The Delta Queen moved one step closer to sailing the Ohio and Mississippi rivers once again when the House passed legislation on Wednesday authored by U.S. Rep. Steve Chabot (R-Westwood) by a strong bipartisan margin, 280-89.
Chabot's legislation, H.R. 1961, would allow the historic paddle-wheeled steamboat to resume operations as an overnight passenger vessel.
"Wednesday's vote is a tremendous step forward for those of us fighting to save the Delta Queen," said Chabot. "I hope the Senate will follow the bipartisan spirit displayed by the House and approve this legislation in the very near future."
In 1966, Congress passed the Safety of Life at Seas Act (SOLAS) -- a law that banned wooden ships from carrying 50 or more overnight passengers at sea. Although SOLAS was intended for ocean-going ships, the Delta Queen, with a steel hull and wooden superstructure, became subject to its provisions after the U.S. Coast Guard expanded the law to include boats operating on inland waterways. The Delta Queen was the only boat impacted by the expansion.
Since the law was never intended to apply to river-faring boats, Congress acted in 1968 to provide the Delta Queen grandfathered status under SOLAS.
From 1968 until 2008, Congress renewed this grandfathered status nine consecutive times, and the Delta Queen continued to safely navigate the Ohio and Mississippi rivers.
Unfortunately, in 2008, due to concerns about the boat's management at that time, the status was not renewed.
H.R. 1961 restores the Delta Queen's grandfathered status.