If the Delta Grassroots Caucus gets its way, the Delta Queen will soon be traversing the Mighty Mississippi River along the banks of America's Delta heartland region. According to Lee Powell, Caucus director, new owners of the historic riverboat have announced plans to have her refurbished and renovated. Now, the Caucus is in the process of encouraging Congress to pass what they call the “Delta Queen” bill.

If the Delta Grassroots Caucus gets its way, the Delta Queen will soon be traversing the Mighty Mississippi River along the banks of America’s Delta heartland region. According to Lee Powell, Caucus director, new owners of the historic riverboat have announced plans to have her refurbished and renovated. Now, the Caucus is in the process of encouraging Congress to pass what they call the “Delta Queen” bill.

The vessel has been moved to New Orleans for the repair work necessary to prepare her once again for river travel. Powell reported that the Delta Queen has been docked in Chattanooga, Tenn. as a floating hotel for the past five years.

During the last session, the House, reported Powell, passed the “Delta Queen” bill by an overwhelming 280-89 margin. However, the Senate never brought up the bill for a vote by the full body.

“The Delta Queen is crossing the path at Helena-West Helena today with another great steamboat, the American Queen,” Powell commented Friday in a telephone interview with The Helena World. “So, this is a historic day for steam-boating on the Mighty Mississippi. We support both steamboats’ travel on the Mississippi, as well as others who are planning to come back on the rivers with the economy recovering and river cruises gaining in popularity.”

Congressman Steve Chabot of Ohio re-introduced the Delta Queen bill after the Delta Queen Steamboat Company bought the boat and announced plans to have her once again travel the Mississippi, Ohio, Arkansas and Cumberland rivers. Senator Sherrod Brown of Ohio is expected to introduce a companion bill within the next few weeks.

The Delta Caucus praised the efforts of Arkansas delegation, which includes Senator John Boozman and Representative Rick Crawford, and many other supporters of the bill across the country to get the legislation passed.

“The Delta Queen is an icon for our region’s rich river heritage,” Crawford commented in a press release. “I look forward to seeing her fully operational as she was for so many decades.

“Steamboats like the Delta Queen are an important part of our heritage,” Boozman added. “By allowing the Delta Queen – an iconic piece of American history – to operate on our inland waters again, we can create jobs and bring tourist dollars to communities in the Delta.”

Contingent upon passage of the bill, the Delta Queen will have to pass rigorous safety inspections on a regular basis. Powell reports that the riverboat’s exemplary safety record for more than 80 years of operation on America’s rivers is one of the most important reasons the Caucus is supporting the bill. According to Powell, the new owners, to their credit, are going above and beyond the call of duty on this subject.

“We never thought it was the right use for a historic icon to be tied up as a floating hotel in Chattanooga, and we’re glad to see her back in the Delta where she belongs,” stated Helena-West Helena’s Kevin Smith, Delta Caucus senior adviser. “We would love to see her coming back to Helena-West Helena and many other communities on the Mississippi and Arkansas rivers.”