Kimmswick port boat

The Delta Queen riverboat is slated to make its home at a new port in Kimmswick.  

Construction of a riverboat port facility in Kimmswick is underway.

Port Authority Executive Director Neal Breitweiser said workers from XL Contracting of St. Peters have completed excavating work for the port, which will be the home of the Delta Queen riverboat.

In addition, work began Dec. 4 to place sheet piles, or steel sheeting that will protect the dock and prevent erosion.

“This is exciting to see work finally get started,” Breitweiser said.

He said the excavation process, which took about two weeks, uncovered a parking lot that was used by the Robert E. Lee riverboat, a floating restaurant that was moored in Kimmswick from 2004-2006.

“It had been covered over by mud and silt for several years,” Breitweiser said of the parking lot. “We’re talking with engineers to see if it’s still usable. I don’t know whether we’ll be able to use it, but it would be nice if we could. It’s much larger than we’d be able to build. But at this point, we’ve just moved all the mud and silt off, so I don’t know what we’re going to do with it yet. I guess if it’s not serviceable, we’ll have to remove all that concrete, which would be a shame.”

The Port Authority’s Board of Directors awarded the construction contract to XL Contracting, which bid $893,248 to build the river landing for excursion boats and a road leading to it.

“Once the sheet pile is in place, then they’ll start with the rebar and pouring concrete,” Breitweiser said. “It will really start to take form then.”

Weather permitting, construction may wrap up by Jan. 26, he said.

Breitweiser said a representative from Hanson Professional Services of Maryland Heights is onsite to ensure work is being done according to specifications.

When the Delta Queen might be relocated to Kimmswick from its current home in Louisiana is still up in the air.

“It’s still being renovated, and

COVID-19 has slowed that process down, from what I understand,” Breitweiser said.

COVID-19 also has spread its effects to the inland cruise industry.

“The Delta Queen’s major competitor, the American Cruise Lines, canceled all of its 2020 cruises, but it’s my understanding they may start bookings for 2021 soon. A lot of things are up in the air.”

However, Breitweiser has said, the Delta Queen’s owners have committed to mooring the boat in Kimmswick at least 11 times a year; it will cruise up and down major North American waterways when not in Kimmswick.

He said other riverboat operators have expressed interest in using the docking facility as well.

The Jefferson County Council voted in 2018 to spend up to $238,421 from the county’s reserve fund to provide the local match for the dock construction project; the other 80 percent is being provided by a state waterways grant.