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Tennessee governor dismisses border dispute with Georgia

7:39 PM, Jul 12, 2013   |    comments
Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam. Photo courtesy of the Associated Press
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TRENTON, Ga. -- It's a piece of land that some in Georgia would call 'occupied territory.' It's in the state of Tennessee, but claimed by the state of Georgia.

Nearby, there's a spike in the woods. It marks the corner spot where the states of Alabama, Georgia and Tennessee meet.

Dade County CEO Ted Rumley and many others contend that a 19th century surveying mistake put the marker here, instead of a few hundred yards north at the 35th parallel. That mishap put the Tennessee River just out of reach of Georgia-eliminating a potentially bountiful source of water for metro Atlanta.

"And it is the 35th parallel. It is the northern boundary of the state of Georgia," Rumley said. "And the 35th parallel is in the middle of the Tennessee River."

Thursday, we questioned Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam about the dispute. The Republican admitted to only "a little bit" of knowledge about the disputed border. "I know what the argument is there," he told WXIA news.

Not surprisingly, Haslam says he likes the status quo - and has only a passing interest in Georgia's claim to a piece of the Tennessee River.

"We're very satisfied with the situation the way it is now for, good reason," Haslam said.

Q: Do you think Georgia has any business accessing the Tennessee river?

Halsam: "Well, that's for somebody beyond my capacity. Ask that to an engineer or somebody who can answer that."

Q: Well, surveyors say that they do.

A: Yeah. Again, it's not an issue I spend a whole lot of time focused on.

Haslam says he's aware that the Georgia legislature passed a resolution calling for the state to sue Tennessee to change the state line to the 35th parallel-if Georgia can't access the river. The resolution proposes, as a potential compromise, that Tennessee cede a one-square-mile piece of land that would give Georgia geographical access to the Tennessee River and Nickajack Lake.

This week, Georgia governor Nathan Deal said he would approach Haslam at a conference of Republican governors about negotiations.

"I think there is an opportunity to at least have a civil discussion about that issue," Deal said.

During our chat with Haslam, we suggested he could be "like Nixon going to China. Extend the olive branch to Georgia."

Haslam responded: "Well we offered to trade 'em for the Braves or Stone Mountain. But they didn't," he laughed. "I'm teasing," he said, just to clarify.

Haslam has good reason to laugh off Georgia's border dispute. Georgia has been raising the issue for more than 120 years-and the Tennessee River has remained out of Georgia's reach the entire time. But metro Atlanta continues to grow, as does its need to access fresh water.


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