published Thursday, January 21st, 2010

Oxendine would dip into water at border

by Andy Johns
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    Staff photo by Patrick Smith/Chattanooga Times Free Press John Oxendine speaks with members of the Times Free Press editorial board during a meeting Wednesday. Mr. Oxendine is running in the governor's race in Georgia. He addressed several issues including health care reform, the economy and Georgia's water woes.

Georgia gubernatorial candidate John Oxendine said if he's elected he'll meet with Tennessee's new governor to discuss ways Georgia could gain access to the Tennessee River.

If negotiations fail, he vowed to take his request to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Mr. Oxendine, one of seven announced Republican candidates for governor and the state's fire and insurance commissioner, visited Chattanooga on Wednesday and spoke with Times Free Press reporters and editors.

As one of 12 items in his Contract with Georgia, Mr. Oxendine has said he would break ground on new reservoirs in North Georgia. He said Wednesday that the Tennessee River should not be "the key" to Georgia's long-term water plan, but said he hoped it would play "a very important role" in the state's supply.

The Georgia Water Contingency Task Force recently presented recommendations to Gov. Sonny Perdue that didn't mention the Tennessee River.

Tennessee leaders, including Gov. Phil Bredesen, have refused to entertain the idea of allowing their southern neighbor to pump water out of the river.

But Gov. Bredesen is term-limited and can't run again. Seven people -- four Republicans and three Democrats -- are competing for the job.

Mr. Oxendine hopes that, as governor, he might strike a deal with whoever becomes Tennessee's new governor to gain access to the water.

"Let's sit down let's see if we can work this out," he said. "That's my preference."

If that doesn't work, he said, the decision should go to the top rung of the judicial system.

"You simply go to the Supreme Court, lay out the facts and let them put it to bed one way or the other," he said.

Dr. Ken Ellinger, a political science professor at Dalton State College, said Mr. Oxendine might be right.

"Really, the Supreme Court is the only one that can really reach a final, conclusive decision on a dispute over water when it involves state boundaries," he said.

A dispute between states does not have to work through the appeals process but can go directly to the nation's highest court, he explained.

The only catch is that the decision would come on the court's timetable if it decided to hear the case at all, he said.

"It's not a slam dunk that the Supreme Court would even hear the case," Dr. Ellinger said.

about Andy Johns...

Andy began working at the Times Free Press in July 2008 as a general assignment reporter before focusing on Northwest Georgia and Georgia politics in May of 2009. Before coming to the Times Free Press, Andy worked for the Anniston Star, the Rome News Tribune and the Campus Carrier at Berry College, where he graduated with a communications degree in 2006. He is pursuing a master’s degree in business administration at the University of Tennessee ...

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rolando said...

Having witnessed the result of the Los Angeles water-wars and the destruction of the natural rivers and lakes of Califoria, I have one answer to Atlanta:

The day you begin to seriously practice water conservation is the day we can begin talks. Period.

You refuse to even consider rationing, severely limiting watering of public properties [including the public parks, ball fields, all large lawns, etc], switching all public landscaping to low-maintenance types, etc.

Come back when you do all that and we can reach some sort of agreement...

January 21, 2010 at 7:29 a.m.
natsmith9 said...

It's easy to blame Atlanta because they are the largest population center in the state. While it's not good to waste water, let's not forget where a large part of Georgia's water goes: farmers. Take a drive down past Macon on I-75 or towards Savannah on I-16 through the southern part of Georgia and you'll see acres and acres of farm land with large center pivot irrigation sprinklers. Think of all the water they use. Conservation helps, but it's not a permanent solution. The population of Georgia has grown and will continue to grow. The need for more water will not be solved through conservation alone.

Agriculture is a large part of Georgia's economy. Will Tennessee harm Georgians in the future because of their selfishness or jealousy towards Georgia? I hope not. Alabama, Georgia, and Tennessee should be good neighbors and share the Tennessee River.

January 21, 2010 at 9:12 a.m.
theinsider said...

Georgia already has a good neighbor in South Carolina. Russell Lake, is as close to Atlanta, as the Tennessee River. Why is there not much talk using the river they share with South Carolina?

January 21, 2010 at 9:47 a.m.
rdecredico said...

It will happen under the hand of the Fed.

January 21, 2010 at 10:03 a.m.
ziptang said...

I agree with an earlier post in that Georgia, and specifically the Atlanta Metro area, needs to make substantial steps toward effective, long-term water conservation. This should be a prerequsite for discussions concerning diverting water from other states into Georgia.

Now, concerning the Tennessee river. While the governor of TN (or rather the government of TN) is an important figure in determining the potential diversion of water from its natural course, the river flows from TN, into AL, back into TN and KY. In addition, the TTB waterway already diverts water into MS and back into AL. The point of this is that in order for water to be diverted into GA, the governments of the aforementioned states would need to agree.

