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The historic Delta Queen steamboat will pass New Orleans around 6 p.m. Sunday, on its way to dock in Houma where the 1927 vessel will undergo a $5 million renovation.

The steamboat, which docked in New Orleans from 1986 to 2008, left Chattanooga, Tenn., in March, and is being towed to Houma to begin renovations and repairs that could see the Delta Queen cruising under her own power as soon as 2016, said Cornel Martin, president of the steamboat’s new ownership group said Sunday morning.

Martin, a Thibodaux businessman who worked for the previous owners of the steamboat from 1993 to 2004, said he watched the Delta Queen as it passed Houmas House Plantation around 11:30 a.m.

“It was exciting. We are taking the next step in the next chapter of her life,” Martin said Sunday, as he was heading to New Orleans to see the steamboat pass through the city sometime between 5 and 6 p.m. Martin last saw the Delta Queen a few days after she unmoored in Chattanooga on March 22.

“She’s  a national treasure, and we’re moving in a direction of saving her and preserving her for future generations.”

Martin said Sunday that legislation had been introduced to renew a special exception to federal laws that banned wood-hulled ships from American waterways.

The steamboat had been docked in Chattanooga and used as a floating hotel since 2008 after the previous owners allowed the last exemption to lapse, Martin said. The 88-year-old paddlewheel boat is on the National Register of Historic Places and is considered National Historic Landmark. 

What port the Delta Queen will call home after she’s been refurbished is still an open question.

“We’ve talked to folks in St. Louis, Cincinnati, Baton Rouge and New Orleans who all would like to have her there,” Martin said. “It looks like there might be a little competition.”