Attempt To Pump Out Sunken Restaurant
by John Madewell
Some have called the sunken barge restaurant on Chattanooga's North Shore an embarrassment. Others say its an eyesore.
But today, for the first time in months, major steps are underway to possibly bring the River Barge and Cafe up off the river bottom.
Three heavy duty pumps are on the job, pumping water out of the sunken building. But those on this operation know it is a tricky one. They are "praying it works."
Owner Allen Casey is optimistic about this effort. His assistant, Brock Sparks, said each pump is pumping out 1,400 gallons per minute. It's an attempt to bring the restaurant above water.
And for those fishing near the Chickamauga Dam today, they may have noticed there was nearly no water flow. That's because T-V-A agreed to help in this raising of the barge attempt. TVA spokesperson Travis Brickey said, "In this case, we are assisting. We had reduced discharge earlier today and now we're at zero out of Chickamauga. We plan to be there until around 7 o'clock tonight"
TVA stopped the flow down river at 2:00 this afternoon. It was well aware of the barge problem and says its not unusual to offer help. Brickey said, "We get requests, we call these special operations. There could be events on the water, I know there are rowing events, regattas, those type of things."
Sparks said pumping started at 9:30 this morning. Three hours later, the crew had removed about five feet of water, but six more remained.
Casey and Sparks say part of the problem was a hole in the floor where soda lines ran to the basement. And when the front, or riverside barge, dropped below water so did four manholes that go to the bottom of that barge. By early afternoon, those were about a foot and a half below water.
The crew hopes the barge rises above water high enough to get to the manholes and start pumping the actual barge out.
NewsChannel 9 contacted the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers which permitted this vessel. Spokesman Lee Roberts said the Corps wants Casey to "get it (the barge) up and out of the water, floating." Roberts went on to say he expects "someone from regulatory to come and take a look."
According to Roberts, fines aren't likely at this point.
Sparks said the plan is to raise the barge, secure it to the shore. Casey said he will have to gut the building. He plans to continue with the floating restaurant concept.
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