DELTA QUEEN HISTORY – PART 3

(CONTINUED FROM PREVIOUS POST)

 

Delta Queen stern

Delta Queen stern

LEGISLATIVE STRUGGLES

 

 

 

 

Smooth sailing ended in 1966 as Congress passed a law that outlawed vessels with a wooden superstructure from carrying more than 50 overnight passengers. The law was originally intended for ocean-going cruise ships, but the Delta Queen – never far from the river banks – was ensnared in the regulation. Company official petitioned Congress and ultimately were granted an exemption from the regulation.

 

 

 

 

Save the Delta Queen sticker

Save the Delta Queen sticker

THE 1970 EXEMPTION STRUGGLE

 

 

 

 

When the Delta Queen’s exemption came up for renewal in 1970, Maryland Congressman Ed Garmatz, Chairman of the House Merchant Marine and Fisheries Commission, effectively blocked more than two dozen bills submitted to save the Delta Queen. Company president Bill Muster and Betty Blake conducted Save the Delta Queen rallies at towns along the rivers gathering petition signatures and encouraging letters to representatives. Despite the efforts of the company, previous guests and steamboat fans, Congressional efforts were stymied. The Delta Queen departed St. Paul on October 21 for a “Farewell Forever” cruise down the length of the Mississippi to New Orleans before the mandatory November 1 end date. All along the river, crowds gathered with signs of support for a last chance to see the boat. More than a month later, the exemption extension for the Delta Queen was successfully passed as an amendment to a bill sent not through Congressman Garmatz’s committee, but instead through the judiciary committee. Somehow the Delta Queen had been saved yet again. Multiple exemptions have been granted to the Delta Queen over the last 42 years.

 

DQ Paddlewheel

DQ Paddlewheel

CURRENT STRUGGLE

 

 

 

 

On August 1, 2007, the Delta Queen’s current owners, Majestic America Line, conceded their efforts to renew the current exemption (which expires Nov. 1, 2008) had been unsuccessful and announced 2008 as the Delta Queen’s farewell season. But in October 2007, Ohio Congressman Steve Chabot introduced House Resolution 3852 to extend the Delta Queen’s exemption. Congressman Chabot’s bill has been consistently blocked from moving through the House Transportation Committee by Committee Chairman James Oberstar (Democrat-Minnesota). Congressman Oberstar cites safety concerns despite the fact that he previously has voted for the boat’s exemption. In April, Congressman Chabot attempted to attach the Delta Queen’s exemption to the Coast Guard appropriation bill. The House Rules Committee voted 9 to 4 against allowing the amendment. All votes against the amendment were cast by Democrats.  On April 24, 2008, Congressman Chabot’s Motion to Recommit (which allows members of Congress to vote on whether the amendment can be added) failed by only 7 votes. This defeat was quickly followed on April 29, 2008 by Majestic America Line’s announcement to offer for sale the Delta Queen (and all six other vessels in their fleet).

 

In early August, Ohio Senator George Voinovich committed to introduce a bill for the Delta Queen exemption in the Senate following his return to Washington in September. Majestic America Line’s parent company Ambassador International reported in August that they hope to finalize a sale by the end of September. Majestic America Line is conducting a series of Tribute Events in 27 Delta Queen ports of call to rally support and acknowledge the hospitality of every river port visited in the 2008 season. A grass-roots effort has also hosted events and increased awareness as part of the Save the Delta Queen campaign.

 

For more on the legislative struggle to save the Delta Queen, click HERE.

 More to come…

 –END–

 

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