Fans of the Delta Queen are rejoicing after the U.S. House of Representatives voted Tuesday to reinstate an exemption allowing the historic steamboat to once again cruise the inland waterways.
The legislation now goes to President Trump for his signature.
The Delta Queen's exemption from the 1966 Safety at Sea act expired in 2008. Efforts to renew it repeatedly stalled, despite nine previous exemptions being approved over the course of four decades.
The Delta Queen's owners say major repairs will begin as soon as the bill is signed and the ship will return to overnight service.
"Preserving the boat's historic integrity and ensuring passenger safety are our priorities," says Cornel Martin, president and CEO of the Delta Queen Steamboat Company in a statement. "With this approval, we may now move forward with our renovations and return her to the waterways, where she belongs."
Ohio Republican Congressman Steve Chabot has long championed the paddle-wheeler's cause. He issued a statement praising the House's action.
"The Delta Queen is a national treasure that belongs on the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers," Chabot writes. "The Delta Queen should not have lost her federal exemption in 2008, and [Tuesday's] passage moves us closer than we've been in the subsequent 10 years to righting that injustice. This legislation, which will allow the Delta Queen to resume operations as an overnight passenger vessel, enjoys strong bipartisan support, and I am optimistic that President Trump will sign it into law."
The Delta Queen was built in 1926 and made her inaugural voyage the following year. She is the "oldest overnight passenger steamboat still fully intact and capable of traveling the inland waterways of America," the company states.
The boat, designated a National Historic Landmark in 1989, was operated by the Greene Line of Cincinnati, where it called Cincinnati its home port from 1948-1985.