Border marker in water wars is missing

Border marker in water wars is missing

August 23rd, 2009 in News

Staff Photo by Matt Fields-Johnson Fred McCulley, 71, caretaker of the nearby State Line Cemetery, examines the site of the Tennessee, Georgia and Alabama border where stone and flag markers once stood until they were vandalized and destroyed.

Staff Photo by Matt Fields-Johnson Fred McCulley, 71, caretaker...

Where in the world is the Camak Stone?

After gaining fame in recent years as the symbol of flawed 19th century surveys that now keep Georgia a stone's throw away from the Tennessee River's water, the 200-year-old survey marker is missing.

"The governor (Sonny Perdue) probably sent troops up there and had that done," joked John Bennett, chairman of the Coosa-North Georgia Water Planning Council.

A few trees and bushes near the usual location of the stone -- at the tri-state confluence of Tennessee, Georgia and Alabama -- have red-orange surveyor tapes tied to them.

Perdue spokesman Bert Brantley disavowed any knowledge of vandals or border warriors working around the boundary line and stone, originally set in 1826.

"There's been no directive by the governor's office to do anything like that (a new survey)," he said. "You don't need a survey to know the line is in the wrong place."

Mr. Bennett said he knew of no survey work ordered at the state line near Nickajack Cave, and certainly none was sought by the water council.

"Our charge is to come up with a plan for supplying infrastructure and water sources," Mr. Bennett said, adding that talking about the location of the state line won't help with that.

The vandalism was discovered recently by Freddie McCulley, a volunteer groundskeeper for nearby State Line Cemetery. The marker also is a boundary line for the cemetery property, Mr. McCulley said.

Bart Crattie, the local surveyor and a board member of the Surveyors Historical Society who helped make the Camak Stone a household name a few years ago, said the marker likely has been the victim of a relic hunter.

"I'll bet you it's on eBay," he said. "There's a huge market for surveying relics."

In 2008, Mr. Crattie wrote a research article for American Surveyor, stating that flawed surveys in the early 1800s misplaced the state line and took Tennessee River water out of Georgians' mouths.

Had the line been designated correctly, it would fall about in the middle of the main river channel near Nickajack Cave, Mr. Crattie said.

Mr. Crattie's research set off months of legislative and gubernatorial rhetoric back and forth across the Tennessee and Georgia state lines. Georgia lawmakers empowered the governor to negotiate with Tennessee to correct the state line. Tennessee officials said no way.

A federal judge's ruling last month in another Georgia water spat with Alabama and Florida renewed Peach State urgency, however. The judge ruled that Georgia's use of Lake Lanier, which provides water for about 3 million metro Atlanta residents, must cease in three years.

On the heels of that ruling, Georgia state Sen. Judson Hill, R-Marietta, recently suggested lawmakers again explore agreements to get Tennessee River water or move the border north.

CAMAK STONE

The United States Congress in 1796 established the state of Tennessee and designated its southern border as the 35th parallel. In the spring of 1818, Georgia mathematician James Camak camped near Nickajack Cave and used the stars and rudimentary surveying tools to calculate where the parallel and state line would be.

In 1826, Mr. Camak returned for a second calculation, moving the line and the marker named for him, the Camak Stone, nearer to the Tennessee River but still about a mile south of the real 35th parallel.

Had the line been designated correctly, it would fall about in the middle of the main river channel near Nickajack Cave.

Tennessee Sen. Andy Berke, D-Chattanooga, on Friday reiterated that Georgia officials are fishing in the wrong waters.

"It's hard to imagine what new is going to happen (to change anything about the state line)," he said. "They have a serious problem, and they're not going to fix it by talking about border disputes. They need to be talking about land use and water conservation."


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