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Delta Queen Backers Ask White House For Help

A group that’s trying to help put the Delta Queen steamboat back in service is turning to the White House for help.

The 81 year old paddlewheeler was forced into drydock at the end of October because its longtime exemption to a federal safety rule was not renewed by Congress.

Vicki Webster of the Save the Delta Queen campaign says her group is asking President Bush for an executive order allowing the exemption to continue.

“We know he could not actually overturn the law itself, only the Supreme Court could do that. But we think there is a very good chance he could issue an order that would extend the exemption because its been automatically extended nine times over the past 42 years,” Webster said.

The exemption was held up in Congress by the chairman of the House Transportation Committee, who says he’s concerned about fire safety on the vessel.

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Delta Queen Supporters To Hold Rally

The “Save the Delta Queen Campaign” will hold a rally tomorrow (Tuesday) along the Ohio River in Maysville, Kentucky in an effort to keep the 82 year old paddlewheeler in operation.

The vessel’s future has been in doubt because of a legislative impasse in Washington.

Over the years, the Delta Queen has received a routine exemption to a federal safety law regarding vessels that carry overnight passengers.

This year, the chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, James Oberstar of Minnesota, won’t release the exemption for a vote, citing safety concerns.

The campaign’s Vicki Webster says the paddlewheeler can’t operate without the exemption.

“This is an expensive boat to run, she makes a profit, a tidy profit, not a killing, but she does make a profit. But she would not be able to if she were not filled up,” she said.

Webster says Oberstar is less concerned about safety than he is about pleasing the Seafarer’s Union, which wants the Delta Queen to have an all-union crew. Oberstar denies the claim.