Indiana-Michigan border may bend

The idea of redrawing the border that separates Indiana and Michigan is gaining momentum.

Indiana lawmakers have passed a bill to make that happen. The measure is awaiting the signature of the Governor. Similar legislation is pending in the legislature in Michigan.

“Nobody really knows where that state line is,” said St. Joseph County Surveyor John McNamara.

The state line--as we know it--was staked out in 1827. Problem is, surveyors picked a ‘rotten’ way to do it. The stakes they used were made of wood and many have since rotted away.

“There were 130-stakes driven into the ground, so we've only found maybe five or six out of the 130,” said McNamara.

The situation tends to leave a lot of guesswork for those who practice the science of modern day surveying.
“There are property line disputes that have come up where somebody in Indiana has had their’s surveyed, someone in Michigan has had their’s surveyed, and it overlapped, or there’s a gap between them,” said McNamara.

Amy Boggs recently moved to Indiana. Her backyard ends where the State of Michigan begins. “Where the state line exactly is at, that’s exactly where our backyard ends,” Boggs said.

The prospect that the imaginary line could move, was unsettling to Boggs: “I do not want to pay taxes in two states, no I don’t.”

Indiana Representative Ryan Dvorak, (D) South Bend sponsored the bill to retrace the boundary. “There have been some tax disputes about whether someone's property was actually located in Indiana or Michigan based upon different surveys that overlap each other.”

Rep. Dvorak went on to say; “The only way we can actually go through and replace the missing markers and re-survey the border is through joint action between the Indiana and Michigan legislatures and that’s what we’re trying to do.”

It stands to reason that some changes could occur if a border that was established by hand in 1827 is re-worked in the age of global positioning. “I think things will change, yeah,” said McNamara. “How big the shift will be, it might end up being ten feet, might end up being five feet, twenty feet: There is some speculation that over near Hillsdale, Michigan the shift might be three or four hundred feet.”

Indiana and Michigan aren’t alone in dealing with the dilemma. North and South Carolina are now in the process of redrawing the border there.

Georgia has expressed an interest in doing the same with Tennessee.

The Indiana boundary legislation is known as Senate Bill 530. It passed the Indiana House on Wednesday by unanimous vote. S.B. 530 is now awaiting the signature of the governor.

The bill establishes the Indiana-Michigan Boundary Line Commission. The Commission will consist of five members, who are appointed by the governor. One member of the commission must be appointed from each of the boundary counties of Elkhart, LaGrange, LaPorte, St. Joseph, and Steuben.

Ind. Rep. Ryan Dvorak said retracing the boundary was expected to cost about one million dollars. Dvorak said that the effort would not use taxpayer dollars, but rather rely on court fees.

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