Efforts to save boat renewed

Published 12:39 am Tuesday, February 26, 2008

NATCHEZ — A grassroots campaign to save the Delta Queen has been renewed.

Jim Coy, manager of Natchez Pilgrimage Tours, wrote a letter including a resolution that he has gave to the board of aldermen Monday morning.

It is his hopes that they will adopt the resolultion, he said, and it will be carried all the way to Congress and the steamboat can be saved.

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The Delta Queen was exempted in 1966 from the Safety of Life at Sea Act of 1966 that required all passenger vessels with the ability to carry 50 or more passengers to be fire retardant.

The hull of the steamboat is steel but other than that, it is mostly wooden.

Its exemption was renewed several times, the last being 1996 and the exemption will expire Nov. 1, 2008.

Jim Coy, manager of Natchez Pilgrimage Tours, said it would be a shame if this steamboat were unable to operate.

Coy got involved in the effort to save the boat when he was contacted by former Natchez mayor Tony Byrne.

Byrne said his involvement with the Delta Queen goes all the way back to his mayoral term, 1968 to 1988.

“Back then, we helped save the queen from being removed from the river,” he said.

Byrne said he saw on the news that the exemption was not going to be renewed and he thought it was a lost cause.

Then Byrne said he read an article that told about the grassroots campaign to save the vessel. In this article, Byrne said, it stated that the 1966 statute was to only apply to ocean vessels, yet it was applied by mistake to the steamboat.

His interest was renewed after reading the article.

“I called Dr. Coy and he picked it up right away and started the ball rolling,” he said.

Coy’s resolution will come before the board of aldermen Tuesday night at their regular meeting.

Mayor Phillip West said he looked over the letter and he supports the resolution and believes the board will too.

“I’m quite sure everyone will be in support of the resolution,” he said.

City Attorney Everett Sanders is looking over the resolution, but West said he thinks it can be adopted as written.

Coy said he is optimistic that the board will respond positively.

The Delta Queen is also the last of its kind, he said. It’s the last steam-powered paddle wheeler.

Coy compared the Delta Queen to a sentiment he had heard before about redwood trees.

“It would be like cutting down the last redwood tree,” he said. “Why would anyone go to the redwood forests if there are no redwood trees?”

Byrne said its important to the city to have the boat’s passengers stop in Natchez and visit and spend money.

West agreed that it is economically important to Natchez but also historically.

“It’s not only a historical landmark but it also tells a story of life on the river for so many years and I don’t think we should lose that,” he said.

Coy said trying to save the boat is worth the effort.

“It’s the history of our town, the history of our country,” Coy said. “If our voice makes a difference, here’s our voice.”