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Tuesday, June 7, 2011 - 8:50am

Ralston: Trade Tennessee Transportation For Water

A top Georgia lawmaker says he has an idea for how the state can get more water for its needs. House Speaker David Ralston is proposing a trade with Tennessee.

In his idea, Ralston says Tennessee would get better connections to Georgia’s transportation links. In return, Georgia would get access to water from the Tennessee River.

Ralston says the idea is only in its infancy. But after very informal discussions with some officials of both states, he sees an opening for more substantial talks.

As example, Ralston says an Atlanta rail line north into Tennessee would greatly benefit Chattanooga’s airport. So would Georgia shoulder more of the cost of construction of such a line?

“I think it’d be premature to say what we would do, but given the right incentives, I think that both states could be flexible.”

Ralston says Georgia could also offer improved access to its ports to bolster the new Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga.

And Ralston says rather than a courtroom fight over the Tennessee boundary issue, this is a better way to negotiate:

“What I’m suggesting to my colleagues is that we look at an alternative to litigation, and we look at taking the money that we would spend litigating and going to court and suing Tennessee, and we take that same money and put it in a more productive and cooperative effort.”

Earlier this year, some Georgia state lawmakers made a push for water from the Tennessee River. It was based on what they say was an incorrectly-drawn state boundary dating back to the 1800's.

The Speaker’s hopeful that a more formal get-together of key policy and development officials from both states might happen later this year.