North Georgia state reps named to team advocating to get water from Tennessee River

North Georgia state reps named to team advocating to get water from Tennessee River

April 25th, 2019 by Tyler Jett in Breaking News

Staff photo by Erin O. Smith / State Rep. Steve Tarvin, R-Ringgold, claps as another state representative thanks his wife for her support Thursday, March 29, 2018 in the House of Representatives at the Georgia State Capitol in Atlanta, Ga. Thursday was the final day in session.

Photo by Erin O. Smith

Georgia House Speaker David Ralston unveiled the three-member team who will try to advocate for water from the Tennessee River this year. The list includes two North Georgia lawmakers.

Ralston named state Rep. Eddie Lumsden, R-Armuchee, and state Rep. Steve Tarvin, R-Chickamauga, to the commission this morning. State Rep. Marc Morris, R-Cumming, who pushed for this commission during the legislative session this year, will serve as chair.

The issue between the states dates back to the 1820s, when a surveyor drew Tennessee's southern boundary line incorrectly. Congress had marked the division between Georgia and Tennessee as the 35th parallel in the late 18th Century. But a couple of decades later, the surveyor gave Tennessee more land than he was supposed to. The incorrect line has remained in effect ever since.

Georgia lawmakers have argued about this point because the boundary line cuts off their access to the Tennessee River. Some have wondered whether they could pump the water into the Atlanta area, providing an extra source for residents there.

A similar study commission formed last year, but the group never got off the ground. Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle, in the midst of a primary campaign to become governor, did not appoint senators to the commission. 

State Rep. Jason Ridley, R-Chatsowrth, said the House's commission members held one conference call last year but never went further. In addition to the border with Tennessee, the commission is also supposed to take up the issue of the border with North Carolina, in hopes of getting access to a water source there as well.

Some have treated the brewing argument as a chance for hijinks. Chattanooga Mayor Ron Littlefield sent a staffer with a truckload of bottled water to the Georgia Capitol in 2008. The staffer dressed in a coonskin cap. In September 2013, a correspondent with Comedy Central's "The Daily Show" covered the conflict, interviewing Dade County Executive Ted Rumley and comparing the states to the Israelis and Palestinians. 

State Sen. Jeff Mullis, R-Chickamauga, voted against the resolution. But he told the Times Free Press earlier this month he thought the states needs to find a peaceful way to resolve the issue. 

State Rep. Colton Moore, meanwhile, said Georgia may have a claim to the water. He said the state owns the right of way of a railroad track than runs over Nickajack Lake. He argued Georgia could begin sucking out the water there and dare Tennessee to sue.

Carpenter oversees committee on injuries

Ralston also named state Rep. Kasey Carpenter, R-Dalton, to the Johnny Tolbert III House Study Committee on Heat-Related Injuries, Cardiac Injuries, and other Sports-Related Injuries.

State Rep. William Boddie, D-East Point, created the committee by passing a resolution on March 18. Moore was one of five lawmakers who voted against the bill.