The Delta Grassroots Caucus (DGC) is a broad coalition of grassroots leaders in the eight-state Delta region. DGC is also a founding partner of the Economic Equality Caucus,
which advocates for economic equality across the USA.

Contact Your Senators to Urge Immediate Passage of the Delta Queen Bill

Posted on December 04, 2014 at 03:31 PM

The Delta Grassroots Caucus urges all our partners not just in the eight-state Greater Delta Region but across the country to contact their US Senators and urge passage of S. 2924, a pending bill that would allow the historic steamboat, the Delta Queen, to resume her travels on the Mississippi and its tributaries.

This is a national and not just a regional issue: The famous riverboat is a national historic treasure, has an exemplary safety record, and generates tourist dollars while educating people about the great legacy of steamboating across America’s inland waterways.

Time is running out-this week and next week represent the only time left to pass the bill by unanimous consent. There are currently efforts underway in the post-election session of the Senate to ask for unanimous consent to pass the Delta Queen bill.

The bill must either pass by unanimous consent this week or next or immediately at the beginning of the new session in January. This bill should be noncontroversial and ought to pass easily through the Senate as it did in the House a year and a half ago.

There are many supporters of the bill from both parties including Senators Mark Pryor and John Boozman (AR), Vitter and Landrieu (LA), Wicker and Cochran (MS), Claire McCaskill (MO)), Brown and Portman of Ohio and many others.

As Sen. John Boozman (R-AR) put it succinctly at the recent Delta conference this fall in Helena-West Helena, AR-one of the ports where the Delta Queen stopped for many decades–“There is no reason not to pass this bill.” It does not require one penny of additional appropriations.


State your name and that you are a constituent of the Senator and urge unanimous consent passage of S. 2924 to permit the historic steamboat, the Delta Queen, to resume its historic travels along the Mississippi and Ohio rivers and their tributaries.

1) The Delta Queen is a national historic icon that is supported by the National Trust for Historic Preservation and is the last of the steamboats closely patterned after the Mark Twain-style era of riverboats. This promotes educational tourism about the history, culture and natural beauty of the Mississippi and Ohio rivers.

2) The boat has an exemplary safety record, having a steel hull, elaborate sprinkler systems and other safety precautions, was operated safely for 80 years on America’s waterways, and amended Senate language adds even additional layers of safety precautions to what was already one of the safest boats on America’s inland waterways.

3) The boat has a small but still real economic benefit in creating about 200 jobs directly if she starts traveling again, plus generating tourist dollars in the many communities where she stops. There is plenty of room for a number of steamboats traveling these huge regions, and before the recession there were several more steamboats traveling the inland waterways than there are today With the economy coming back we can support several riverboats.



Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-WV), currently chair of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee (he is retiring this year) and the ranking Republican Senator on the committee, Sen. Jon Thune (R-SD) agreed in August to allow the bill out of committee and many Senators support the unanimous consent request-but it only takes one opponent to block this type of initiative. If this effort fails in the lame-duck session it must be acted upon without delay when the new Congress meets in January, 2015, but they have been delaying this for a year and a half.

The delay in passing this clearly meritorious bill is a classic example of Washington, DC gridlock. The vast majority of Members of Congress from both parties in both Houses agree on the merits of the bill, yet a few opponents and influential lobbyists are obstructing its passage.

Contact your Senators: There are many US Senators from both parties who support S.2924, such as Mark Pryor and John Boozman (AR), Mary Landrieu and Vitter (LA), Roger Wicker and Thad Cochran (MS), Sherrod Brown and Rob Portman of Ohio, Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO), and many others. But we need more action and more supporters in other states, and we need to urge them that time is running out and this must not be lost in the shuffle.

Unfortunately, since 2009 the Delta Queen has been docked in Chattanooga. A group of highly knowledgeable steamboat experts and small business leaders, led by Cornel Martin of New Orleans, recently signed a contract to buy the boat as soon as the bill passes. The new management is a great plus, but the boat can’t travel a foot unless the bill passes.

Senate delay in acting: The House passed the bill by a wide margin over a year ago, but it has been sitting in the Senate ever since. The longer the boat sits idle, the more difficult and expensive it will be to perform the deferred maintenance necessary to put her back in full operating mode. Like any machinery, sitting idle is bad for the boat. In fact, if Congress does not act this fall or at the latest early in the new session, it’s probably too late. At some point investors may conclude that the cost of getting her ready to travel again after being inactive for so long may not be worthwhile.

