Gov. Phil Bredesen
WASHINGTON — For the first time since Georgia lawmakers began threatening to try to move the state line north into Tennessee to access the Tennessee River, governors from the two states will meet, at the National Governor’s Association annual convention here this weekend.
But Tennessee Gov. Phil Bredesen said he has no plans to discuss Georgia’s proposed land grab — or border correction, depending on who’s talking — with his southern counterpart, unless Gov. Sonny Perdue brings it up.
“I think it’s a silly issue that’s more of a publicity stunt,” said Gov. Bredesen, already in town Friday for a meeting of the State Alliance on E-Health, of which he is a co-chairman. “If he wants to meet, I’ll certainly talk with him, but my position is pretty clear. We’re certainly not going to move our borders to share our water.”
Gov. Perdue could not be reached for comment Friday, but a spokesman said when the two governors cross paths, they’ll likely have some informal discussions about the state line.
Gov. Perdue has been supportive of efforts by the Georgia General Assembly to have the state line redrawn to the 35th parallel, where it was intended before an 1818 survey placed it in its current location 1.1 miles south.
“He has been telling people to look at (maps on) Google Earth to find the 35th parallel to see where the line should be,” spokesman Bert Brantley said. “He might encourage Governor Bredesen to do that, as well.
“I think he and Governor Bredesen both have great senses of humor, and I don’t think there’ll be any tension between them, at least not from our side,” Mr. Brantley said.
The Georgia House and Senate this week passed separate resolutions that would create a commission with Tennessee and North Carolina officials to resurvey and redraw the border at the 35th parallel. Water-thirsty Georgia, hit hard by a drought this past year, has long had its eye on Tennessee River water, tantalizingly out of reach across the state line.
Moving the border would cede to Georgia a portion of the Tennessee River at Nickajack Lake in Marion County, while also putting in Georgia parts of Chattanooga and East Ridge in Hamilton County and a portion of Bradley County.
“Everybody’s in agreement that (the border) was marked wrong back years ago,” Mr. Brantley said. “The real question is, is there something to be done that could make sense?”
Tennessee officials have dismissed the Georgia challenge, with reactions ranging from laughter to annoyance to outrage. Critics of Georgia say the state’s water shortage problems are due to uncontrolled and unmanaged growth in the Atlanta metro area.
“I have no idea what the genesis of this is,” Gov. Bredesen said. “To be honest, when I first heard of it, I thought it was a joke someone was about to tell me.”
Gov. Perdue also likely will have at least informal conversations this weekend with his counterparts from Florida and Alabama, as the three states work to hammer out water-sharing deals on two river basins that flow through their states.
The decades-old dispute has Florida and Alabama wanting the Army Corps of Engineers to release more water from upstream reservoirs in Georgia to protect endangered aquatic species and provide adequate water supply to power plants.
Georgia wants more water held in the reservoirs as drinking water.
The main item of business will be the National Governor’s Association conference, which is focusing on clean energy. Governors from 50 states will meet in sessions on energy efficiency, clean energy technology, alternative fuels use and energy research.
“Learning what are the current practices and what things other governors are doing in their states that I can learn from is a big part of what this weekend is for,” Gov. Bredesen said.