The historic Delta Queen riverboat is heading for New Orleans for repairs that some hope will make it seaworthy for the Arkansas and Mississippi Rivers again.
One significant hurdle remains for the vessel. A congressional exemption to the Safety of Life at Sea Act is necessary because the Delta Queen is a riverboat rather than an oceangoing vessel. A bill allowing the exemption stalled in the Senate last year.
Lee Powell, Executive Director of the Delta Caucus, is optimistic about congressional support this year.
“It’s important to get attention focused on this immediately given the fact that our big problem last year was getting the senators to pay attention to it when they have so much else on their plate,” Powell said.
The boat operated as a floating hotel in Tennessee for the past five years, but was recently purchased by an organization that’s eager to get it sailing again in 2016. Powell believes the boat’s return could add significant tourism dollars to the cities of Pine Bluff, Helena-West Helena, and Memphis among others. The potential economic impact will be discussed at this year's Delta Grassroots Caucus conference in Little Rock May 26-27.