Port NOLA container operations resume after Hurricane Ida, September 7, 2021. Photo credit: Port NOLA

Southern Louisiana Ports Request Federal Aid for Hurricane Ida Recovery

Mike Schuler
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September 16, 2021

Southern Louisiana ports have joined together in requesting federal aid to assist recovery from Hurricane Ida, one of the worst storms to hit the Gulf Coast since 2005.

While the Lower Mississippi River opened just three days after Hurricane Ida made landfall in southeast Louisiana as a category 4 storm, ports and waterways in the region continue to feel the impacts.

According to the Port of New Orleans (Port NOLA), impacts to maritime facilities and infrastructure include damage and extended closures of grain terminals during a record harvest season and ongoing extended closure of the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway (GIWW) between Morgan City and New Orleans, resulting in four- to five-day delays for barge tows and shallow-water traffic.

There was also damage sustained to maritime communication systems and pilot stations on the Lower Mississippi River, extended outages of four of nine oil refineries on the Lower Mississippi River, power grid failures resulting in ongoing delays for restarting critical operations and an increasing resulting need for sufficient back-up power generating systems for maritime infrastructure.

To ensure ports are included in bills for urgent funding from Congress, the Ports of New Orleans, Baton Rouge, Fourchon, Morgan City, Plaquemines, St. Bernard, South Louisiana and Terrebonne have formally submitted, on September 7, a request for aid to President Biden. A full assessment of needs is on-going.

“The Port of New Orleans and New Orleans Public Belt Railroad are resilient and strong. Our wharves are busy post storm and trains are moving, but we still have challenges to overcome in order to get back to previous levels,” said Brandy D. Christian, President and CEO of Port NOLA and CEO of NOPB. “To restore this economic engine fully and preserve the thousands of jobs that depend on it, we respectfully ask that the White House urgently request funding from Congress to address these issues as soon as possible to help us collectively move forward from these significant impacts.”

Port NOLA is a top importer of coffee, steel, natural rubber and consumer goods, and a top exporter of frozen poultry and plastic resins for manufacturing, while supporting nearly 120,000 jobs and generating $30 billion in economic impact.

With approximately 6,000 oceangoing ships annually transiting Lower Mississippi River, Baton Rouge to the Gulf is one of busiest port complexes in the world, handling 60 percent of the nation’s export grain and 20 percent of its energy. Louisiana ports have an economic impact of more than $180 billion annually to the U.S. economy and are responsible for more than 500,000 jobs.

The U.S. Coast Guard on Thursday said it was working in partnership with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Navy Supervisor of Salvage and Diving (SUPSALV) on continuing efforts to re-open waterways impacted by Hurricane Ida in the areas of Bayou Lafourche, Houma Navigation Canal, and portions of the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway.

To date, 25 obstructions made up primarily of fishing vessels, crew vessels, and offshore supply vessels have been identified in the Bayou Lafourche channel. Additionally, 30 submerged targets have been identified in the Houma Navigation Canal. Fifteen of those targets in the Houma Navigation Canal have been cleared or removed.

Coast Guard Sector New Orleans, which oversees 1,082 total aids to navigation, has identified 384 aids to navigation as being damaged or are offline to date due to the storm. Temporary corrections have been made to 277 of the damaged or offline aids, representing 72% of those identified.

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