Putting a little drama into Georgia’s water woes

The very northwest corner of Georgia disappeared over the summer.

Nearly 200 years ago, the Camak Stone was installed by a team of surveyors to mark the point at which our state joins both Tennessee and Alabama.

Here, the rock had been celebrated mostly for being in the wrong place _ well south of the 35th parallel it was supposed to represent, forever isolating Georgia from the Tennessee River and its water.

The University of Georgia mathematician responsible for the miscalculation, James Camak, blamed faulty star tables.

Barton Crattie, 54, of Lookout Mountain, Ga., is treasurer of the Surveyors Historical Society. He went to the scene of the lost stone a week or so ago. “I walked all over, thinking that it might have just been vandals _ and hoping they’d thrown it in the woods. But I believe it’s stolen.”

The mystery is why anyone would bother. The Camak Stone was _ and perhaps, still is _ nothing but an ugly, rust-stained stump of limestone.

But looks are something that, with the proper encouragement, Hollywood could easily fix.

Since a federal judge declared in July that most of metro Atlanta had no right to draw a single glass of drinking water from Lake Lanier, you have been lectured about the dire consequences. The billions upon billions of dollars in economic development at stake. The prospect of an entire population subjected to the indignities of low-flow toilets.

What we have ignored are the dramatic opportunities. Water wars have been a staple of American literature. “Whiskey’s for drinking. Water’s for fighting over,” Mark Twain is reputed to have said.

American cinema is no exception. Why was Jack Nicholson’s nose slit in “Chinatown”? Because Los Angeles was thirsty.

Now, though Georgia’s border dispute with Tennessee is undoubtedly real _ the Legislature last year directed Gov. Sonny Perdue to pursue the matter, in court or at the negotiating table _ a few facts might have to be sacrificed in the telling.

A few days ago, Perdue rejected any confrontation with Tennessee as “a near-term option,” apparently in the belief that a water war with two states _ Alabama and Florida _ was preferable to a water war with three.

The governor favors an Alabama-focused approach. And as a legal strategy, this can’t be faulted. But as a plot point, you can hear the thud.

Put a Zell Miller-like figure at the head of an army of thirst-crazed north Georgians, give him a bejeweled and magical Camak Stone to carry into battle, and invading Tennessee makes a deal of sense on a movie screen.

Whereas an invasion of Alabama would strain the most fertile imaginations.

Prefer something more sentimental? Shift your gaze slightly south.

Possibly you’ve read that the city of Atlanta owns 10,000 acres near Dawsonville now being eyed for a reservoir. But in next-door Hall County, the largest landowner has for several years been the family of an Austrian count, attempting the same thing.

(A family representative in Athens affirmed the title of nobility. Austria abolished such things in 1919, but informal use lingers, apparently.)

U.S. Sens. Saxby Chambliss and Johnny Isakson, plus U.S. Rep. Nathan Deal, have acted on the family’s behalf, in pursuit of a permit from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

The 7,500 acres known as Glades Woodland Farms was purchased in 1979. Within that chunk of land, Hall County purchased 805 acres in 2001 for a reservoir _ right above Lake Lanier.

Clemens Goess-Saurau, 52, died while skiing in Austria last year, but his heirs are pursuing the project _ which has acquired new momentum since July.

The story is unfinished, but clearly something Von Trappish is a possibility.

Environmentalists oppose the new lake’s construction, in part _ they say _ because a reservoir can hardly serve as a reliable source of water if it also must be kept filled for lakeside homes with boat ramps.

Alabama and Florida have lodged objections to the project as well.

Last week, as opposition piled up, an attorney for the Glades reservoir project announced that pursuit of a construction permit would be postponed, deferring a 30-year-old venture for another four months.

And giving you more time to write the ending.

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17 comments Add your comment


September 13th, 2009
3:57 pm

Isn’t it interesting that the environmentalists oppose a solution that everyone agrees is an appropriate action. Oh, and also Alabama opposes a reservoir near Lake Allatoona. Sounds like they don’t want a solution; but would rather enjoy just squeezing Georgia; out of nothing but spite. Where does the hate come from? Someone explain. jd

Chad Armstrong

September 13th, 2009
5:43 pm

Georgia doesn’t have a leg to stand on in this dispute, and it hasn’t since this all began. These dumb rednecks like Perdue and Barnes before them have known that Atlanta was building faster than the legal water rights could support. Unfortunately, they chose to keep a blind eye while the gettin’ was good for developers up in the north metro. Now those same developers are all bankrupt after leaving us with an endless supply of tacky McMansions that nobody wants, and are draining our water supply. We need someone who can actually think about consequences of decisions further ahead than next week. Right now, General Poythress is the only one making serious talk about a long water term plan in the governor’s race.


