Missing: Nearly 400 square miles of land in Georgia

Missing: Nearly 400 square miles of land in Georgia

November 20th, 2011 by Andy Johns in News
Photo by Laura McNutt /Times Free Press.



Total area: 59,424.77-59,425.15

Water area: 1,518.63-1,911.67

Land area: 57,906.14-57,513.49

A chunk of land the size of Fannin County has gone missing from Georgia.

Geography data in the 2010 census shows the Peach State's land area is nearly 400 square miles smaller than it was in 2000.

"Did we throw ourselves in the dryer or something? I don't know," said Georgia Sen. Jeff Mullis, R-Chickamauga. "I'm amazed that that statistic is out there."

On the 2000 census, Georgia's land area came in at 57,906.14 square miles. Recently released figures from the 2010 census show 392.65 fewer square miles, at 57,513.49.

And, alarmingly to some in Georgia, Tennessee grew by 17 square miles in the same time span.

"They're not just trying to push the northern border any farther south are they?" joked Rep. Jay Neal, R-LaFayette. "Am I going to end up in Tennessee before it's all over?"

Tennessee Rep. Gerald McCormick, R-Chattanooga, said his first reaction to hearing the numbers was concern about border shenanigans. But he said Tennessee doesn't have any plans to take over Georgia lands.

"Not that I'm aware," he said. "If we ever get the chance, we'll try."

Jennifer Holland, a geographer at census headquarters in Washington, D.C., said the difference in Georgia is likely from better technology that allows the U.S. Geological Survey to record more accurately the widths of streams, rivers and lakes.

"In Georgia it should just be measuring differences," she said. A handful of other states also showed a decrease, including Alabama, which dropped 99 square miles of land. The "water area" increased in both states, and the total area counting land and water for Tennessee, Georgia and Alabama stayed within one mile of where it was in 2000.

It is not uncommon for states to vary in size from decade to decade.

"This is not unusual," Holland said. "You would find this difference every census."

Tennessee's growth is probably because of the changing course of the Mississippi River, she said.

Whatever the reason, Neal said the exact size of the state isn't the most important thing.

"I've always heard that it's not the size of the dog in the fight, but the fight in the dog. The official size may be a little smaller, but Georgia's still a great place to live," he said.

"They may be able to take away a little bit of the size with the census, but they can't take away the beauty and the greatness and the heart of the people."

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