published Tuesday, June 7th, 2011

Georgia offers to swap road and rail for water

by Andy Johns
The Tennessee River flows through Chattanooga. Staff photo by Tim Barber/Chattanooga Times Free Press
The Tennessee River flows through Chattanooga. Staff photo by Tim Barber/Chattanooga Times Free Press

Georgia’s House speaker says leaders from his state need to sit down with Tennessee officials and discuss trading transportation enhancements for access to the water in the Tennessee River.

During a recent radio interview with WABE-FM in Atlanta, Speaker David Ralston, R-Blue Ridge, said his state might be willing to offer improved rail, roads or other links between Chattanooga and Georgia air and sea ports in exchange for access to the river.

“It would seem to me that if Georgia and Tennessee are willing to sort of think outside of the box and think long term here, then we can have a discussion about addressing some of the transportation needs that that part of Tennessee may have as well as addressing the water needs of Georgia,” Ralston told the radio station. “That’s a discussion that would be an exciting and interesting one to have.”

During the radio interview, Ralston would not set a timetable for such meetings, but he said Monday he’d like for policymakers from the neighboring states to sit down “maybe later this year.”

The speaker said Tennessee could benefit from having direct links to Atlanta’s airport and Savannah’s seaport, which Volkswagen named earlier this year as its primary import point for its suppliers’ parts. In exchange, Ralston said, Georgia would be allowed to pump water from the Tennessee River down to the Atlanta metro area, which ran dangerously low on water during the drought in 2007 and 2008.

But any plans for potential water transfers must go through the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation, and officials with the agency said they had not heard from Georgia state officials. “It would be premature to speculate on what action might be taken since we do not have a specific proposal,” a TDEC spokeswoman said.

During his gubernatorial run, Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam’s campaign said he would “protect our state’s precious resources and will fight any attempt to ... siphon off our water.” A spokesman with his office said Monday that Haslam’s position is unchanged and deferred questions to TDEC.

Also Monday, Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal told The Associated Press that there are possibilities for a water deal with Tennessee, but said there had been no official contact.

“Obviously, I don’t think we want to get into a state boundary line dispute or anything like that,” Deal said Monday.

Ralston said he does not know how his overtures will be taken in Tennessee, but he remains hopeful and said the rail-and-road-for-river swap has come up in meetings he’s attended with Tennessee officials. Informal discussion probably would come first, he said.

“I’m not looking for a high-level summit,” he said.

When other officials have brought up similar swaps, most center around a high-speed-rail connection between the Atlanta and Chattanooga airports, he said. It wouldn’t necessarily be a bullet train, Ralston said, but could be some other form of transportation.

Georgia had been looking for federal funding to build such a rail line, which would add to the deal’s complexity.

Obviously, Ralston said, ironing out the details will take time.

“This is a big idea, and big ideas take time to bring to reality,” he said.

Contact staff writer Andy Johns at ajohns@timesfree or call 423-757-6324.

about Andy Johns...

Andy began working at the Times Free Press in July 2008 as a general assignment reporter before focusing on Northwest Georgia and Georgia politics in May of 2009. Before coming to the Times Free Press, Andy worked for the Anniston Star, the Rome News Tribune and the Campus Carrier at Berry College, where he graduated with a communications degree in 2006. He is pursuing a master’s degree in business administration at the University of Tennessee ...

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spktur said...

We don't need enhanced transportation to Atlanta or for them to come here. If I wanted Atlanta, I would move there. You people keep your problems and we can keep the river.

June 7, 2011 at 6:15 a.m.
inquiringmind said...

Fast transportation to Atlanta would highly desirable, giving up water though, is another story

June 7, 2011 at 7:21 a.m.
umadbro said...

I guess you guys need to stop watering your lawns and golf courses....I'm from Atlanta and if I remember correctly the state of GA has many rivers. I'm pretty sure the Tennessee River is not your only harvestable option.

June 7, 2011 at 7:21 a.m.
WhitesCreek said...

