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State AG fine with airport idea, but wants water from Tenn.
Olens OK with Chattanooga as 'Atlanta's second airport,' if Ga. can tap river
Sam Olens

Georgia Attorney General Sam Olens said Monday he's willing to consider an airport-for-water agreement with Tennessee.

"Tennessee would like the Chattanooga airport to be Atlanta's second airport," he said, speaking to the Rotary Club of Gainesville.

"And I will tell you, from a metro Atlanta perspective, I don't believe Cobb, North Fulton, Gwinnett (counties) ... are viable (options for) second airports," Olens said.

"I think we should be open to (that) discussion ... as long as (Tennessee is) open to the discussion that there's a pipe that comes into Georgia with water from the Tennessee River."

The water comment drew some applause from the audience.

Olens said he talks occasionally to Tennessee's attorney general, Robert E. Cooper Jr., and "sees an opportunity for a win-win (agreement)" between the states.

"There's only so much litigation against all of our sister states that you need at one given time," he added.

Olens said motorists can reach Chattanooga from Cobb County, where Olens lives and served on the Cobb County Board of Commissioners from 2002 to 2010, in about 75 minutes, traveling on Interstate 75.

"You show me rush hour in Atlanta and it's an hour and a quarter for me to get to Hartsfield," he said.

Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport had 9.86 million international passengers last year, eclipsing the previous record of 9.18 million, set in 2008, airport officials said.

Concerning water, Georgia has had a longstanding dispute with Tennessee over whether a piece of the Tennessee River belongs in Georgia.

The border between the two states was set at the 35th parallel in 1818, but the University of Georgia mathematician who drew up the maps made a mistake, an error he acknowledged eight years later.

However, no changes were made and the two states' boundaries have never been challenged seriously.

The main reason it has become an issue in recent years is because of Georgia's water woes, including a fight with Alabama and Florida over whether Georgia can tap Lake Lanier for drinking water and the state's historic 2007-09 drought.

Georgia has the upper hand for now in that 20-year-old legal battle, with Florida and Alabama expected by next week to petition the U.S. Supreme Court to hear their appeals.

"That will be summarily denied, I assume, because there are no federal issues," Olens said. "By the end of April, the three states should be in a great position to sit down and try to settle this matter."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.