Atlanta TV station WXIA has interviewed Gov. Bill Haslam about Georgia’s push to revise its border with Tennessee. An excerpt: Not surprisingly, Haslam says he likes the status quo – and has only a passing interest in Georgia’s claim to a piece of the Tennessee River.
“We’re very satisfied with the situation the way it is now for, good reason,” Haslam said.
Q: Do you think Georgia has any busines accessing the Tennessee river?
Halsam: “Well, that’s for somebody beyond my capacity. Ask that to an engineer or somebody who can answer that.”
Q: Well, surveyors say that they do.
A: Yeah. Again, it’s not an issue I spend a whole lot of time focused on.
Haslam says he’s aware that the Georgia legislature passed a resolution calling for the state to sue Tennessee to change the state line to the 35th parallel-if Georgia can’t access the river.
The resolution proposes, as a potential compromise, that Tennessee cede a one-square-mile piece of land that would give Georgia geographical access to the Tennessee River and Nickajack Lake.
This week, Georgia governor Nathan Deal said he would approach Haslam at a conference of Republican governors about negotiations.
“I think there is an opportunity to at least have a civil discussion about that issue,” Deal said.
— Hat tip: TNReport, which has a video of the TV station making its video.
Near the banks of the Clinch River in eastern Tennessee, a team of engineers this month will take the initial steps in plans for the world’s first commercial small modular nuclear reactors, reports National Geographic. Once before, there was an effort to hatch a nuclear power breakthrough along the Clinch River, which happens to meander through the U.S. government’s largest science and technology campus, Oak Ridge, on its path from the Appalachian Mountains to the Tennessee River.
In the 1970s, the U.S. government and private industry partners sought to build the nation’s first commercial-scale “fast breeder” reactor here, an effort abandoned amid concerns about costs and safety.
Today, nuclear energy’s future still hinges on the same two issues, and advocates argue that SMRs provide the best hope of delivering new nuclear plants that are both affordable and protective of people and the environment. And even amid Washington, D.C.’s budget angst, there was bipartisan support for a new five-year $452 million U.S. government program to spur the technology.
The first project to gain backing in the program is here on the Clinch River at the abandoned fast breeder reactor site, where the Tennessee Valley Authority, the largest public utility in the United States, has partnered with engineering firm Babcock & Wilcox to build two prototype SMRs by 2022.
SMRs are “a very promising direction that we need to pursue,” said U.S. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz at his confirmation hearing in April. “I would say it’s where the most innovation is going on in nuclear energy.”
(Hat tip: Steve Tapp, whose nifty blog is HERE)
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — Anglers who caught the attention of federal lawmakers have preserved access to fishing below dams on the Cumberland River in Kentucky and Tennessee.
President Barack Obama on Monday signed into law a bill blocking the Army Corps of Engineers from erecting barriers to prevent fishing in the tailwaters. Those tailwaters are prime fishing spots in a region known as a recreational haven.
Local officials said the restrictions would have hurt tourism, a key contributor to the region’s economy.
Congress waded into the controversy by passing the Freedom to Fish Act. It puts a two-year moratorium on any barriers that would block access to tailwaters.
Sen. Mitch McConnell praised Obama for reversing a decision to place barriers along the river.
A proposal to permanently ban barriers is pending in the House.
— Note: News release from Sen. Lamar Alexander below (interestingly, it doesn’t mention Obama)
News release from Sen. Lamar Alexander’s office:
WASHINGTON, May 8 – U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) told a top U.S. Army Corps of Engineers official at a budget hearing today that he would restrict the Corps’ ability to transfer new funds to projects if it doesn’t abandon “unreasonable” fishing restrictions that amount to “thumbing your nose at elected officials,” saying, “It sounds to me like we have a life jacket problem – not a water problem.” (Video HERE.)
Senator Diane Feinstein (D-Calif.), the subcommittee chairman whose approval the Corps would also need, called Alexander reasonable “99.9 percent of the time” and told the Corps officials, “My strong advice would be to try to work something out with him.”
“We don’t need Big Brother in Washington holding our hands while we’re fishing down in Tennessee or Kentucky or any other place,” Alexander said to Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works Jo-Ellen Darcy. “If you’re not going to pay attention to the elected representatives of Tennessee and Kentucky and other states, I’m not going to pay attention to your judgment. You have nine major accounts, 918 project accounts, and in order to move that, you need the permission of the chairman and me to [transfer new funds to projects]. … You’re going to find it very hard to get my approval for any reprogramming request – anywhere in the country – until I get the Corps’ attention, and if that doesn’t get your attention, I’m going to work with my colleagues to reduce the reprogramming requests to $1,000 so that any reprogramming you want to do, you’ll have to come back to me and Senator Feinstein and the chairman and ranking member in the House.”