The Delta Queen has an exemplary safety record–it was operated safely for 80 years. The boat has a steel hull, more than 50 tons of wood in the upper sections have been removed and replaced with steel and other non-combustible materials, and it has a an elaborate system of safety precautions.

The bill was amended in the Senate to add even more layers of safety precautions. Finally, the boat is required to pass rigorous safety inspections by the US Coast Guard-and it did pass those inspections for 40 years when it was traveling. There never was any safety hazard on the boat and there will not be in the future because the Coast Guard closely monitors it.

The only significant known opposition to the bill comes from a rival steamboat company that erroneously believes that the Delta Queen will cut into the profits of its boats if it is allowed to resume traveling on the Mississippi and Ohio and their tributaries. This is patently false, because for many years these rivers supported a number of steamboats, and with the economy coming back now the Mississippi and Ohio River valley regional economies can clearly support an additional steamboat-especially one with its unique legacy.

The lobbyist hired by the competing steamboat company also has attempted to disseminate erroneous information alleging that the famous steamboat is a terrible fire hazard, but this ludicrous allegation flies in the face of the facts that the boat was operated safely for 80 years before it was docked as a floating hotel, its many safety precautions, and the fact that the Coast Guard is required to give regular inspections of the boat.

These unfounded allegations about safety were debated in detail on the US House of Representatives floor in August, 2013, found to be lacking in truth, and the bill passed by a wide margin.

Despite the exemplary safety record of the Delta Queen, supporters of the bill agreed in the spirit of compromise to amended Senate language in S. 2924 that has added even further layers of safety precautions in which the management will make structural alterations of 10% to areas not constructed of fire-retardant materials, adding that these changes should be consistent with the “historic integrity” of the vessel.

The amendment was not necessary, but on the other hand it does no harm. There never was a fire hazard, but this additional amendment demolishes any rational concerns on the safety front.

Economic impact: Putting the vessel back into operation will create approximately 200 new jobs in addition to generating tourist dollars at stops on the Mississippi from New Orleans to Natchez to Helena to Memphis to St. Louis and beyond, and on the Ohio from western Kentucky to Ohio and West Virginia, an and many other communities where the boat stops.

Common sense of the necessary exemption from the Safety of Life at Sea Act: The Delta Queen is a riverboat that is never more than a few minutes from land. The exemption needed is from the Safety of Life at Sea Act, which was intended to cover ocean-going cruise ships that have a totally different set of safety concerns. It was one of the safest boats on the Mississippi and Ohio rivers over the many decades she was safely operated in her previous travels, and that is why Congress approved the exemption for 40 years before the boat moved to Chattanooga as a floating hotel in 2009.

The bill is endorsed by the National Trust for Historic Preservation, the Seafarers International Union, the American Maritime Officers, and many other distinguished organizations, and has been designated as a National Historic Landmark.

The Delta Queen is the only remaining example of the traditional steamboats that once traversed the heartland of America, helped weave our nation together in the process, and inspired the work of creative giants like Mark Twain, Jerome Kern and Louis Armstrong. To stand idly by and watch the Delta Queen deteriorate would be to forget our culture, the pioneers who came before us, and future generations who deserve the chance to travel on this national historic icon.

For your convenience, here is a list of phone numbers of key Senate offices to call. Please call the ones where you are a constituent, or in Ranking Member Sen. Thune’s case and others emphasize that this is a NATIONAL issue and you are a concerned citizen urging action to preserve an American historic treasure.

Please remember to tell them to pass the unanimous consent, and do not let them just vaguely say they support it but are not doing anything to follow up.

Sen. Mitch McConnell (KY) (202) 224-2541 (The boat will stop in Paducah, Kentucky if the bill passes)

Sen. Thad Cochran, MS (202) 224-5054

Sen. John Boozman, AR (202) 224-4843

Sen. Mark Pryor, AR (202) 2242353

Sen. Roger Wicker (MS) (202) 224-6253

Sen. Mary Landrieu (LA) (202) 224-5824

Sen. David Vitter (LA) (202) 224-4623

Sen. Claire McCaskill (MO) (202) 224-6154

Sen. Sherrod Brown (Ohio) (202) 224-2315

Sen. Rob Portman (Ohio) (202) 224-3353