Legislation May Return Historic Riverboat to Service

Byline: Associated Press/Lisa Cornwell

CINCINNATI (AP) — Ohioans in Congress hope proposed legislation allowing the Delta Queen steamboat to again carry passengers on overnight trips will help bring the historic vessel back to the Ohio River and Cincinnati.

They recently introduced bills in the Senate and House of Representatives to eliminate a restriction that has kept Delta Queen docked the past few years. The National Historic Landmark that once plied the Mississippi and Ohio rivers is now a floating hotel in Chattanooga, Tenn.

Proposed legislation would grant the 86-year-old wooden paddlewheel steamboat that operated for decades out of Cincinnati a 15-year exemption from the Safety at Sea law. The federal law passed in 1966 prohibits boats of a certain size with a wooden superstructure from carrying 50 passengers or more on overnight trips on the sea or on America’s rivers. Delta Queen received numerous exemptions until the last one expired in 2008 and Congress failed to renew it.

Cincinnati was Delta Queen’s homeport from 1946 to 1985, when it moved to the Port of New Orleans and operated there until 2008. The steamboat went into service in 1927, carrying overnight passengers between Sacramento and San Francisco.

Democratic U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, who sponsored the Senate bill, said in a written statement that the steamboat’s legacy is “rooted in Cincinnati and the city should play a role in her future.” Republican U.S. Sen. Rob Portman, another sponsor, said returning Delta Queen to Cincinnati would boost jobs and tourism along the Ohio River “at no cost to the taxpayer.”

U.S. Rep. Steve Chabot, a Republican from Cincinnati sponsoring the House bill, said the legislation is an important step to bringing Delta Queen “back to Cincinnati, where she belongs.”

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