Referring to the order in which the legislative and executive branch duties are laid out in the Constitution – Article I and Article II, respectively – Alexander said, “We’re Article I, you’re Article II – you ought to be paying attention to our judgment on this, especially when so many members of Congress from both sides of the aisle have made themselves clear on this. We don’t need a government that’s big enough to interfere with us when we have enough sense to … get out of the water the 20 percent of the time when it’s spilling through the dam.”
Alexander, the lead Republican or Ranking Member of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Energy and Water Development that was holding the hearing, has introduced the “Freedom to Fish Act” to prohibit the Corps from restricting fishing beneath 10 dams on the Cumberland River. On March 23, the U.S. Senate unanimously supported his amendment to the Senate budget resolution allowing Congress to pass legislation prohibiting the Corps plans.
On April 30, the Corps announced that it would move forward with full-time, permanently restricted access to tailwaters areas below the dams, through buoys and signage. Today, Alexander said the Corps would “find it very hard” to get the approval it needs from him as Ranking Member of the subcommittee for “reprogramming” required to move money among the Corps’ more than 900 project accounts.
Alexander pointed to the Corps’ own statistics showing that water only spills through the dams 20 percent of the time, on average. Alexander said, “Closing off the tailwaters 100 percent of the time would be like putting the gate down over the railroad crossing 100 percent of the time – the tracks aren’t dangerous when the train’s not coming, and the water isn’t dangerous when the water isn’t spilling through the dam.”
Former U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Tennessee Jerry Martin, an appointee of President Obama who until stepping down recently would have been responsible for defending the Corps in court, has said the Corps’ restrictions are unreasonable “in light of the tremendous protection from liability enjoyed by the Corps.” The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency has also said it will not enforce the Corps’ restrictions, and Alexander has repeatedly encouraged the Corps to work out a compromise with state agencies to address safety concerns.
News release from Sen. Lamar Alexander’s office:
NASHVILLE, April 30 – U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) today released the following statement on the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ announcement today that it would proceed with its proposed fishing restrictions below dams on the Cumberland River:
“This is a waste of taxpayer dollars and an unreasonable interference with the right to fish below the dams the public owns,” Alexander said. “We will therefore move ahead in the U.S. Senate next week with legislation to ensure the freedom of Americans to fish in these waters at times that the state wildlife agencies believe is consistent with reasonable efforts to ensure public safety.”
The senator’s statement follows an announcement by the Corps today, Tuesday, April 30, that it would proceed with restricting access to tailwaters areas below the dams in Tennessee and Kentucky on a full-time, permanent basis through the use of buoys and signage. The Corps is not proceeding with physical barriers at this time, though that has been part of the plan.
Alexander previously introduced the “Freedom to Fish Act” to prohibit the Corps from restricting access to the tailwaters, noting that the waters are only dangerous 20 percent of the time. Cosponsors included Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), and Senators Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) and Rand Paul (R-Ky.), as well as U.S. Rep. Ed Whitfield (R-Ky.) in the House.
On March 23, the U.S. Senate unanimously passed a resolution to the budget that would allow for Congress to pass legislation prohibiting the Corps’ plan. Alexander has also held a range of meetings with Corps officials, encouraging the Corps to work with Tennessee and Kentucky wildlife agencies on a compromise to ensure safety.
Tennessee House members cheered, whistled and noisily clapped Thursday as a Nashville colleague launched a verbal barrage at Georgia’s demands for access to Tennessee River water, observes Andy Sher. “I believe that we might be the Volunteer State, but I believe in no way should we surrender any part of our state, particularly land and water we’ve possessed for nearly 200 years,” Rep. Jason Powell, D-Nashville, said in his floor speech.
“Just because another state and a specific large city in that state has not done a better job for planning and development” doesn’t mean they can poach something that belongs to Tennessee, Powell said. “As far as I’m concerned, Georgia can keep its greedy hands and its thirsty mouths away from our water.”
Replied House Majority Leader Gerald McCormick, R-Chattanooga: “I believe the representative can rest easy.”
Georgia state Rep. Tom Weldon, R-Ringgold, said later Thursday that Powell was “grandstanding.”
“He probably is looking for something to prop up his notoriety,” he said.
The Georgia Legislature recently passed a resolution that seeks to negotiate with Tennessee over a small portion of land in Marion County that would let it tap the river.
