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David Pendered

Georgia lawmakers refloat plan to take part of Tennessee River

By David Pendered

Georgia has resumed its offer to Tennessee to take a piece of the Tennessee River in order to resolve a border dispute, but this year’s proposal is far more modest than a plan offered in 2008.

Georgia lawmakers propose to take part of the Tennessee River shoreline, an area approximated by the red shape. Credit: Google Earth, David Pendered

Georgia lawmakers propose to take part of the Tennessee River shoreline, an area approximated by the red shape. Credit: Google Earth, David Pendered

The current proposal appears to seek just a small bite of Tennessee, a smidgeon just big enough to give Georgia a shoreline along the Tennessee River. Just enough shoreline to do provide a footing for, say, a new pipe to be sunk into the river to draw water into Georgia.

The 2008 bid went nowhere. But what’s the harm in pursuing the plan again? The bid to create a city of Sandy Springs was a pipe dream for about three decades – until the community became a city in 2005 and longtime advocate Eva Galambos became mayor.

HR 4 was signed by five lawmakers, whose names appear on the resolution. Each is a House leaders or veteran lawmaker:

Rep. Harry Geisinger (R-Roswell), the lead signer, was first elected in 1968 and left in 1974, only to return in 2005;

Rep. Jan Jones (R-Milton), speaker pro-tem;

Rep. Larry O’Neal (R-Bonaire), majority leader;

Rep. Stacey Abrams (D-Atlanta), minority leader;

Rep. Ed Lindsey (R-Atlanta), majority whip.

The proposal this team endorses would take just a small portion of Tennessee, a piece the state would hardly miss. Georgia’s 2008 proposal was for a significant amount of land – basically extending the northern boundary of Georgia deep into Tennessee – that no one in the Volunteer State could countenance.

Georgia’s present resolution to take the land off Tennessee’s hands is a light read, and of note for its wink of recognition toward a serious issue – water management – that’s received scant attention since Gov. Nathan Deal unveiled a bond proposal that includes money to build resevoirs.

Here’s HR 4, in full:



Proposing a settlement of the boundary dispute between the State of Georgia and the State of Tennessee; and for other purposes.

WHEREAS, when the State of Georgia ceded the Mississippi Territory to the United States, the northern border of the State of Georgia and the southern border of the State of Tennessee was established at the 35th parallel of north latitude and would have been located on the northernmost bank of the Tennessee River at Nickajack; and

WHEREAS, a flawed survey conducted in 1818 erroneously placed the mark of the 35th parallel approximately one mile south of the actual location of the 35th parallel of north latitude; and

WHEREAS, since that time, numerous resolutions and enactments by the State of Georgia and the State of Tennessee have recognized that there is a problem with this boundary between the states; but, despite these actions by the governments of the State of Georgia and the State of Tennessee, there has been no resolution to this continuing dispute; and

WHEREAS, it is to the public interest and welfare that the boundary between these states be established and proclaimed; and

WHEREAS, the State of Georgia proposes to the State of Tennessee that the dispute be resolved by the states agreeing that the current boundary between the two states reflecting the flawed 1818 survey be adopted as the legal boundary between the states except for an area described as follows which shall be made a part of the State of Georgia by which Georgia shall be able to exercise its riparian water rights to the Tennessee River at Nickajack:

  • Beginning at the present intersection of the boundaries of the states of Alabama, Georgia, and Tennessee based upon the 1818 survey, which shall be the point of beginning, proceed north-northwesterly from such point along a line extended from the Georgia-Alabama border if such border line was extended north-northwesterly in a straight line to the 35th parallel of north latitude; thence east along the 35th parallel of north latitude for a distance of approximately one and one-half miles; thence south-southeasterly along a line parallel to the line running from the point of beginning to the 35th parallel of north latitude first described herein to the intersection with the present boundary between Tennessee and Georgia based on the 1818 survey; thence west along such boundary to the point of beginning; and

WHEREAS, if such resolution of the boundary dispute is acceptable to the State of Tennessee, the legislatures of both states shall adopt resolutions agreeing to such proposal and shall submit such resolutions to the United States Congress for approval in accordance with law for establishing state boundaries.

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED BY THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY OF GEORGIA that the members of this body propose to the State of Tennessee a settlement of the boundary dispute between the State of Georgia and the State of Tennessee as provided in this resolution, urge the State of Tennessee to accept this proposed settlement and resolve the boundary dispute for the benefit of the citizens of both states, and authorize the Governor to enter into any necessary negotiations with the State of Tennessee on behalf of the citizens of this state to resolve this dispute.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the Clerk of the House of Representatives is authorized and directed to transmit an appropriate copy of this resolution to Governor Nathan Deal and the Governor and legislature of the State of Tennessee.


David Pendered

David Pendered, Managing Editor, is an Atlanta journalist with more than 30 years experience reporting on the region’s urban affairs, from Atlanta City Hall to the state Capitol. Since 2008, he has written for print and digital publications, and advised on media and governmental affairs. Previously, he spent more than 26 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and won awards for his coverage of schools and urban development. David graduated from North Carolina State University and was a Western Knight Center Fellow.


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