David Ralston broaches a Tennessee deal: Water for access to Atlanta’s airport, Savannah’s port

Denis O’Hayer of WABE (90.1FM) has just posted an intriguing conversation with House Speaker David Ralston, in which the north Georgia lawmaker broached the idea of cutting a deal with Tennessee – water for speedy access to Atlanta’s airport and Savannah’s port.

Listen to the interview here.

For decades, Georgia lawmakers have argued that our state was deprived of water from the Tennessee River by an early 19th century surveyor’s mistake. But Ralston doesn’t raise that sticky issue:

Ralston: I have not had any formal discussions with any of the officials in Tennessee. From time to time, I’ve had occasion to visit with members of the Tennessee legislature and different meetings, and this subject has come up.

I wouldn’t characterize those discussions as being formal at all. I’m hopeful that in the not-too-distant future, though, we’ll be able to sit down and have a meeting where this will be the only thing on the agenda.

O’Hayer: Is there a timetable?

Ralston: We’ve all got busy seasons, what with redistricting coming up. But I’m hoping it will be sooner rather than later. The issue of water is probably the most important issue facing our state now. Obviously, there needs to be some dispatch with which we handle the issue.

O’Hayer asked the speaker to elaborate on remarks made to the Atlanta Press Club last month.

Ralston: What I was talking about is that we have a lot in common with our neighbors in Tennessee. We have a lot of economic development opportunities that don’t really recognize the existence of a state line. The Volkswagen plant, for example, is up and going up there now. And that’s going to create opportunities for Georgians….

I think that part of Tennessee is going to need transportation enhancements. They’ve got an airport sitting up there that is under utilized in the view of many people. It would seem to me that if Georgia and Tennessee are willing to sort of think outside the box, and think long term here, that 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.

That sort of discussion would be an interesting and exciting one to have.

O’Hayer: Would that include a Chattanooga to Atlanta rail line?

Ralston: That’s one option. Obviously that would be of great benefit to that airport facility up there….I think any fair discussion of the future of that corridor would have to include that as a possibility.

O’Hayer: What could we offer Tennessee that they couldn’t get on their own?

Ralston: We could offer them better access to the greatest port facility on the Eastern Seaboard….Obviously, enhanced access to Hartsfield-Jackson airport I think would matter to them. We have a much better network of interstate highways than that part of Tennessee. There are any number of things that we could offer that would be of benefit to that part of that state, for a long time going into the future.

O’Hayer: Would that include the I-3 proposal through north Georgia?

Ralston: I’m not sure I-3 is a very viable option….putting aside the very substantial environmental concerns….Before we go down the road of spending money talking about building that interstate, we ought to look at alternatives. I think rail is a great alternative to talk about. We’ve got some of the rail infrastructure in place that serves the port facility. That may be a better alternative.

- By Jim Galloway, Political Insider

For instant updates, follow me on Twitter, or connect with me on Facebook.

17 comments Add your comment


June 3rd, 2011
7:36 pm

What an unmitigated liar! I-3 is full steam ahead unless Georgian’s start throwing these bums out.

Please join the Stop I-3 Coalition, and make it clear to your local, State, and Federal representatives that
another superhighway is a waste of public funds.

Tell the truth

June 3rd, 2011
7:54 pm

I do not trust any of the Georgia politicians- they could not care one whit about the working man and the poor. BUT they will go out of their way to take care of the wealthy and big business.


June 3rd, 2011
11:12 pm

Ralston raises some good points. A huge improvement over Richardson.


June 3rd, 2011
11:39 pm

1-There are three posts up about Herman Cain now. They have a total of 182 comments.
If we don’t get a dependable source of water, the City of Atlanta dies. A post about a possible solution to this problem gets 3 comments. Can we say misplaced priorities?
2-This is the first I have heard about 1-3. This seems to be a can of worms, to put it mildly.
3- Even if we do get access to the Tennessee River water, we are going to have to build a pipe through the mountains to get it here. This is not going to be cheap, or friendly to the environment.
Why didn’t the developers and governments not think about this when we were on our building spree? And why is continued building permitted without a secure source of water?

Alabama Communist

June 3rd, 2011
11:41 pm

I had no idea that a water war with Tennessee was going on. I assumed that surrendering the Port Of Savannah to Tennessee and letting Hartfield be a airbase for Tennessee makes Republican War mongering sense…


June 4th, 2011
1:12 am

I applaud Speaker Ralston for presenting new ideas to deal with the soon to be acute water crisis. It seems that the State has solely focused on winning an appeal in the 11th Circuit in order gain access to drinking water from Lanier and Allatoona. Florida and Alabama really don’t have an incentive to work out an arrangement with us.

Also, we need to build I-3 all the way from Savannah to Knoxville. Start with the southern segment from Savannah to Augusta to I-85. I believe that this can be done without offending too many environmentalists. Transportation improvements and the elimination of the state income tax are keys to our future.

Bite US

June 4th, 2011
4:19 am

You GA guys can BITE US. You have your Lanier and Chattahoochie. Deal with it. We don’t need your port, your congested airport, your darkies, or your beaners.