September 13th, 2009
5:55 pm

So what if Georgia stole the rusty limestone marker to commission a Purdue bust, now we need to resurvey the line and start pumping.

Go Dog, Go

September 13th, 2009
6:19 pm

jd says: “Isn’t it interesting that the environmentalists oppose a solution that everyone agrees is an appropriate action.” If you can’t withdraw water from it when you need it, I would not consider that to be “a solution that everyone agrees is an appropriate action.”

jackie baines

September 13th, 2009
6:41 pm

What i do not understand is why no one ever objects to Lake weise in Alabama staying full of water whereby the surrounding landowners always have their docks above water. That same water comes from alatoona. Also, how can Tennessee claim ownership of the tennessee river but Georgia seems to have no rights to its rivers and streams?

jackie baines

September 13th, 2009
6:46 pm

Why does the state of georgia not build a canal from atlanta to Cartersville and just let the Etowah parallel 75?

jackie baines

September 13th, 2009
6:51 pm

IN the old days in the west, landowners had water rights. where are our rights to water originating in our state? it seems we have no rights.


September 13th, 2009
8:23 pm

What do “environmentalists” actually DO for a living?

Mr. Geiger

September 13th, 2009
9:34 pm

Well, that land over in Dawsonville can’t be used for much else given its radioactive past. So, may as well flood the place and use it to store drinking and bathing water.

Dash Riptide

September 13th, 2009
10:03 pm

I’m guessing somebody is treating the thing like a stolen garden gnome or something. I look forward to a “Where in the World is the Camack Stone?” video on YouTube. That Matt guy is old news.

I’m not sure how I’ll make the stone dance, though.

Dash Riptide

September 13th, 2009
10:04 pm

“They’ll.” I meant “they’ll.”


September 14th, 2009
10:05 am

Deal, Real, Steal, I wonder how much Deal will make from this transaction?


September 14th, 2009
11:07 am

Georgia’s willy-nilly approach to this water dispute seems to be causing more confusion than addressing the real issues at stake. We have Governor Perdue running around threatening to play hardball with Alabama, Florida and Tennessee while his chief negotiator and Southern Company shill, Mike Garrett, talks about how well negotiations are going. I applaud the efforts to create new reservoirs, but Perdue and company seem more interested in waiting to see how the federal court case and current negotiations end before addressing that issue. Not a good sign that one of Perdue’s fist moves as Gov. was to scuttle Governor Barnes plans to build several new reservoirs for Atlanta. Time to get on the same page, y’all.


September 14th, 2009
12:41 pm

It sounds like the Hall County reservoir was intended to be for real estate development more than for drinking water if the environmentalists are arguing about water levels for lake house docks. Where will the water from this reservoir come from? If it’s all from the Chattahoochee, but just above Lake Lanier, the reservoir will be more likely to further muddle the current negotiations than to solve any of the underlying problems that caused the dispute to begin with.


September 14th, 2009
1:34 pm

Governor Perdue just needs to focus on securing Georgia’s water needs through conservation and water infrastructure development. His talk of playing hardball with the other states, his threats about bringing up archaic cases and environmental records, and his appointment of Michael Garrett to quarterback the state’s efforts in the water wars just speaks of pointless political posturing. The state needs someone else in the quarterback position, Garrett, as Georgia Power CEO, is too wrapped up in conflict of interests, where Georgia is benefited by certain water policy, and Georgia Power or its parent organization Southern Co makes more money off of other ones.


September 14th, 2009
1:49 pm

I don’t see why the environmentalists care about letting the lake/reservoir have proper water levels to accommodate people’s boats and lake houses. At any rate I think fulfilling our state’s water needs should be more important anyway.


September 14th, 2009
5:40 pm

Why look at Tennessee? Georgia has the Atlantic Ocean. Build a desalination plant like Tampa. I doubt any amount of building in Atlanta could drain the Atlantic Ocean.