UPDATE: Bye-bye barge - WRCBtv.com | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

UPDATE: Bye-bye barge

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CHATTANOOGA, TN (WRCB) - UPDATE: Yes, it has left Chattanooga. The barge that has blighted the north shore of the Tennessee River in Chattanooga is now headed to the Gulf of Mexico, making it's long-awaited departure Thursday afternoon.

Several people have stopped by the pier at Ross's Landing hoping to catch the moment the barge detaches from the Northshore.

Years of waiting for the city of Chattanooga and residents are over with the infamous Allen Casey barge now gone. It first arrived in the Scenic City in 2009 with hopes of becoming a floating restaurant but it's since become an abandoned and dilapidated barge that's been the target of vandals. There have been previous unsuccessful attempts to move and sell the barge.

It appears a small crew has been working since 9am to pump any remaining water from the barge. But it's still moored to the Northshore.

And a curious crowd continues to circle the pier and ask: "Is today the day?"

We'll know soon.


The departure of the barge that has sat on the north shore of the Tennessee River in downtown Chattanooga was delayed - again, on Wednesday.

It's currently set to be towed via tug away from Chattanooga Thursday morning, nearly a week after the last expected departure date.
 
Around 12:30pm Wednesday a tugboat arrived and attached to the barge. Crews have been working all day to get the barge ready for its journey out of Chattanooga.

"There's not a whole lot of people that can say the barge did Hamilton County any good," said Dave Eck.
    
Dave Eck, better known as Captain Dave, might know more about Allen Casey's barge than the owner himself.
    
He spent the past few months living on the abandoned barge keeping it afloat and says the silver lining comes in seeing it head downstream.

"To get rid if it right now, in my mind a lot of people had to come together to make it happen."
    
The barge is now in its final hours in Chattanooga. Crews on scene say they're preparing to leave early Thursday morning, ultimately heading to the Gulf of Mexico, where it's fate has not yet been decided.

The owner of neighboring riverfront property says he's received several calls over the years, people wondering if the barge would ever be open for business.

"It's really a sad end to a story of what could have been," said Jackson Wingfield.
    
During its time docked on the riverfront the barge has been trespassed, vandalized, and sabotaged.
    
All while holding onto the potential to be something all new to Chattanooga. A potential Wingfield hopes isn't lost with the barge.

"And we have the beautiful views, they look across at us and we're sitting here looking across at the multi-million dollar view of the city," Wingfield said.
PREVIOUS STORY: The sun is about to set on the downtown river front's most unwelcome visitor, "Casey's Barge."

"I think it's time to leave, it's beyond the point of repair, it needs to go, they let it go too far," says Harrison's Doug Hundley

"Yeah, I mean if it's sinking, it doesn't need to be there," opines Chattanooga's Joanne Davis.

"When is it going?" asks Prestine Huckabay.  

We're told not tomorrow, but sometime next week. 

"Thank you," retorts Huckabay.
The barge's former owner, Allen Casey, moved it here in 2009, with plans to make the barge a popular waterfront nightspot.  But Casey ran out of money and the barge ended up in bankruptcy court. As it wound through the court, the barge itself fell into further disrepair.

"I definitely think it's an eyesore especially as the area is trying to build a community around the river," says Chattanooga newcomer Mary Margaret McCord.

Thursday, the U.S. Coast Guard completed its inspection, finding the barge sea worthy. Making its planned relocation to Biloxi, Mississippi, one step closer to reality.

Chattanooga's Prestine Huckabay says removing the barge, much like the Delta Queen, will be a huge improvement for the North Shore.
"And that looks so good, so when they get that thing out of here it will look the same," beams Huckabay.         
"Well, if they don't get rid of it then it is going to result in a bigger problem so they might as well get rid of it now," suggests Davis.

"As long as it's leaving, I think everyone will be happy with that decision," posits McCord.

Harry Phillips, who has helped coordinate the barge's long awaited departure, says he expects by Wednesday or Thursday by the latest, that the troubled barge will be on its way to its final destination of Biloxi, Mississippi. 

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