Georgia has plenty of water resources. It simply wants to continue wasteful practices and its refusal to build proper waste water treatment facilities.

June 7, 2011 at 7:49 a.m.
bpqd said...

We have been aware, for the past 25 years, that Georgia has been trying to snake our water with railroad deals. This is nothing new. It's just that they've realized now that we've known all along that they were up to no good.

Georgia has plenty of access to water.

Lake Lanier, the biggest lake in Georgia, sits right outside Atlanta. They're just wasting what they have. Maybe they could efficiently use their water before they let it run downhill from Atlanta.

That would probably involve moving to the left far enough to be as liberal as Presidents Ronald Reagan and Richard Nixon. Obviously, too complicated for the Neo-Con Atlantan. They'll thirst to death before paying the taxes on plumbing. Typical Grover Nordquist idiocy.

When they're done with that, they have plenty of Atlantic Ocean beachfront. Middle Eastern countries run desalination plants all the time. They can burn all of that cash they made by providing us with Representative Gingrich over the years to fuel the fires for the purification of the ocean's waters.

June 7, 2011 at 7:58 a.m.
bpqd said...

Notice that this time they're actually trying to lower the level of transportation technology involved in their instantly rejected offer. Maybe we could trade all of our rain water for a donkey track going to an Atlanta outlet mall in Dunwoody.

Nah, I don't think so.

Clean up your act, Atlanta.

June 7, 2011 at 8:17 a.m.
dao1980 said...

That picture of Ralston reminds me of a character from the TV series In The Heat of The Night.

June 7, 2011 at 9:15 a.m.
umadbro said...

re: dao1980 funny because it (the television series) was filmed near Atlanta in Covington, Georgia.

re: bpqd Right on! They have access to the whole Atlantic ocean.

June 7, 2011 at 9:25 a.m.
jameslcole1979 said...

Bpqd.......desalination technology is EXPENSIVE. That's why the technology is mainly used in the Middle East who is soaked in oil money. Maybe Tennessee should develop their own ocean port. Oh wait, that's right, they are landlocked. In case most of you griping about Atlanta haven't noticed..there is a lot of farmland south of over half the state of Georgia. I don't hear you griping about Georgia's need for water when you go to buy cheap produce.

June 7, 2011 at 9:43 a.m.
dao1980 said...


Progress is expensive...

But, how about a trade of land for land then?

We in Tennessee would like a mile wide swath of land from our state line, running all the way to the ocean.

This way, we as a state would not be land locked, and would have much less need to conserve and protect our lakes and rivers... right?

June 7, 2011 at 10:02 a.m.
Facts said...

2 Words Georgia: Atlantic Ocean.

Back off our River!

June 7, 2011 at 11:04 a.m.
umadbro said...

re: jameslcole1979 Wonder what is more expensive... high speed rail lines or desalinization plants? Maybe GA should be looking for federal funding for a plant.

Also if GA is already producing cheap produce without our water... why should we give them more?

June 7, 2011 at 1:07 p.m.
eastridge8 said...

I agree with umadbro...high speed rail lines v. desalinization... Seems like a no-brainer to me....

If I were the governor of Georgia I would be contacting ALL Ga. Senators to start plans on a bill(s) for a plant on the Atlantic Ocean coast...If Haslam goes for this he will regret it ... Atlanta will take MORE than their share.

June 7, 2011 at 2:32 p.m.
Jon8136 said...

No water for Georgia!!!

June 7, 2011 at 7:26 p.m.
Johnnyhurst said...

A mile swath of land all the way to the Atlantic, are you crazy? Ok, lets go with a half mile swath to the Atlantic, The Atlanta Braves and the high speed rail, then youll have yourselves a deal Georgia.

June 8, 2011 at 7:41 p.m.
Johnnyhurst said...

Almost forgot. 7% of all crops that our water helps produce/ .50 per, for every toilet flush our water makes happen. I believe that bout covers it.

June 8, 2011 at 7:47 p.m.
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