Delta Queen Struggles


Within the last month, bills have been introduced in both the House and Senate which if enacted would renew the expired exemption allowing the steamboat “Delta Queen” to again cruise America’s Rivers without restrictions imposed by the 1966 Safety Of Life At Sea Act which restricted the Delta Queen’s wooden superstructure (the portion of vessel built above the steel hull).

Since 1966, this last remaining authentic overnight steam-powered paddlewheeler received numerous extensions to this exemption up until 2008 when the renewal lapsed as the boat’s then-owner Ambassador’s International ceased their riverboat operations as the company slid toward their eventual bankruptcy.

The historic vessel, a National Historic Landmark, currently resides docked in Chattanooga, Tennessee and is open as a bed and breakfast under a lease agreement with the boat’s current owner Xanterra Parks & Resorts. An investment team is working toward purchasing the vessel from Xanterra and hopes that the congressional exemption renewal could enable he boat to return to river cruising.

You can follow the progress of these bills online:

To follow Senate Bill 1022, CLICK HERE.

To follow House Bill 1961, CLICK HERE.

If the Delta Queen is a treasure that you would like to see continue to preserve steamboat history, certainly contact your Senate and Congressional representatives, the co-sponsors of the bills, and the members of the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation and House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, specifically the subcommittee for Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation.

Stay tuned for further updates on these exciting developments!

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Rep. Baron Hill of Indiana

Rep. Baron Hill of Indiana

This morning, Congressman Baron Hill introduced an amendment to the Coast Guard Authorization Act of 2010, H.R. 3619, regarding the necessary exemption for the Delta Queen to resume cruising.  In order for the amendment to reach the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives during consideration of the larger bill, H.R. 3619, the House Rules Committee needed to find the amendment germane and in order.  Unfortunately, when the Rules Committee met this afternoon they stated that the amendment was not made in order.  In response, Hill issued the following statement:

“This decision by the Rules Committee is simply one decision.  I am going to pursue other paths for getting the necessary exemption and seeing the Delta Queen back on the Ohio River.  While I’m disappointed with the decision, I’m going to keep fighting.”

To read Congressman Hill’s press release, click here.

Special thanks to Rep. Hill for his efforts. He had stated, “My perspective on the Delta Queen and its safety has evolved significantly. After speaking with various officials and the former captain of the Delta Queen, I am convinced it should cruise again.  To that end, I have introduced this amendment with the full intent of seeing this through until the Delta Queen is back on the Ohio River.  The Delta Queen is not only historically significant, but is a job creator and economic boon to the areas along its route.”

To read his release about his support of the Delta Queen, click here.

A couple of interesting notes about the Rules Committee’s decision not to allow Rep. Hill’s amendment:

The Rules Committee is a group of 13 representatives who wield the incredible power of deciding what amendments will be allowed to be attached to legislations. Those 13 members include:

Rules Committee Members:
Chairwoman Louise M. Slaughter (New York)
James P. McGovern (Massachusetts)
David Dreier (California)
Alcee L. Hastings (Florida) 
Lincoln Diaz-Balart (Florida)
Doris O. Matsui (California)  
Pete Sessions (Texas)
Dennis Cardoza (California)   
Virginia Foxx (North Carolina) 
Michael Arcuri (New York) 
Ed Perlmutter (Colorado)
Chellie Pingree (Maine) 
Jared Polis (Colorado)

Does anyone else notice that there is not one single member of this committee from a state touched by the rivers that the Delta Queen traveled on including the Ohio, Mississippi, Tennessee or Cumberland Rivers? Isn’t that amazing? This incredible power is controlled by representative of only eight states – and no state between the Rockies and the Appalachian Mountains is representated! Interesting. If you are a Delta Queen supporter and any of these are your representatives, please communicate your strong dissappointment in their decision.

