NASHVILLE — With little fanfare, Gov. Phil Bredesen this week signed a joint legislative resolution that officially puts Tennessee on record as rejecting participation in a joint boundary commission with Georgia over the two states’ border.
Bredesen spokeswoman Lydia Lenker said the governor signed the measure Wednesday.
“What he has consistently done is oppose any effort to move Tennessee’s border or give away our resources,” Ms. Lenker said in an e-mail.
The Tennessee House and Senate approved House Joint Resolution 919 after Georgia legislators sought to revisit the two states’ disputed boundary with an eye toward taking in a portion of the Tennessee River in Marion County.
A faulty 1818 survey set Georgia’s northern boundary 1.1 miles short of where officials in that state, which faces water shortages in the metro Atlanta area, say it should be. Moving the border 1.1 miles north would take in part of Nickajack Lake now in Tennessee.
State Sen. Andy Berke, D-Chattanooga, who handled the resolution in the Senate, said the governor’s action “makes clear that Tennessee has no interest in moving its border. Gov. Bredesen shares my concern that we need appropriate talks and discussions about water throughout the Southeast.”
House Majority Leader Gary Odom, D-Nashville, author of the resolution, said he was glad the governor signed it.
He said Tennessee is “not going to participate in a boundary commission, because we don’t believe there’s any boundary issue. The boundary’s been what it’s been for 200 years.”
Georgia lawmakers recently dropped language in their resolution that called for the boundary commission.
But they then authorized Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue to begin talks with Gov. Bredesen over Tennessee River access and, absent success, directed him to sue Tennessee if talks fail. Boundary disputes go before the U.S. Supreme Court.
Sen. Berke said that although Tennessee cannot control what Georgia officials do, the state “is committed to the appropriate use of its water resources.”
Rep. Odom warned that, while Georgia could bring a lawsuit in the matter, “if we get in a posture in this country where states — because of water needs or mineral needs or transportation needs — can start contesting boundaries, we’re going to be spending a lot of time in court and not dealing with the real issues.”
Gov. Bredesen has said all along he opposed moving the border and that he would protect the Tennessee River.
Andy Sher is a Nashville-based staff writer covering Tennessee state government and politics for the Times Free Press. A Washington correspondent from 1999-2005 for the Times Free Press, Andy previously headed up state Capitol coverage for The Chattanooga Times, worked as a state Capitol reporter for The Nashville Banner and was a contributor to The Tennessee Journal, among other publications. Andy worked for 17 years at The Chattanooga Times covering police, health care, county government, ...