After 195 Years, Georgia Is Still Complaining About Its Border With Tennessee

Georgia, again, wants to move its border a mile to the north

A map of the Mississippi Territory c. 1817
A map of the Mississippi Territory c. 1817 Library of Congress

Early in the 19th century, the state borders in the southeastern United States were in flux. As the Mississippi Territory began expanding, eventually earning statehood, along with Alabama, the new states encroached on land that had once been part of Georgia and Tennessee. Georgia gave up a bunch of territory to the new states on the block and the border between Georgia and Tennessee firmed up as one tracking the 35th parallel.

In 1818, a survey set to trace the line of the Georgia-Tennessee border missed the mark by a mile, putting the boundary south of where it should have been, says the Georgia General AssemblyThey’ve been complaining ever since.

Over the past few years, the dispute has come and gone, and now, says The Atlantic Wire, Georgia has passed a resolution declaring “that it, not its neighbor to the north, controls part of the Tennessee River at Nickajack.” But it’s not Nickajack, a dammed-up lake, that matters.

“Georgia doesn’t want Nickajack,” says the Wire, “It wants that water.”

In the drought-stricken southern states, access to water is a serious issue.

During the summer of 2012, up to 95 percent of the state experienced some level of drought; in December, it hit 99 percent. Last May, nearly a quarter of the state experienced drought that registered as extreme. Despite the state legislature arguing that the drought wasn’t that bad (in an effort to avoid hurting the landscaping industry), it was.

So now, Georgia is digging up old claims to the Tennessee River, an oasis of blue that sits just out of the state’s current reach.

Other times this has come up, like in 2008 when Georgia was again succumbing to drought, not much happened. Tennessee representative Gary Odom in 2008:

“What I thought was a joke has turned out to be rather disturbing,” Rep. Odom said. “I thought it was important that the Tennessee General Assembly declare that we would not engage in any talks with Georgia regarding giving them a piece of Tennessee. That would be absurd.”

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