Friday, October 31, 2014 · 6:38 a.m.
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The barge on Chattanooga's waterfront is supposed to be renovated into a restaurant. (Photo: Staff)

The decaying barge on the Riverfront continues to draw criticism, this time from the president and CEO of the Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce. 

Ron Harr, leader of the city's top business association, shared a letter penned to officials with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Tuesday, asking them to expedite the process and remove the blighted boat from its mooring as soon as possible. 

Harr's call comes days after Allen Casey, owner of the barge, was given a 90-day period to bring it up to code or possibly have his Section 10 permit revoked.

The letter, addressed to Lt. Col. James DeLapp and Tammy Turley, who both work for the corps' Nashville District, thanks the officials for their work managing the Tennessee River before summarizing potential problems the barge could cause. 

"The one remaining piling that moors the barge is tilted at a dangerous angle," Harr wrote. "The poor condition of the barge and its moorings appear to create a hazardous condition for vital commerce on the river and possibly for the Olgiati Bridge, which carries thousands of trucks and cars in and out of the city every day."

Harr said that despite excitement from the community when the barge arrived in Chattanooga four years ago with the promise of a floating restaurant, optimism for the project has evaporated as the vessel had "sunk and deteriorated" over the years. 

"That excitement has turned to disgust," he said. 

Harr is the latest in a string of local leaders to decry the ramshackle boat. Last week, Mayor Andy Berke asked DeLapp and Turley to not allow the barge's permit to continue, and in May, Sen. Bob Corker asked the officials to "consider the negative effects" of the barge on the city's redeveloped Riverfront. 

The 90-day period for the barge expires in September. 

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