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Delta Queen should return to Natchez

Sometimes laws with good intentions have unintended consequences.

Thus is the case with the 1960 Safety of Lives at Sea Act. Its purpose was to ensure that large ocean-going vessels were made from non-flammable materials. The obvious purpose was to avoid a fire at sea.

But the law technically also killed off the legacy of one of America’s greatest riverboats, the Delta Queen steamboat.

For years after the 1960 law took effect, Congress granted a special exemption to the 1927 steamboat, originally constructed primarily of wood.

Eventually the special exemptions ran out and the Delta Queen wound up being moored in Nashville as a floating hotel. The boat’s fate is a bit like a beautiful, classic car hidden away from the public and never having its engine cranked.

Fortunately, the Delta Queen appears to have a potential for new life soon. A special exemption to allow her to steam through America’s heartland again is alive in Congress. With a little luck, the piece of legislation becomes law.

The Delta Queen is a part of American history and deserves a chance to carry passengers on the Mississippi River again.

It only makes sense to allow the exemption. Though safety concerns are always a factor, since the Delta Queen has never been more than a mile from shore, the chances of a tragedy on the river seem slim.

We’d love to see the riverboat return to Natchez, perhaps in time for the 2016 Natchez Tricentennial.

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