Gov. Bill Haslam and TVA’s new CEO, Bill Johnson, are indicating that Georgia’s legislative effort to move the state border and divert Tennessee River water to Atlanta is little more than time-consuming fighting words,according to the Chattanooga TFP. Haslam, through a spokesman, said he has no interest in going along with Georgia’s latest attempt to get access to the mighty river to help slake the Peach State’s thirst for water. Georgia lawmakers are threatening to march into the U.S. Supreme Court to decide the nearly 200-year disputed state boundary issue if Tennessee won’t grant access to the river in Marion County.
“The governor will continue to protect the interests and resources of Tennessee,” Haslam spokesman David Smith said via email.
One Tennessee lawmaker, House Majority Leader Gerald McCormick, was more strident.
“Well, they’ve threatened to take us to court, so I guess we’ll let the AG’s [attorney general] office take care of it and go to court with them,” said the Chattanooga Republican. “We’re not going to pass a law to give them water.”
From the Chattanooga TFP:
Despite nine previous resolutions that have left a 200-year-old border dispute unresolved, Georgia lawmakers want Tennessee to know this time they mean business.
In a vote Monday, Georgia senators approved House Resolution 4 with one key change: If Tennessee declines to settle, the dispute will be handed over to the attorney general, who will take Tennessee before the Supreme Court to settle the issue once and for all.
“I would hope that the Tennessee House and Senate would realize that one, we’re serious,” said Georgia state Rep. Harry Geisinger, R-Roswell, “and two, there’s no reason we shouldn’t resolve it and move on.”
Geisinger’s resolution in the House offers to relinquish 66.5 square miles of land that Georgia lawmakers claim is rightfully theirs in return for a 1.5-mile strip that would give them access to the Tennessee River at Nickajack Lake. The Peach State could build a pipeline to deliver up to 1 billion gallons of water a day to thirsty Atlanta and other parts of Georgia, Alabama and Florida.
“This resolution is a good-faith offer to settle the long-standing dispute,” said Brad Carver, an attorney for the Atlanta firm Hall Booth Smith.
Tennessee lawmakers have said Georgia has no right to Tennessee water and that they will not agree to such a resolution.
News release from Sen. Lamar Alexander’s office:
NASHVILLE, Feb. 21 – At a press conference today at Old Hickory Dam, U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) told a gathering of anglers and other community members that he will introduce legislation next week to delay the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ “unreasonable plan to restrict fishing below Cumberland River dams that will destroy remarkably good recreational opportunities and many jobs.”
“Water spills through the Cumberland River dams less than 20 percent of the time on average,” the senator said. “To close off the tailwaters to fishing 100 percent of the time would be like keeping the gate down at the railroad crossing 100 percent of the time: The track isn’t dangerous when the train isn’t coming, and the tailwaters aren’t dangerous when the water isn’t spilling through the dam.”
Alexander said his legislation would require the Corps to conduct an environmental impact review before it could restrict public access to the fishing waters below ten dams on the Cumberland River. The senator said this process would likely take more than a year and would include multiple comment periods, as well as give Congress time to determine if the funding required for the safety barriers on the Cumberland River is in the best interest of public safety and the American taxpayer.
ATLANTA (AP) — Georgia lawmakers are once more asking to redraw the state’s northern border in the hope of getting water from the Tennessee River.
The House of Representatives voted 171-2 on Tuesday to adopt a resolution seeking from Tennessee a strip of land leading to the river. The offer will be sent to Tennessee officials, who have laughed off similar ideas in the past.
Georgia lawmakers argue that a flawed 1818 survey misplaced the 35th parallel. If Tennessee’s southern border stretched along the parallel, as Congress decreed in 1796, Georgia could take water from the Tennessee River. No one much cared in modern times until a water dispute between Georgia, Alabama and Florida threatened metro Atlanta’s water supply.
“It’s basically our water — at least it was when it was on our land,” said Rep. Harry Geisinger, R-Roswell, who sponsored the resolution.
Under his plan, Georgia would accept the current border with the exception of a slice of land allowing for access to the Tennessee River. Tennessee leaders have so far been dismissive of the latest request.
A border change would likely require Congressional action or a ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court.
Georgia lawmakers have debated similar requests in previous years. Former Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue considered pursuing a lawsuit seeking to redraw the border after a federal judge ruled that Atlanta had little right to take water from the Chattahoochee River, its main water supply. That ruling has since been overturned.
Georgia leaders have floated the idea in various forms over the years. House Speaker David Ralston, R-Blue Ridge, suggesting expanding road and rail links to Chattanooga, Tenn., in return for water access. Attorney General Sam Olens backed boosting the role of Chattanooga’s airport in return for a pipe carrying Tennessee River water to Georgia.