Monday, February 11, 2008

Georgia can't move its border, right?

UPDATE (2/26/08): Georgia says it is really going to pursue this one. Tennessee introduces a resolution meant to counter Georgia's previously passed resolution.

UPDATE (2/22/08): Tennessee is stating that it won't go along with the resolutions passed in Georgia. I wonder why this is even happening.

UPDATE (2/21/08): Georgia's legislature passed two resolutions to have the border resurveyed, and have the whole thing wind up in the Supreme Court if TN and NC don't agree to go along.

UPDATE (2/15/08): Georgia tried another water grab - demanding extra water from the Lake Lanier Reservoir. That one got shut-down in court.

The state of Georgia is trying to move its border 1.1 miles north to intersect with the Tennessee River.

Wait, can they do that?

Um.... No. I don't think that the state legislature of Georgia can move its border. It was my understanding that it is the Federal government that can create the borders of new states of the Union from Territorial areas.

What gets me is this:
"The Tennessee River was part of Georgia long before there was a state of Tennessee," said Sen. David Shafer (R-Duluth), the resolution's sponsor. "I don't understand why a water-sharing agreement can't be worked out between the two states."

In this paragraph, Senator Shafer says two things that appear to be diametrically opposed. First, he says that the Tennessee River historically belongs to Georgia. Then he says that water-sharing shouldn't be a topic of concern for Georgia and Tennessee. What? If Georgia was supposed to have a border 1.1 miles to the north, why didn't Georgia shout bloody murder when the border was first drawn, or when the "mistake" was first discovered? Why wait until a year into a major drought before considering the possibility of moving the border? Surely, the silence of 211 years (Tennessee was made a state in 1796) provides some backing for Tennessee's claim on its borders?

Shifting the border of the state would require that the Congress of the United States approve the border shift (unlikely to happen). Even if it did happen, the approved border shift would (based on my understanding of the law) require the border shift to be retroactive, since a shift in the border alone would not guarantee Georgia all the water that is in Nickajack Lake. Since the lake was created by the TVA, the TVA has the right to apportion water as it feel necessary. If Georgia doesn't get a retroactive border shift to before the creation of the TVA, then Georgia's water claim post-dates the TVA's water management strategies, and Georgia would have to go to court to fight for those water rights.

All of this for some water? Why doesn't Georgia suck it up, realize that it is in a major drought? Why doesn't it realize that you can't sustain a major city like Atlanta on a river like the Chattahoochee? When are they going to come out with a realistic water conservation strategy, instead of a set of partial-measures?

And if this is all for water, then Georgia isn't seriously considering all the implications of all the property tax structures, service provisions, congressional redistricting, census tallies, etc that would have to out when such a border shift were to happen? Does Sen. Shafer consider these in his bill?

(Just as a side-point, the graphic in the AJC is wrong. It includes areas west of the Georgia/Alabama border. So far as I know, Alabama is not arguing about the movement of the its border with Tennessee.) I redid the map, showing a more-proper proposed border shift. (Seriously, the AJC needs to find someone that knows how to use GIS!)

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