Tuesday, February 26, 2008

More on the Georiga border shift

Today, the AJC reports that last week's border shift resolution from the Georgia legislature is really a serious bid for more water. Georgia governor Sonny Perdue is apparently going to pursue this course of action (legislative resolution notwithstanding):

“I don’t think it’s a gimmick,” Perdue told reporters a few hours after his [Google Earth] demonstration [showing that moving the border to the 35th parallel will place the NW corner of the state right in the middle of Nickajack Lake]. But the enthusiasm the governor showed in the basement had shifted to a diplomatic practicality.

“I think we have to be very careful in the way we proceed in this effort. As it gets more and more serious, the people of Tennessee get more and more concerned. There was probably a better way to do this — legislation’s a sort of in-your-face sort of thing,” the governor said.

All of this appears to be part of a behind-the-scenes strategy to sustain the growth of the state of Georgia, specifically Atlanta. There's a link to the confidential report at the AJC.
[Brad Carver - a utilities lawyer in Atlanta - and a water expert at the University of Mississippi] drew up a confidential, 19-page memo that outlined the history of Georgia’s 190-year dispute with Tennessee, and offered advice on how Georgia might finally win the argument and gain access to a river with 15 times the flow of the Chattahoochee River at Buford Dam.

“As the drought got worse, this made more and more sense. We can’t conserve our way to a solution,” Carver said. The state is growing too fast, he said — and the only alternatives are desalination plants on the Atlantic coast, and the Tennessee River.
I personally think this is a perfect example of mindless "training-speak". By "training-speak" I mean the inability of people to think creatively within their own field. Carver is a utilities lawyer. I don't think he is an expert on water conservation strategies, modernist urban planning, watershed management, conjunctive management, water economics, or anything other than utilities law. The AJC doesn't list who the "water expert" is. However, I doubt that it is a person who is an expert on the subjects I listed above, either.

Both these people are experts in their own field. I'm sure that Carver is a good attorney. I'm sure the "water expert" is a "water expert." However, I've met too many civil engineers who can't look past their training to see alternative solutions that lie outside their field of expertise. Rigorous training (and success in one's field due to that training) has a tendency of narrowing one's vision, and looking at the world through their own lens of training.

Carver stated something that I've known for over 10 years (apparently the message hasn't gotten to Carver): that continued growth cannot be sustained. This is the lesson of Los Angeles and the Southwest (just read Cadillac Desert). One cannot (yet) overcome the "shortcomings" of nature and place, unless one wishes to invest ever-more into sustaining infrastructures. Atlanta cannot be sustained on a river the size of the Chattahoochee alone, unless there is a serious effort to conserve water (which Atlanta really hasn't done yet - sorry, but you haven't). The statement, "We can't conserve our way to a solution," is a mindset from the 1950s, and indicates (to me) that the man hasn't a grasp of how natural water systems and urban growth work (without the requirement of aforementioned infrastructure demands).

Let me ask what will truly happen if Atlanta gets the water from the Tennessee River? How much will the construction of that pipeline cost? What will be its maintenance cost? Who will profit from its construction? Who will lose? The costs of building the pipeline will make someone's company quite profitable. The costs of maintaining the pipeline will likely require a tax increase to pay for all the maintenance engineers. Will the state levy taxes from all citizens, or only the citizens of Atlanta? If all citizens have to pay for its construction, will all citizens benefit from the pipeline's construction? (Of course not.) If only Atlanta residents have to pay for its construction, will water rights remain exclusive to the city? (Probably.)

Will Atlanta be required to have a return flow back to the Tennessee River (thus making it a federal issue)? If so, then return flows monitoring means that Georgia will now have another level of federal government oversight.

What about all the people living across the border from Georgia, in Tennessee. Will Georgia purchase their homes to allow them to "move back" to Tennessee, their home state? If so, what will Georgia do with all their purchased properties? Possibly sell it to some real estate broker. (Who profits here, we wonder?) Will Georgia allow them to effectively remain Tenneseeans (thus having two standards of residency within the state)?

Meanwhile, the Chattanooga Times Free Press reports that the Tennessee legislature has introduced a resolution (HJR0919) criticizing Georgia's resolution. However, the Times reports:
... a Georgia lawmaker who helped engineer the Peach State resolution warned Tennessee would be wise to “join with us in resolving the border dispute in a neighborly fashion.”

“Appointing boundary line commissioners and beginning discussions would be better, all the way around, than litigation,” said Georgia state Sen. David Shafer, R-Duluth. “It would be a mistake to quickly dismiss the idea of discussions.”
Ahh, the wonders of the "fences make good neighbors" phrase are brought into the sharp glare of reality. Apparently, if one neighbor feels the other neighbor has their land (by original deed), the first neighbor feels allowed to take it over (regardless that 190 years have passed and this could set a dangerous precedent if won in court).

Meanwhile, there is still no word on the eventual water-sharing agreement between GA, FL, and NC that was supposed to happen on February 15.

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