Columns

Blaine’s Bulletin: Full Steam Ahead

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Washington, November 30, 2018 | comments

In 1927, the most lavish and expensive river steamboats of their time, the Delta King and Delta Queen entered service. After many years on the rivers in California, the Delta Queen was utilized to ferry troops in the waters around San Francisco during World War II. The Delta Queen even transported some of the wounded from the attack on Pearl Harbor to onshore hospitals in San Francisco. Following the war, the Delta Queen was a mainstay of the Mississippi and Ohio rivers for more than 60 years, enjoying immense popularity as it carried tourists throughout the Midwest.

As the oldest overnight passenger steamboat still fully intact and able to travel America’s inland waterways, the Delta Queen is a historical gem of Missouri’s rivers. Unfortunately, it was inadvertently caught in a technical provision of the Safety of Life at Seas Act (SOLAS) which was passed by Congress in 1966. Because the provision was originally intended for ocean-going ships, the Delta Queen was granted a Congressional exemption from SOLAS for more than 40 years due to her impeccable safety record and close proximity to land at all times. Unfortunately, in 2008 the exemption expired.

Since then, the Delta Queen’s new owners, management, and labor union have been united in an effort to save the ship. As a lifelong Missourian, I appreciate the importance of the Delta Queen’s historic contributions to Missouri and the economic impacts along the Mississippi, Ohio, and Missouri Rivers. Throughout my time in Congress I have worked with local officials, the great advocates in Missouri, and my colleagues in the House and Senate to get the ship back in the river. Fortunately, this week the hard work of so many paid off.

On Tuesday, the House passed the Frank LoBiondo Coast Guard Authorization Act of 2018, bipartisan legislation to reauthorize, strengthen, and support the United States Coast Guard in its critical mission. Thanks to the advocacy of Senators and Representatives from Missouri, we secured the inclusion of language allowing the Delta Queen to finally return to the river.

I’m happy to see Congressional cooperation at work in passing this bipartisan, bicameral legislation. However, it’s important to note that while the exemption was ultimately accomplished in a bill, local leaders and Delta Queen supporters up and down the river played an enormous role in this long-awaited success. Along with the positive economic impacts of the Delta Queen’s return, I hope that future generations of Missourians will be able to enjoy the history of the Delta Queen as it traverses Missouri’s waterways for years to come!

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