Senate approves Blunt bill to permit return of historic Delta Queen steamboat to full operation

Legislation introduced by U.S. Rep. Roy Blunt (R-MO) to return the 1920s-era Delta Queen wooden steamboat back to the St. Louis area cleared the Senate on Monday with bipartisan support.

The Delta Queen began transporting dignitaries and passengers throughout Mississippi River tributaries in the 1920s, and Congress approved a law in 1966 to exempt the steamboat from federal regulations on wooden vessels carrying more than 50 passengers on overnight trips. The exemption expired in 2008.

“The Delta Queen is a remarkable part of our nation’s history, and I’m thrilled that it’s another step closer to making its way back to Missouri and once again cruising the Mississippi,” Blunt said. “Restoring the Delta Queen to full operation will create jobs, support economic growth and enhance our state’s tourism industry. I’ll continue working to make sure more Missourians and visitors alike are able to see and experience this national treasure.”

Bringing the Delta Queen back would bring 170 jobs to the St. Louis region and would generate more $36.4 million in tourism revenue for the region per year, according to the Jefferson County Economic Development Corporation.

It is expected that the Delta Queen will begin and end a number of its cruises each year in Kimmswick, Missouri, and will visit more than 80 other ports in the United States.

U.S. Sen. Rob Portman also helped lead efforts in the Senate to pass the legislation, introducing bills in each of the last four Congresses that would bring the historic steamboat to Cincinnati.

“The Delta Queen is an important part of the Queen City’s history,” Portman said. “I remember riding on the Delta Queen as a young boy, and I am proud to help lead the bipartisan effort to keep it afloat. (Monday’s) vote means the Delta Queen is one step closer to getting back in business and helping to promote economic activity along the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers, including in Cincinnati.”

The legislation would establish new safety requirements and grant an exemption to the Safety at Sea Law of 1966, which prohibited certain wooden ships from carrying passengers on overnight trips, through 2028.

Blunt introduced the bill with U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO).