Although Tennessee has been reluctant to participate in discussions with Georgia concerning the disputed border, eventually the two will have to talk, the commissioner said.
The situation has to be addressed, Heiskell said. Tennessee just cant say we arent interested. They have to address Georgias claim. Even if they consider it to be frivolous, they have to address it in some way. The courts are there and it can become a forced issue, if Georgia chooses.
In February, Georgia lawmakers formed a Boundary Line Commission to investigate claims that an 1818 surveying team incorrectly marked the border between Georgia and Tennessee.
In response Tennessee lawmakers passed a resolution on March 10 saying that Tennessee will not participate with Georgias proposed boundary commission to examine moving Georgias northern border 1.1 miles deeper into Tennessee.
This is something that is on record that was a mistake. Mistakes have to be corrected, Heiskell said. It can be corrected in a lot of different ways, but it does have to be addressed.
Heiskell said any talk of annexing Chattanooga into Georgia is improbable.
I think that Georgia would be satisfied with access to the Tennessee River instead of taking the land, Heiskell said.
She said she has spoken with Dade County Commissioner Ben Brandon about the matter. Access to the water from the Tennessee River has been a commodity that Dade has wanted for years. She said such access would benefit all of North Georgia.
Asked about how the water might be collected, Heiskell said, My first thought is that it would obviously be piped into the state. But from there Im not sure. Georgia has been looking into reservoir solutions for the state. So, as for storage, this might be a possibility but opposition from people who will not want their land flooded will occur.
Asked if there were benefits that Walker County particularly would reap from the relocation of the border north, Heiskell said, I really havent weighed the balance. But a couple of the pluses that come to mind are obviously the Tennessee River access and also, access for the county to the interstate system. But realistically Im not sure that interstate access would really make that much of a difference to the county.
The places we need to put industry and things like that wouldnt change, Heiskell said, referring to bringing additional industry into cities like LaFayette. The interstate being put in Georgia would be the same distance from each of our present locations. Were really not that far from it now. I really dont think it would make much of a difference.
Actually, nothing there is critical to us except the water. Most everything would stay like it was, she said.
Of course it would make them all pay Georgia income taxes and that would be a lot of book work, Ill say that, she said.
Asked if she thought the situation would be resolved, Heiskell said, Yes, it is doable. It all depends on what Georgia wants. If Atlanta wants to push it, they can. It is my understanding that the Supreme Court has made a (border) decision in the favor of Georgia in the past. But I really think that both sides will negotiate a resolution before it gets to that point.
Regarding Georgia-Tennessee relations, she said, We have always had a very good relationship with the city of Chattanooga and the state of Tennessee, and I want to see us continue that relationship. I am not anxious to get into a fight, but I would like to see Georgia share in the resource of water the is rightfully ours.
Heiskell referred to the water that flows from Hiawassee, Blue Ridge, and West Chickamauga Creek into the Tennessee River as the privilege of the people of Georgia.
I think an amicable solution can be reached when Tennessee finally is willing to sit down at the table, Heiskell said.
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