Boat's new home port will be in Jefferson County, Mo.

Legislative action was taken this week in Congress aimed at getting the historic riverboat, the Delta Queen, back on the Mississippi River.

Missouri Senators Roy Blunt and Claire McCaskill announced earlier this week that their legislation to bring the 1920s riverboat back to the Mississippi River had passed the U.S. Senate as part of the Coast Guard's Reauthorization bill. The bill now moves to the U.S. House. If approved there, it would then go to the president to be signed into law.

For more than 40 years, the Delta Queen was exempted from a law passed by Congress regulating passenger vessels carrying 50 or more passengers overnight on domestic U.S. waters. That exemption expired in 2008. The bill passed by the Senate this week restores the exemption and requires the Delta Queen to annually modify at least 10 percent of the wooden portions of the vessel's superstructure to comply with federal safety law requirements.

If the legislation becomes law, it would clear the way for the boat to operate from its new home port of Kimmswick, in Jefferson County, Missouri. From there it is expected that the Delta Queen would visit more than 80 other ports in the country each year.

Gail Bryant, director of the Hannibal Convention and Visitors Bureau, said it is too early to say if the Delta Queen could one day be seen docking along Hannibal's renovated riverfront.

"We have not heard anything as of yet," she said.

Built in the 1920s, the Delta Queen is a historic, wooden American steamboat. It has carried dignitaries, including three U.S. presidents, and thousands of other passengers through the tributaries of the Mississippi River. The boat also served as a naval ship during World War II. It is now designated as a United States National Historic Landmark.

danny.henley@courierpost.com