By John Schaffner

Water is a big deal for the future of the metro Atlanta area.

And, according to an attorney who represents the governor, there is only one long-term solution: tap into the Tennessee River at what is believed to be the rightful northern border of Georgia.

Brad Carver, who recently spoke to Sandy Springs business representatives, told the group he and his assistant have studied all the U.S. Supreme Court cases involving state-boundary disputes and feel Georgia has a likely chance of getting its boundary at Nickajack Lake re-established at the 35th Parallel.

Re-establishing the border would return to the state some 70 square miles of Tennessee Valley Authority land. More importantly, it would include enough of the Tennessee River, which is 17 times larger than the Chattahoochee in water volume, that Georgia could remove enough water daily to keep metro Atlanta from running out of water between 2020 and 2030.

Carver told the group that Georgia used to include 200 miles of the Tennessee River when it stretched all the way through Mississippi. However, Georgia ceded territory to the U.S. in 1802 so that Mississippi, Alabama and Florida would have access to the Tennessee River. In that contract, the north Georgia border was established as the 35th Parallel. However, an 1818 survey mistakenly set the border 40 yards south of the southern shore of Nickajack Lake and far south of the 35th Parallel.

Ever since, Georgia has disputed and refused to accept the present border.

The problem is that it will not solve metro Atlanta’s problem in the next three years — the time a federal judge has given the city and other entities to cease drawing its water from Lake Lanier, according to Carver. He estimates it is a 10-year project to get the court case won and put in place the pipeline and pumping facility to transport the water from the Tennessee River to the metro Atlanta area, a distance of 100 miles.

Dist. 32 State Sen. Judson Hill, who also attended the meeting sponsored by the Sandy Springs/Perimeter Chamber of Commerce, said that the state also needs to investigate turning quarries that have a short life left into reservoirs by working with the quarry owners and exchanging the already excavated land for new land that the state would lease to the quarry operator. Hill has been pushing this concept for two years and believes it will be implemented quickly as an interim measure.

Both Carver and Hill said the state can expect Alabama and Florida to legally fight any water that normally would flow into and through the Chattahoochee River Basin for their use.