An array of other amendments were added to the bill, including a lengthy array submitted by Minnesota Congressman James Oberstar, the Chairman of the House Transportation Committee. Congressman Oberstar has repeatedly stated his opposition to the Delta Queen’s continued operation. He cites safety concerns despite much evidence to the Delta Queen’s safety. To see and learn for yourself about the Delta Queen’s safety, watch the video here. To review the ammendments added to the bill, click here.

We are thankful for Rep. Hill’s efforts on behalf of the Delta Queen. She is a National Historic Landmark and the last operating overnight steamboat in U.S. history. She deserved the opportunity to operate, keep history alive, thrill passengers, provide jobs, and generate revenue for struggling river communities.

Kentucky Senator Jim Bunning

Kentucky Senator Jim Bunning

On the same morning Kentucky Senator Jim Bunning sent his representative John Salyers to attend the Save The Delta Queen Rally in Maysville, Kentucky, the Senator also gave a teleconference interview and made these disappointing remarks about the proposed legislation to continue to allow the Delta Queen to operate:

From the Associated Press:
“They ought to clean up their act before they come and ask for the exemption,” Bunning, R-Ky., told reporters during a conference call Tuesday morning. “I sure don’t want to have the Delta Queen come and burn down and kill however many people…I’m not going to vote for an exemption unless the Delta Queen is fire-worthy,” Bunning said. “What happens if it burns? Who is responsible for that?”

What disappoints me is that Sen. Bunning clearly has no accurate information about the Delta Queen’s safety and yet that did not stop him from making these remarks.

I hope to share with Sen. Bunning more information about the extensive equipment, staff, training, and drills that compose a safety plan on the Delta Queen that has resulted in more than 80 years without a loss of life or significant incident. In 1979, the Secret Service deemed the vessel safe enough for President Jimmy Carter to spend a week aboard with his family.

Vicki Webster (working tirelessly for the volunteer Save the Delta Queen effort) spoke with his press secretary, Mike Reynard, and has forwarded info about the Delta Queen’s safety program. She also invited Sen. Bunning to tour the boat any time that he could.

Just to follow up on this, if you are a Kentucky resident, I encourage you to share your support of the Delta Queen with Senator Bunning:

PHONE: 202-224-4343
FAX: 202-228-1373
MAIL: Senator Jim Bunning
   316 Hart Senate Office Building
   Washington, DC 20510
EMAIL: You also can email him your feelings through his website at this address: CLICK HERE.
Please forward him the following link to information about the Delta Queen’s safety program:
https://deltaqueen.wordpress.com/deltaqueensafety/

Let’s make sure he has all the information to enable them to make an educated decision to Save the Delta Queen.

There is a wonderful editorial about Senator Bunnings lack of support on the Evansville Courier & Press website. It’s a great read. To enjoy it, CLICK HERE.

This situation with Sen. Bunning is a great example of why we all need to make certain that our own representatives are aware of the Delta Queen issue so they are prepared when a reporter questions them AND prepared when the issue comes to a vote!

CLICK HERE to see how you can help.

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I’ve added lots of new content to the other pages.

Read how you can help Save the Delta Queen.

Learn more about the Delta Queen’s struggles.

Learn how your House Representative voted regarding the Delta Queen exemption amendment in April.

Enjoy.

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Here is some recent information about the potential sale of the Delta Queen:

Business First of Louisville, Wednesday, July 30, 2008
Delta Queen attracting bidders on sale block, by Dan Monk Senior Staff Reporter

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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.

The Marietta (Ohio) Register recently ran a great article comparing the 1970 situation to the current struggle to extend the Delta Queen’s exemption.

The Marietta Register, Tuesday, July 29, 2008
Delta Queen: The Ghosts of Garmatz, by Tom Lotshaw

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The New York Times published a great article about the Delta Queen’s situation on October 25, 2007. It provides a great overview:

New York Times
A Riverboat Could Be Cruising to the End of the Line, by Sean D. Hamill

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