Ingram seeks support for Delta Queen

Leah Ann Ingram needs support to get the Delta Queen “to the finish line.”

On June 22, Ingram will be in Vienna in search of support.

Ingram, a Spencer native, is chief operating officer of the Delta Queen Steamboat Company, based in Kimmswick, Mo.

She will update the Wood County Rotary Club, meeting at the Parkersburg Country Club, on efforts to get the Delta Queen back traveling on America’s rivers. Ingram will be joined at the Rotary Club meeting by Cornel Martin, president and chief executive officer of Delta Queen Steamboat Company.

Chris Truman of Parkersburg, Ingram’s cousin, is president of the Wood County Rotary Club. His term as president ends on July 1.

Truman has invited area mayors and other local officials to attend the breakfast meeting to learn about the steamboat company’s progress and what is needed to get the vessel moving again.

Ingram, who lives in Chattanooga, Tenn., has been trying for the past seven years to return the historic Delta Queen to overnight passenger cruise service.

She plans to discuss the congressional exemption needed for the Delta Queen and the economic impact the steamboat would provide for West Virginia and Ohio.

The Delta Queen would make stops in Marietta, Parkersburg, Point Pleasant, Huntington, Charleston and other river cities if allowed to operate again, Ingram said. The steamboat would return to its former routes.

Ingram told me this week she was optimistic the Delta Queen will be operating “sooner or later.”

She would like to see the steamboat returned to passenger service next year.

“This will cost taxpayers nothing,” Ingram said. “It will create jobs and have an economic impact and preserve U.S. history.”

The Delta Queen began service as an overnight passenger vessel in 1927 in California. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is classified as a National Historic Landmark.

The Delta Queen’s exemption to the Safety of Life at Sea law expired in 2008, preventing the vessel from operating. The steamboat has a wooden superstructure and double steel hull.

House of Representatives 619, now in the transportation committee, would exempt old vessels that only operate within inland waterways from the fire-retardant materials requirement in the maritime law.

Owners would have to make annual structural alterations to at least 10 percent of the areas of the vessels that are not constructed of fire-retardant materials, according to the House bill. The next step is for HR 619 to be voted on by the House and, if passed, it would go to President Donald Trump.

The U.S. Senate has passed a similar bill that would provide the Delta Queen with an exemption.

HR 619 has 31 co-sponsors and more are needed, Ingram said.

Similar exemption legislation passed in the House in 2012 but stalled in the Senate, Ingram noted.

“A lot of river states, such as Ohio, support us,” she said.

The Delta Queen is docked in Houma, La., where it is awaiting restoration. The vessel’s refurbishing cannot begin until the congressional exemption is approved, Ingram said. The U.S. Coast Guard would oversee the steamboat’s renovations.

The Delta Queen would have 88 staterooms, be able to transport 176 passengers and have a crew of 75.

The Delta Queen’s 90th birthday will be celebrated at a party today at the Delta Queen Port of Call, a restaurant, lounge and gift shop in Kimmswick, 25 miles south of St. Louis along the Mississippi River.

Historical items from the Delta Queen are being displayed in the Kimmswick restaurant. Some of this memorabilia will be returned to the steamboat when it resumes river travel, Ingram said.

Leah Ann and her husband, Randy, leased the Delta Queen as a dockside hotel along the Tennessee River in Chattanooga from 2009 to early 2014.

Leah Ann said she was introduced to the Delta Queen in 1993 when her tour company provided ground transportation off the vessel. “I fell in love with the Delta Queen,” she said.

Cornel Martin, the Ingrams and other business partners purchased the Delta Queen in February 2015.

Ingram hopes area residents will contact their congressional representatives in support of HR 619 and ask them to be a co-sponsor of the bill.

“Any support from West Virginia and Ohio would be great,” she said.

Contact Paul LaPann at plapann@newsandsentinel.com

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