Lanier for drinking water and Atlanta literally drains off most of the water in the Chattahoochee (released from Lake Lanier) before it can get downstream to middle Georgia, Alabama, and Florida. The U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal on this last year, putting Georgia in a much stronger position, but the negotiations continue.

While this idea about moving the border has gotten a lot of ridicule in Georgia over the years when it comes up, it is one more move in a decades long chess game about securing enough water to keep Atlanta growing. Who knows what the end game is? Maybe just to have a court case pending in some future negotiation with Tennessee?
posted by kovacs at 4:08 AM on March 26, 2013


Do I recall correctly that Atlanta is a "no-river-city"?
posted by notsnot at 4:35 AM on March 26, 2013


As a resident of Tennessee, I strongly oppose any action that theoretically allows the Georgia Highway Patrol to be closer to me than they already are.
posted by Benjy at 4:35 AM on March 26, 2013 [4 favorites]


Perhaps this will inspire Chicagoans to finally secede from Illinois.

Can they take Milwaukee with them?
posted by drezdn at 5:27 AM on March 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


The real question WRT Chicago secession is whether or not they'd take the collar counties (i.e. the rich suburbs) with them. As has been pointed out in a previous thread, they're the ones that pay a net surplus of state taxes.
posted by Halloween Jack at 5:43 AM on March 26, 2013


Well, in a comical fashion it'll sure be fun to watch all those "well-regulated militias" turn out to fight for their state's rights to the water.

I believe California and Arizona did gather their militias for potential battle over the Colorado River back in the late 1950's. I think the dispute was quieted by Congress. This is discussed in Cadillac Desert, which is an excellent read if you are interested in water.
posted by Seymour Zamboni at 6:03 AM on March 26, 2013 [3 favorites]


So our northern neighbors just shrug (or, as they did a few years back at the height of a severe drought, sent some pallets of bottled water to the Georgia General Assembly).

That sounds like an unnecessarily spiteful move.


Also From This Day in Georgia History link via Jugwine:
1865 From his home near Lithonia, Thomas Maguire wrote in his journal:

"Report said our negroes would leave last night, but I did not believe it – Dick is at his post this morning. I think the excitement of the negroes going to the Yankees is nearly over. The poor negroes will be sorry enough after they realize the effects of this, to them, great revolution. The race, I think will be exterminated in a few years. The negroes will be like the Indians, but in a far worse condition . . . ."
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 6:05 AM on March 26, 2013


They don't insist that the boundary be moved to the correct line--they just want access to the water they would have if it were. It is not a frivolous or insubstantial case, and I'm really interested in seeing how this plays out.

If they didn't pave so much of their state, they would not need this water. Fuck'em.
posted by ocschwar at 6:23 AM on March 26, 2013


Eventually, they'll go mad with water-envy, and move Atlanta to the middle of the ocean.

Georgia may have water-madness, but that's no excuse for water-rudeness.
posted by chemoboy at 6:35 AM on March 26, 2013


Do I recall correctly that Atlanta is a "no-river-city"?


Well, sort of. We have the Chattahoochee, which kind of winds around and through the city somewhat. But we don't have a proper big river going through the middle of downtown.
posted by Fleebnork at 7:00 AM on March 26, 2013


I wish it were possible to grant access to the water, but only on the condition of various energy or water-use reforms.

Just xeriscape some stuff, or educate people, or something. Sometimes I think about returning to Atlanta, but the prospect of looking at all those "nice houses" with their lawns, and the thought that people really could not get anything done without air conditioning (due to the location and insensibly-designed buildings), and the prospect of the climate being even one or two degrees warmer -- ugh. It's just ridiculous.

Atlanta only exists as a "great city" because it uses "too much" natural resources. It might have been possible to create a cleaner city, but that didn't happen.
posted by amtho at 7:03 AM on March 26, 2013


Special Master! Special Master! (The U.S. Supreme Court doesn't actually want to act as a trial court and hear these disputes, so it appoints a Special Master to hear the case and issue recommendations.)

Tennessee is 0-5 in original jurisdiction cases at the U.S. Supreme Court according these rankings. Could this be the case that turns it all around for the Volunteer State or is Tennessee on its way to becoming a six time loser?
posted by Area Man at 7:07 AM on March 26, 2013 [3 favorites]


This is really interesting. It looks on the surface like Georgia has a strong claim, but well historical border and treaty-like agreement cases are not even close to answerable from a 5-minute glance by a relative layperson. Court would be interesting.

Here in Canada, there is a similar-ish dispute that happens pretty frequently. Quebec frequently redraws maps to modify the border between it and Labrador. Sometimes it's just a small change (wiki), and sometimes they say that Labrador is just the coastline, as in a mile inland from the water. They just publish the maps with the redrawn line and Newfoundland & Labrador protests.

And of course border disputes and water lines were at the heart of one of the earlier cases [pdf] at the International Court of Justice.
posted by Lemurrhea at 7:10 AM on March 26, 2013


> Do I recall correctly that Atlanta is a "no-river-city"?

>> We have the Chattahoochee

I love it, but the Chattahoochee is a stream with ambitions. I like to think that our lack of a real natural water supply is just another way that Atlanta, for all it's ambitions at being the NYC of the South, is more like a Dixie LA.
posted by Panjandrum at 8:49 AM on March 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


This whole water thing though, could be solved if we just went back to Georgia's older borders.
posted by Panjandrum at 8:50 AM on March 26, 2013


seeing as how nickajack lake is man-made

This comment let me figure out what a line in Shovels And Rope's awesome song Birmingham was saying ...

"Delta mama and a nickajack man ..."

I grew up in NC with family in the mountains and I've never heard the term Nickajack before.
posted by freecellwizard at 10:35 AM on March 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


Graveyard of Peaches: How Tennessee Will Win Its War Against Georgia
As a soldier, I fought in both Iraq and Afghanistan; as a scholar, I performed most of the fieldwork for my doctoral dissertation in southern Lebanon. Nowhere in the world, though, have I ever encountered a more brutal, tribal and violent race of people than the Scots-Irish of East Tennessee.
posted by lost_cause at 10:08 AM on April 1, 2013


thecjm: "I'm trying to get Google Earth to show lat/long lines so I can determine if ROCK CITY should really be part of Georgia."

Rock City is part of Michigan.
posted by Chrysostom at 10:04 AM on April 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


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