Monday, January 19, 2009

My Town Monday - The Watts Bar Belle

The official logo for the city of Kingston, Tennessee, features the beautiful Watts Bar Belle, a true split wheel paddlewheel riverboat built in the year 2000 and operated by Skipperliner Industries of LaCrosse, Wisconsin. Formerly known as the La Crosse Queen V, it was acquired by the Watts Bar Riverboat Company in Kingston in 2005 and renamed the Watts Bar Belle. The Belle has since offered residents and toursits alike everything from historial and scenic tours to luxury dinner cruises and private charters up and down the waterways of the Clinch and Emory Rivers, which join together, and the Tennessee River, all part of Watts Bar Lake and forming two sides of the City of Kingston.

The Belle, docked in Kingston, lent an air of old-fashioned charm and true Southern style to the city that was once a major steam boat hub on the Tennessee River. It has been a fixture in Kingston for several years and, although a small family-owned business, represented a lot of business to a town of around 5000 people. How sad, then, to think of that big paddle wheel churning up the river to another location in search of cleaner waters. Why?

Although business was already slow, the pending move is primarily due to the toxic coal ash spill from the Kingston fossil plant in late-December, 2008, the result
of more than one billion gallons of toxic materials bursting forth from a failed holding pond on its property. It is estimated that 400 acres of the beautiful Tennessee valleys and rivers were flooded with up to 6 feet of ash sludge, the byproduct of burning coal. Power lines were toppled, roads covered, gas lines ruptured, homes knocked off their foundations, and our beautiful waterways, rivers, and air quality all contaminated; fortunately, there have been no human casualties.

However, the damage to Watts Bar Lake and surrounding waters brought riverboat business to a dead standstill. Unable to operate since the December 22nd spill, the riverboat has been tied to the dock. Water from the Lake is used to cool its engines and a generator, and it cannot operate safely amidst the sludge. The Belle lost much revenue from two cancelled New Year’s Eve cruises and its sightseeing and dinner cruises are continuing to lose money because of the contaminated area. All around, its bad for business.

While massive cleanup efforts are underway by the TVA (Tennessee Valley Authority) and other agencies, The Watts Barr Riverboat Company cannot afford the operating losses for what may be several months or more. In order to keep operating, the company has decided to relocate the Belle to the still-clean Fort Loudon Marina, at least temporarily. The owners have notified Kingston City Officials that the Belle “still belongs to Kingston.”

Let’s hope so. Losing the Belle would adversely affect Kingston in far many more ways than just having to change the city’s logo.


Junosmom said...

Great post, cousin and welcome to MTM. I've told Chris to link to you also.

Sepiru Chris said...

Hello Robin,

Interesting post; thanks for bringing this to everyone, and bringing everyone to the Watts Bar Belle. I have you posted.


Sepiru Chris said...

Hello Robin, (again)

I would love to know more about the spill (of course I read about on CNN and BBC and such), but from your perspective as a resident.

I would think that others would want to read that type of posting too. If you were interested, of course.

Anyway, welcome, again.


Unknown said...
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Unknown said...

Cathy & Chris, thanks for the welcome to MTM. Chris, nice to know someone finds my writing interesting! I'll post again on this subject as developments arise and conditions change. - Robin

Barrie said...

Welcome to My Town Monday. Interesting post about Watts Bar Belle.