Chattanooga: Delta Queen closer to hotel operation

Chattanooga: Delta Queen closer to hotel operation

April 8th, 2009 by Jacqueline Koch in Local Regional News

Turning a riverboat into a riverfront hotel takes more than just dropping anchor and tying up to a dock.

For the Delta Queen riverboat, now floating at Coolidge Park, the transformation means hooking the boat up to city electricity and water - not too hard since attachments for both already were in place at the dock.

This week, the Queen hopes to hook up to Chattanooga's sewer line, the next step propelling the paddlewheel steamboat closer to allowing overnight guests.

"It's a big transfer to take a boat that operates on the river to make it into a fixed entity," said Delta Queen Steamboat Company Inc. spokesman Bill Weimuth.

Delta Queen managers met Friday with various city departments, including health and building inspectors, to get assessments and recommendations before the boat becomes a fully operable floating hotel at its Coolidge Park berth.

"It's kind of in that transition stage from a vessel to a facility that is considered to be permanently attached to the shoreline," said Harry Phillips, project manager for the Delta Queen and owner of Chattanooga Water Taxi Co.

The Tennessee Valley Authority, working with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, also must approve the project and is conducting navigation and shoreline disturbance studies, expected to be completed within two weeks, he said.

Mr. Phillips said he hopes to accommodate overnight guests within a month, about two months after the boat docked in Chattanooga. The restaurant is set to open next week.

The Delta Queen currently allows tour guests and operates under a U.S. Coast Guard permit as an attraction vessel. With that permit, the Coast Guard assumed responsibility for the vessel and conducted inspections before allowing people on the boat. The 90-day permit expires in June, at which time the Delta Queen needs an operating permit from the city, which then takes responsibility.

A wastewater treatment system on the boat converts sewage into water sanitary enough to drink before it's dumped in the Tennessee River, Mr. Weimuth said.

The Coast Guard regularly tests the water dumped into the river to make sure it's acceptable, he added.

The Delta Queen already uses the city's electricity and water, Mr. Phillips said. Plug-ins existed on the bank before the boat docked.

The health department, along with other city departments, used Friday's meeting to learn more about the boat and how it will operate as a hotel, said Lowe Wilkins with the Chattanooga-Hamilton County Health Department. Each agency has different requirements it wanted to spell out to the boat's operators, he said.

"I've had to learn a lot about it, too," Mr. Wilkins said. "(The sewage treatment is) a system I'm aware of was on these boats, but I hadn't seen one before the other day."


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