U.S. Army Corps of Engineers puts owner of rundown barge in Chattanooga on notice

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers puts owner of rundown barge in Chattanooga on notice

July 13th, 2013 by Mike Pare in Local Regional News

Workers collect scrap metal during a recent cleanup at the barge owned by Allen Casey on the north shore of the Tennessee River in downtown Chattanooga.

Photo by John Rawlston /Times Free Press.

POLL: Should the barge be removed from Chattanooga?

The clock appears to be ticking on the rundown riverfront barge across from the Tennessee Aquarium.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has given the barge owner 90 days to shape up.

Lee Roberts, a spokesman for the corps, said its officials met with barge owner Allen Casey on June 18 and gave him 90 days to complete corrective actions to bring his barge permit into compliance.

"Upon completion of the 90-day period, the Corps will make a decision whether to reinstate, modify or revoke the permit," Roberts said in an email.

He said that since the issue remains an ongoing enforcement action, the corps wouldn't further discuss details about communications with Casey or his noncompliance.

Casey, who wants to put a floating restaurant on the barge, declined comment Friday afternoon.

Kim White, who heads the downtown redevelopment group River City Co., said it's time for the corps to act, and she doesn't think Casey's project can become reality.

"I can't believe it takes this long and there's so much red tape," she said. "We've been on this for several years. Even if Casey got a restaurant today, there's no place to park."

This spring, the corps said the barge wasn't complying with its permit.

Earlier this week, Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke waded into the issue, urging federal regulators not to allow the barge to remain permitted.

In a letter to the Corps of Engineers, Berke called the dilapidated barge moored across from the Tennessee Aquarium "unacceptable to the community."

The mayor cited the barge's appearance and condition, the debris originating from it, and the unlikelihood that the proposed restaurant project can be salvaged.

In May, U.S. Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., wrote to the Corps, telling it to keep in mind the "significant negative effects" the barge was having on the waterfront.

"Chattanooga has undertaken significant actions in recent years to develop its downtown," he said.

Casey, who made a name for himself with the successful development of the Chattanooga Choo Choo more than three decades ago, has said he's trying to work out project financing, but hasn't given details.

In 2004, Casey announced plans for a 98-room AmeriSuites on the tract along with 60 condominiums, but nothing was built.

Contact staff writer Mike Pare at mpare@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6318.