Since there is a long running water dispute involving GA and AL, I'd say the next governor of GA would be wize to court the AL governor BEFORE talking with the TN counterpart.

Here's a radical thought - why not have the governors of the entire geograpical region south of the Ohio River and East of the Mississippi put together a pannel of civil and environmental engineers and urban planners (no politicians allowed!) who, in conjunction with the TVA and Army corps of Engineers could review the current situation, and project water demands under several different scenarios for say, the next 100 years, and then present their findings and recommendations.

Otherwise, Georgia's water problem solution lies not to the north, not to the west, not to the south, but to the east. It's best known as the Atlantic Ocean and the process that makes pottable water from it is known as desalinization.

January 21, 2010 at 11:13 a.m.
ermedic said...

If Georgia wants to tap our water, let us tap their money with a per gallon CHARGE! Tennessee is in need of new revenues and this could help keep our taxes low in years to come. With water being a natural resource, let the the majority of the money be used for natural resources such as state parks, enviromental clean up and even the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency that doesn't even receive any tax monies from the state budget. The TWRA already does the most of patroling the waterways on the back of sportsmen and out door enthusiest. If this comes to pass, there of course would have to be limits to how much of the weekly flow that could be taken out. By limiting it to weekly flow rates this would not put the river in jepordy during times of drought. If the weekly flow allotment was over used then stiff fines (say a dollar a gallon )would accompany the next billing cycle.

January 21, 2010 at 11:22 a.m.
dao1980 said...

What a salesman, promising his potential future customers product that he dosent posess. "Vote for me! I'll bring you everybody elses stuff!" I know a few used car lots in need of more slimy talent like that. Elected official, or Politician? And wait.. dosent GA have a coastline? Sounds like greedy "elected officials" would rather waste time and resources trying to take someone elses fresh water, rather than investing in enough desalination plants to solve their problem by using the multitude of water they already possess. What a productive argument. Funny stuff!!!

January 21, 2010 at 11:33 a.m.
natsmith9 said...

"If Georgia wants to tap our water, let us tap their money with a per gallon CHARGE!"

The border between Tennessee and Georgia was set by Congress to be along the 35th parallel (as you can see by the map linked below). This would have given northern Georgia access to the Tennessee River (a river with 15 times the output of the Chattahoochee River). Why should we be charged for something that we share by law?,-85.60000&sll=35.000000,-85.600000&sspn=0.026647,0.038581&ie=UTF8&z=15

January 21, 2010 at 12:19 p.m.
rdecredico said...

Some of you commenters should familiarize yourself with Riparian Rights.


January 21, 2010 at 2:42 p.m.
Salsa said...

And what is your plan when the Supreme court tells Georgia NO?

January 21, 2010 at 4:21 p.m.
rolando said...

natsmith9 said, "It's easy to blame Atlanta because they are the largest population center..."

I blame Atlanta because it is the center of Georgia government. That is where the blame belongs, not on the farmers, the cities, or the homeowners. The farmers, etc may be causing the problem, as they do in Calif, but the state legislature/governor condones, even encourages it.

Calif has severe water problems these days for exactly the reason Georgia has them or soon will -- unrestricted use/waste of its resources. Calif uses those same sprinklers -- Rainbird-types -- to water its alfalfa and various other crops with 60% loss due to evaporation [lower in GA due to higher humidity]... yet the governor has done nothing for decades to change that. Will Georgia do the same? Not if they want to access the Tennessee River...

Not to be harping on "Calif this...Calif that" but they are the poster child for unrestricted growth coupled with misuse of natural resources. They suck at least two large rivers essentially dry [the Kern and the Colorado] and are turning at least one into a sea-salt marsh, etc.

Unrestrained growth with limited resources does the trick every time. Need water? Georgia has access to an unlimited supply on two borders, the southern and the eastern. Desalinate and pump. Expensive but available and potable.

I have no sympathy with states or people that refuse to control their appetites...

January 21, 2010 at 4:39 p.m.
rolando said...

Oops. Georgia has no access to the Gulf. Stupid mistake, that. My mental picture of the US got confused around Alabama's coastline. My Geography teacher is surely spinning in her grave.

January 21, 2010 at 4:45 p.m.
FiremanBob said...

I'm confused! I work in the NW metro ATL area and the nearby Lake Alltoona was very, very full this summer. Are they planning on being out of water already??? Here is an idea... The State of Georgia can build a biiiig pipe down the middle of I-75 and put a commuter rail on top of it and we will sell them water. Well, it makes as about as much sense as them stealing our water! Go away Oxendine! Leave Tennessee alone.

January 21, 2010 at 7:55 p.m.
rdecredico said...

The water will end up going to the people with the most money and power, fools.

GA will get their H20.

January 21, 2010 at 8:17 p.m.
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