Soft Glow of Electric Sex : Moving your State Boundary for Water.

Georgia wants to move their northern boundary to include a tiny bit of the Tennessee River. Some wild estimates speculate that one billion gallons of excess capacity in the Tennessee River is available to meet all of Metro Atlanta’s water needs for the next generation. Crazy? Borders can’t move, right?

No, it’s not as crazy as you would think. State borders can move. State boundaries in the South have moved in the past, are being tweaked now, and probably will be adjusted in the future.

  • South Carolina is finishing an 18 year and close to a million dollar effort to re-establish the boundary between South Carolina and North Carolina. In its 350 year history, this entire border has only been surveyed once. Right now, over 90 property owners may be paying their state taxes to different state starting in 2014.
  • Georgia and South Carolina sparred along the Savannah River because changing patterns of islands and the river were hard to verify based on an eighteenth century boundary delineation. Ultimately, in 1990, the United States Supreme Court awarded South Carolina 10,000 acres of water and 3,000 acres of islands which increased the size of the state by a whopping four and a half square miles.
  • Every hear of the Walton War? In the early 1800s, North Carolina and Georgia actually fought over a small strip of land between the states. A surveyor by the name of Andrew Ellicott finally proved that this land was within North Carolina and in 1811 Georgia relinquished claim to this land.

How can Georgia and Tennessee fight over a border that is exactly 35 degrees North of the Earth’s equatorial plane? Both states agreed to this when they were admitted into the Union.
Case closed, right?

In 1818 Georgia and Tennessee commissioned a joint survey of their border along the 35th parallel. Probably due to the equipment or astronomical tables used, the survey noted the boundary line a mile south of where it should have been. Georgia has tried to correct the mistake many times in the last 200 years.¬†Georgia’s new proposal this year would accept the current border with the exception of one and one half miles of land allowing access to the Tennessee River.

So, this two-hundred year old border cartographical conflict is not new, but what is new is the reward. Water is the prize. In a way, however, the prize is really just like the leg lamp in the movie Christmas Story. You know the leg lamp I am talking about.

Allure of the Leg Lamp
Allure of the Leg Lamp
  • It’s fragile. Could it really and survive in a real household or world. Real-world issues such as Interbasin Transfers, environmental concerns, distribution, and mad wives still have to be considered at some point.
  • Ultimate reward? Large transfer of water is thing of wonder for some or an object of horrid disgust for others.
  • Conversation Starter. Anyone who has leg lamp shining as a beacon in the front window would attract attention, especially from other states.

Water planning for the future is really not about finding the ultimate leg lamp. It’s about trying to make that epic turkey dinner in a crazy household with kids trying to shoot their eyes out; only, half-way through the process, you realize that planning is really about working together and learning that duck sometimes tastes as good as turkey.

Christmas Dinner

1 Comment

  1. The surveyors working on the border of NH and VT had to inform a farmer that his farm was no longer in VT but now, in NH. He pulled his pipe out of his mouth and said, “Thank gawd, couldn’t stand another one of those Vermont winters!”

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