published Sunday, February 24th, 2013

Dade County executive sees potential in river pipeline

Dade County, Ga., Commission Chairman Ted Rumley took a group of engineers Friday to the marker in the corner of his county that shows where Georgia, Tennessee and Alabama meet.

"You can put your hand down and be in three different states," he said.

It wasn't the marker the engineers wanted to see, but Nickajack Lake, a stone's throw away, which is being eyed once again as the salvation of water-hungry Atlanta. Georgia state Rep. Harry Geisinger, R-Roswell, introduced legislation seeking to move Georgia's border north to what he says is its rightful place: The 35th parallel, right in the middle of the reservoir. Geisinger's proposal is moving through the Gold Dome with strong bipartisan support.

"This would be a win, not only for Dade County, but all of Georgia," Rumley said.

Under Geisinger's proposal, Tennessee would keep 65.5 miles of the disputed territory, including parts of Lookout Mountain and St. Elmo, and Georgia would get a 1.5-square-mile strip extending Dade County to the main channel of what was the Tennessee River, before the reservoir was built.

A pipeline "would be one of the biggest things to happen in Dade County in many, many years," Rumley said. "It would be a massive, massive project, and it would put a lot of people to work."

If the boundary issue was decided in Georgia's favor, it could take years before the pipeline is built, he said.

Rumley also thinks that Dade County could operate the pumping station that would be needed to draw up to a billion gallons per day of Tennessee River water that would find its way to rivers in Georgia, Florida and Alabama.

The county might also get paid for the pipeline's right of way, he said, as is the case for power transmission lines and railroad tracks.

At a hearing Wednesday before the Georgia Senate Judiciary Committee, Geisinger speculated that a surveyor mistakenly set Georgia's northwestern boundary in its current location in 1818 because the Tennessee River was flooded then.

"He put it on the southern bank a little over one mile south of where the mark should have been," Geisinger said. "It's probably that the river was flooded."

Tennessee lawmakers have vowed the proposed border move will not occur.

about Tim Omarzu...

Tim Omarzu covers Catoosa and Walker counties for the Times Free Press. Omarzu is a longtime journalist who has worked as a reporter and editor at daily and weekly newspapers in Michigan, Nevada and California. Stories he's covered include crime in blighted parts of metro Detroit and Reno, Nev.; environmental activists tree-sitting in California's Sierra Nevada foothills; attempts by the Michigan Militia to take over a township┬╣s government in northern Michigan. A native of Michigan, ...

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