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.

Senate Passes Bill 85-12 to Allow Historic Steamboat Delta Queen to Once Again Travel the Mississippi River & Tributaries

Posted on April 03, 2017 at 08:25 PM

WASHINGTON, DC: The US Senate passed the bill to permit the Delta Queen to once again travel the Mississippi River and its tributaries, in a major victory after many years of activism and lobbying by the Delta Caucus, the National Trust for Historic Preservation and other advocates for the historic steamboat.

Sen. John Boozman (R-AR), Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) and Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO) and Sen. Blunt (R-Mo), Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio), Sen. Sherrod Brown (R-Ohio), Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-LA) and Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) were among the key sponsors and leaders in the vote.

The bill now goes to the House, where a similar bill passed several years ago by a vote of 289 to 90 in 2013. The bill had been stalled in the Senate until tonight’s vote.

Please contact your US Representatives and tell them to vote for the bill to allow the Delta Queen to travel America’s inland waterways once again.

“We praise the Senate for this action. The Delta Caucus has joined forces with the National Trust for Historic Preservation and many other Delta Queen advocates for years now. With the overwhelming margin of this vote and the precedent of a similar bill having passed the House by a wide margin, the momentum is heavily in favor of the movement to save the Delta Queen,” said Lee Powell, Caucus Director.

This is a bipartisan effort including Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO), Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO), Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY), Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio), Sen. John Boozman (R-AR), Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR), Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-LA), Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Rep. Rick Crawford (R-AR) and many others.

“The Delta Caucus has lobbied for many years for this vote, but the key obstacle in recent years was that we had not been able to schedule a vote in the full Senate, with this being a relatively smaller-scale bill; but thanks to leadership from Sen. McCaskill, Sen. Blunt, Sen. McConnell, Sen. Boozman and others from both parties, the bill (S. Bill 89) to allow the Queen to travel once again on the Mississippi, Ohio, Arkansas and other major US rivers came to a full vote and won by a wide margin” said Lee Powell, Delta Caucus Director.

The DQ has been designated a National Historic Landmark, placing it back on the river is estimated to create over 150 jobs, it will generate tourist dollars in the 80 river ports where it will stop, and it has an exemplary safety record in having been operated safely on America’s inland waterways for over 80 years, according to Cornel Martin, owner of the Delta Queen Steamboat Company.

To add additional layers of safety to a boat that has an exemplary safety record, the legislation requires that 10% of the upper portions of the boat that contain wood must be modified each year. The Delta Queen has a steel hull, 75% of its total weight is of steel or other non-combustible materials,(with approximately 25% of the weight being wood) and it has state of the art sprinkler systems and other safeguards.

The Coast Guard assures that there cannot be any safety issue, because the Guard has to do a rigorous safety inspection annually to grant a cerfificate of exemption, in addition to quarterly inspections and random inspections. If the Coast Guard finds any safety issues, the boat can’t move an inch off the dock.

Sen. John Boozman (R-AR) said “Allowing the iconic Delta Queen to operate again will promote job creation and allow tourists to experience this historic treasure while supporting the economies of communities along the Mississippi River and its tributaries. I’m pleased my Senate colleagues supported this long overdue legislation,” Boozman said.

Rep. Rick Crawford (R-AR) said “With the Delta Queen’s rich history and the potential for new economic growth along the Mississippi river, this legislation has earned staunch support year after year. I have confidence that the House will pass the Delta Queen bill, and we will see her cruising on America’s major water ways once again.” -

The Safety of Life At Sea Act of 1966 (our italics for “At Sea”) was intended to cover ocean-going vessels, not riverboats that are never more than a few minutes from land. Due to this fact and the Delta Queen’s longstanding excellent safety record, Congress passed exemptions for the Queen from the 1960s until 2008, when a dispute between the Seafarers International Union and the former owners of the boat broke out. The exemption was blocked at that time due to that dispute, but currently the union fully supports the legislation and works closely with Cornel Martin and the new ownership.

The legislation is supported by the Delta Caucus, the National Trust for Historic Preservation, the American Maritime Officers, the Seafarers International Union and many other historic preservation organizations.

The bill spends no federal money but only allows the boat to operate on America’s rivers once again.

Martin said, “The Delta Queen offers the last opportunity for Americans and international visitors to cruise on an authentic 1927 steamboat, to see firsthand the natural landscapes along the Mississippi and other majestic rivers, and help preserve the great legacy of steamboating in America.”

Delta Queen ports of call will include communities from New Orleans, Natchez, Greenville, Helena, Pine Bluff, Little Rock, Memphis, Cape Girardeau, Ketucky, Ohio River stops to Cincinnati and Pittsburgh.

The exemption passed the US House of Representatives in 2013 by the wide margin of 280 to 89. It stalled in Senate committee in 2014, and there have been numerous delays since that time. The May 3, 2017 will be the first time the full Senate has voted on it in many years.

The center of opposition to the bill is led by a competing steamboat company, American Cruise Lines that operates out of offices in Connecticut and also owns a shipyard in Maryland. They have complained that if the Delta Queen is allowed to travel again it will harm their business, although there has been a major resurgence of steamboating on the Mississippi and its tributaries in recent years and there is plenty of room for a number of steamboats on our rivers.

American Cruise Lines’ lobbyist has also erroneously made charges about the safety of the Delta Queen, in spite of its excellent safety record over 80 years in its earlier history and the new layers of safety requirements that have been added to the legislation in recent years.

Martin’s Delta Queen Steamboat Company is conducting extensive renovations for the boat, which has been docked for about six years now and needs upgrades to get into traveling condition after having been stationary for so long. Martin will install new boilers, generators, make other overhauls, in addition to the new statutory requirement of modifying 19% of the wooden parts of the superstructure annually. Again, the Coast Guard has to conduct rigorous safety inspections of the Delta Queen, and the boat cannot travel one inch off the dock unless the Coast Guard allows it. A companion bill has been introduced in the House by US Rep. Steve Chabor (R-Ohio).

The boat is now docked in Houma, Louisiana near New Orleans. If the bill passes the headquarters will move to Kimmswick, Missouri, south of St. Louis.