The Delta Queen is closer to cruising the country’s waterways again after the U.S. Senate passed a measure Monday in favor of the vessel, as long as restorations are made to the riverboat.
In a 85-12 vote Monday, the Senate passed a measure that would allow the wooden boat to carry passengers if certain safety changes are made during its restoration. The boat, commissioned in 1927, had initially been exempt from a 1966 law that had outlawed wooden vessels from carrying passengers overnight, but the exemption ended in 2008.
Cornel Martin, president and CEO of Delta Queen Steamboat Co., said he is optimistic for the bill to be passed in the House of Representatives because of the strong vote from the Senate.
“The fact the Senate would take this measure up with all the other pressing matters -- it’s surreal,” said Martin, who formed the company in 2013. “We’re very excited.”
The bill was initially introduced Jan. 10 as Senate Bill 89 by Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill. It exempts boats like the Delta Queen from the Safety and Sea Act of 1966 that required vessels carrying more than 50 passengers overnight be made completely of noncombustible materials. The new bill, cosponsored by Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-La., and six other senators, would allow the Delta Queen to sail in inland water as long as annual structural alterations are made to a minimum 10 percent of the ship made of combustible material.
The restoration of the riverboat, currently in Houma, could cost up to $10 million, and if the House of Representatives passes the measure soon, restorations to the boat could be completed by this time next year. The boat could be cruising the waterways by summer of 2018, Martin said. He said the company is working on getting as many cosponsors as possible, targeting congressional districts and states along the Mississippi River.
-- Staff Writer Holly Duchmann can be reached at 857-2205 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @holly_evamarie.