NORWICH, Vt. - The top law enforcement officers from New Hampshire and Vermont met Monday in the middle of a bridge over the Connecticut River to confirm that, yes, their shared border has not changed.
State laws require the states’ attorneys general to meet every seven years to reaffirm the states’ 160-mile border, a process called perambulation. The laws are designed to ensure the two states remain in agreement. They followed a 1935 US Supreme Court decision that settled what had been a decades-long legal battle.
On Monday, Attorney General William Sorrell of Vermont stood to the west of a vertical line cut into a granite panel on the bridge, which connects Hanover, N.H., and Norwich, Vt. His New Hampshire counterpart, Michael Delaney, stood on the eastern side.
For several minutes, they exchanged light-hearted banter that segued into solemn comments about the historic and ongoing cooperation between the two states.
“I think the case is a great example that we are a nation of laws,’’ Sorrell said. “All you have to do is look around the world and see the strife, the revolutions, the insurgencies, and whatever and the inability of so many people in this world to resolve their differences peacefully.
“Here you have a great example of two states, two separate but equal states, with legitimate arguments of great importance to both states resolved under our laws amicably and finally. We laugh about our responsibilities to perambulate, but this is an opportunity every seven years to sort of reinforce the borders, but reinforce our neighborliness.’’
The bridge’s line is symbolic. The border is actually the low watermark on the western side of the Connecticut River.
The case that was ultimately settled by the US Supreme Court began in the 1890s, when Walpole, N.H., tried to tax a paper mill on what is now considered to be the Vermont side of the river.
Prior to the decision, Vermont had said that the border was the center line of the river.
The symbolic line in the middle of the Connecticut River where Sorrell and Delaney met is in Hanover because the river itself is New Hampshire territory.
After the 20-minute meeting on the bridge, Sorrell and Delaney walked into the underbrush on the Vermont shore to examine an official marker, one of about 100 along the states’ border.
“This event should speak to the fact that New Hampshire and Vermont have always been good neighbors,’’ Delaney said.