U.S. Sen. Bob Corker on Thursday waded into the issue of a rundown river barge in downtown Chattanooga, urging the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to keep in mind the "significant negative effects" it's having on the waterfront.
"Chattanooga has undertaken significant actions in recent years to develop its downtown," he said in a letter to the corps.
"The beautification of the riverfront has been integral to this process and it would be disappointing to see the productive activities of hard working Chattanoogans undermined by allowing this partially sunken, dilapidated barge to mar the otherwise picturesque area."
The Tennessee Republican noted that the barge moored on the Tennessee River across from the Chattanooga riverfront is under review for noncompliance of its permit.
Corker said in the letter to Lt. Col. James DeLapp, commander of the Nashville District of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, that it is "my sincere hope that you keep in mind the significant negative effects that this has on the community when making the decision whether or not to revoke its permit."
Barge owner Allen Casey said that Corker doesn't know what's being done concerning efforts to redevelop it along with adjacent property off Manufacturers Road.
Casey also said the corps on Thursday had talked with him about communicating "what we're doing."
"I'm complying with that," he said.
Kim White, who heads the nonprofit downtown redevelopment group River City Co., said Corker's letter is on target.
Still, she said, even if the barge permit is revoked, there is a drawn-out appeals process and opportunity for Casey to reapply.
"He ought to do the right thing and get it out of here," White said.
Casey said earlier this week that the barge will be cleaned up and won't be an embarrassment while he continues to put together financing for a floating restaurant and plans for the adjacent property across the river from the Tennessee Aquarium.
"It will have to do until we get our money," he said.
It has been four years since Casey brought the barge to Chattanooga, and its deteriorating condition has drawn criticism.
Contact Mike Pare at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6318.