R U Kidding Me?

June 4th, 2011
7:32 am


Go back to high school and pay attention this time. I-3 is dead as a hammer. It is absolutely no activity on this project at Georgia DOT or within the Federal Highway Administration. None. It’s not going to happen. GDOT and FHWA can’t afford to build the critical projects they have had on the table for 20 years much less go out and dream up a new interstate costing billions more. You’re on glue if you believe otherwise.

chamblee54: ” Even if we do get access to the Tennessee River water, we are going to have to build a pipe through the mountains to get it here. This is not going to be cheap, or friendly to the environment.” Join hsgrad and go back to high school and pay attention this time.

Ever heard of I-75? It runs from Atlanta to Chattanooga. Ever driven on I-75? Ever noticed that nice wide median that runs right down the middle? It’s also know as right-of-way, and its already been bought and paid for by GDOT. Ever heard of a backhoe? They sell them at Yancey Brothers. They’re big yellow machines that can dig a nice big trench right down the middle of the I-75 median and gues what? You put big ass water line in that ditch to carry the water from the Tennessee River to Atlanta. Nobody is going to have to build any “pipe through a mountan”, and the environmental clearance was done when they build I-75. Duh.

WW ll veteran

June 4th, 2011
10:19 am

Hey David (Ralstonj). You have been representing Fannin County for years and can’t even get SR #5 widened with a bypass around McCaysville and the State of Tennesse to agree to help finance a bridge across the Ocoee River which would benefit both states. And you are expecting to strike a deal with those birds? Dream on!

Dirty Dawg

June 4th, 2011
11:13 am

Assuming that nobody in Georgia’s government has the cajones to take Tennessee to court, again, then why not a private, class-action suit to get to the damn water that we should have had access to all those years ago? Also, if they can ’slant drill’ to suck up oil from under somebody else’s land, why can’t we drill for water from ‘under’ the Tennessee River? And by the way Ralston, didn’t I read that the State of Tennessee had required Volkswagen to only hire workers from Tennessee and/or to sub-contract with only Tennessee-based companies? I know I read it, is it still true…and if it is then I say let’s get tough on those guys – starting with Georgian’s boycotting Chattanooga…as well as the purchase of whatever model VW builds at that plant, or all VW products for that matter.

So ‘biteUS’ doesn’t care for our ‘darkies’ and ‘beaners’ up there…better watch your butt the next time a Tennessee-licensed auto drives through town…some of us still remember that MLK was murdered in your state, working to help some of your ‘darkies’ and we never really have held you accountable for that…I mean if a century or two-old, drunken surveyor’s mistake can hold an entire region hostage, then we can damn sure look for some measure of revenge whenever and wherever we can….now is that the kind of behavior you guys really want to start?


June 4th, 2011
11:54 am

The clock is winding down on a federal judge’s three year deadline to find replacement water for Lake Lanier, and this is the answer? Some pipe dream of swapping airport access for water? If we don’t get on the stick and produce some realistic solutions, like building reserviors, we’re going to be in deep feces.

The Snark

June 4th, 2011
11:57 am

What’s this? A Republican politician trying to come up with new ideas for government to solve problems? Please, somebody alert Grover Norquist and the Tea Party! We’ve got a RINO on our hands!


June 4th, 2011
12:43 pm

It’s early and a lot could happen in between, but this is the first news about a GA legislator in a long time suggesting someone’s actually looking at issues that matter and working on them for some other reason than publicity.
It’s been clear to everyone except the last Governor and last megolomaniac led Gen Assembly that a Tenn/GA airport partnership makes sense for us and them. The water is clearly a good bargaining chip and mutual needs may eliminate the need to fight old battles. While we’re at it, let’s see if we can cut some Federal budget and convert Dobbins AFB into a 2nd Metro Airport.


June 4th, 2011
1:37 pm

R U Kiddin Me: Sorry to offend you. The Ritalin I took in high school didn’t agree with me. BTW, “hsgrad” is just a blog moniker.


June 4th, 2011
2:33 pm

R U Kidding me, are you intentionally misleading the public? Congress just raised the I-3 study to a priority project. A federal study on I-3 is due out any moment now (see the following Savannah news article: http://www.savannahbusinessjournal.com/news/ports-transportation/1162-3rd-infantry-division-highway-study-results-due-in-june

Tons of North Georgia speculators are all over this, including the City of Dawsonville.

I hope Speaker Ralston is sincere about rail being the best alternative to building the proposed I-3 highway. I-3 will destroy north Georgia environmentally, as well as the City of Dawsonville’s plan to become the next Regional Airport owner/developer in Georgia.


June 6th, 2011
10:37 am

I-3 is just a boondoggle…
Instead of going thru the mountians… it should cut over to Dalton. This way we get our Northern arc.. Savannah gets an interstate to TN around Atlanta and the mountains keep their beauty.

Wouldn't conservation be much easier?

June 6th, 2011
11:25 am

I don’t care about your green lawn.