You don't have Macromedia Flash Player installed.
This content requires the Macromedia Flash Player.
One Year Later GOM is on the Rebound By Don Sutherland Right there and then, it was like time had stood still. Right there and then, it might have still been October of 2005. There were floodwaters at Empire, Louisiana, and there were wrecked boats by the dozen. If you looked at the scene in isolation this past October 18 and took it for the whole, you might ask why things have dragged-out so long. The most visible change from a year ago was a only semblance of order. The boats, once jumbles piled four and six deep on the highways and under the bridges, now stood upright, one by one in rows, just above the shallow floodwater. "My Baby," "No Problem II," "U.S. Victory" -- their names belied their circumstance 13 months after the fact. Quite a few looked fixable, but most looked like landfill. Empire was a perfect memento of "the storm" as the locals call it, although there were two -- Katrina and Rita mashing and flooding the Gulf coast in general, Plaquemines Parish in particular. At Empire, the bridge across the marina now was gone completely -- it was only bent last time we'd seen it. What did that tell us? Maybe for starters, it tells us that before you can build a new bridge, you have to remove the old one. So maybe things weren't as bad as they looked? And the flooding at Empire this past October 18, we were told, was purely coincidental. As Parish president Benny Rousselle described it, the ground had been dry till the rains of the past couple days. These fringes of a tropical storm had made local headlines with small tornadoes, without widespread damage. But at Empire someone through some oversight neglected to close the gate on the canal. So water came through and collected where they'd set-up the boats. Mr. Rousselle didn't think the design of the gate was very good to begin with. Miscommunication between agencies had emerged as a motif at the parish Engineering Meeting a few mornings before. "They didn't tell us," and "sure we called them" were the refrains in reports of cleanups ongoing. There were weeds to be sprayed, and debris still to remove. There were questions of authority -- if FEMA ends the declaration of emergency, the Parish could no longer enter private property. There remained wrecks of a few houses to be contended with, and denuded trees and sloping phone poles to be addressed, and fishing boats in marshes not easy to reach. Flying them out with Chinooks was discussed, but it seemed unlikely the helicopters had enough lift. Still, the amount remaining to be done was modest, compared to the restoration to-date. Not far south of Belle Chasse, the seat of Parish government, Bisso cranes under the direction of Peter Drummond worked on one of the final barges remaining to be lifted, from the Mississippi near the shore. We'd first encountered Mr. Drummond at the Industrial Canal last year, or almost had -- he was under a hardhat down below, working on getting an earlier barge out, but he conveyed regards to the surface. There had been thousands of wrecks altogether, and in October ' 05 it was thought the removal of all would take years. "Before Katrina our population was around 28,000," said Mr. Rousselle, "now we're back up to around 20,000." A couple of ruined school buses could be seen still lying along Highway 23, the main route south to Venice, but also, a lot of new houses stood sparkling in the Louisiana sunlight. The Harvey Gladiator is one of three tugs in typical configuration -- one at the bow, one at either side of the sterm, all at the ends of long cables -- to precision-guide a jack-up rig to its mount in the Gulf of Mexico. (Photo: Don Sutherland.) 18 · MarineNews · November, 2006