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Water behind Tennessee-Georgia border dispute

12:23 AM, Feb 16, 2013   |    comments
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By Doug Richards, WXIA Atlanta and Jim Matheny, WBIR Knoxville

NEAR TRENTON, Ga. -- There's a spot in the woods west of the State Line Cemetery that marks the convergence of three states.

At issue is whether the marker is in the right place. The state of Georgia has long contended it's not, and that a piece of Tennessee actually belongs to Georgia.

There's a reason Georgia wants to change its border with Tennessee. It wants access to the Tennessee River.

The Tennessee River starts in the Appalachian mountains and flows through Tennessee-- coming within just a few feet of the current state line with Georgia. Its banks are achingly close to a state that's been embroiled in a years-long legal battle over its drinking water rights.

As one of the original 13 colonies, Georgia originally stretched all the way to the Pacific Ocean, at least in theory. In 1818, the state redrew its boundary, and established its northern border at the 35th parallel.

But when the 1818 survey was done, Georgia officials say, the marker was misplaced one mile south of the 35th parallel.

So Georgia contends a mile-long strip of Tennessee actually belongs to Georgia. It's a notion some Tennessee folks find a bit laughable.

Georgia is serious about accessing the Tennessee. The House has passed a resolution asking Tennessee to cede one and a half square miles to Georgia- a chunk that includes part of the river. Residents there say the portion sought by Georgia is owned by the Tennessee Valley Authority, and undeveloped.

If Tennessee isn't agreeable, Georgia officials can go to court, where they say the nearly 200 year old law is on their side.

But Tennessee has nearly 200 years of what courts call "de facto law." It has s been this way all these years, and they say it isn't likely to change now.

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