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Harvey Gulf crewmembers have received pay raises five times since Katrina, echoing the steps taken by many in the Gulf maritime industries to combat competition for limited personnel. (Photo: Don Sutherland) It's not clear how many of the new houses would become homes to the fishermen and their families that had been hanging-on in the Parish before the storm. In a lot of cases, premium rates had forced reducing or eliminating insurance on their hulls, a plight for which Katrina might merely have been the last straw. Numerically, the fishermen were the principal maritime casualties of "the storm," and they're easy to overlook in the giddy trade reports from the bustling Gulf Coast. Oil provides more of the revenue stream in those parts, and the big oil boats, the company fleets, mostly found shelter from the storm. But a demand already growing for newbuilds was interrupted for some months, and got pent-up. And though most of the boats were okay, there were other matters needing attention. A lot of the drilling rigs out on the Gulf had been damaged, or totaled, and as regards the local economy, their repair or replacement amplifies a shipyard boom. Some of the best-known yards are running at capacity, given a shortage of personnel. Those who see new boats in their future, like Dolphin Towing's Bill Kearney, mention having to talk to yards in other regions. How else is a young company to grow, in busy times? Like the buses lying along Hwy. 23, there's also stuff in the Gulf that still needs attention. More than one vessel has been skewered underway by objects unseen. Special navigation routes around known hazards have been established, and a complete remapping of the oil patch is on the agenda. But the oil boats survived, mostly, and what a good thing. For if there's anything needed on the Gulf Coast, it looks like, it's even more oil boats. In some cases, they've been ordered 10 at a time. Our host one afternoon asked as we drove past smaller local shipyards, "see anything interesting?" We acknowledged some handsome hulls. "I mean, see anyone working on them?" Fueled by Oil Even in Plaquemines Parish, with its fishermen of long-standing, the energy interests are a prominent force. The refineries and the export terminals along the Mississippi banks of the Parish are back on-line. Although the Parish accounting equipment still needed work in October, Mr. Rousselle seemed confident that the tariffs were on a par with prestorm levels. The wrecks lined-up at Empire are the reminders of the interruptions in lives, which many people in the region are still coming to grips with. But the broader trend of things is back to normal, including the normal debates. For example, Louisiana is disappearing. At its present rate of erosion, according to one assessment, the coast by the year 2050 would begin at Houma. "We lost 60 miles of our east bank in two days because of the storms," said Mr. Rousselle, "which is what we would have lost in 50 years." Mr. Rousselle presided over the recovery of the Parish in the extraordinary past year, but the end of his second term is a couple months hence. He says he would like to get into coastal management. Louisiana is also filling-in. Already, there's so much silting at Tiger Pass near Venice, at the southern end of Plaquemines Parish, that the town's future viability as an offshore support base is threatened. Said Ken Wells, of the Offshore Marine Service Association (OMSA), "the Corps has not taken steps to control the silting, and Congress must address it. And as we move east" with Gulf oil drilling, "Fourchon is not enough." North of Plaquemines Parish, in New Orleans, some of the waterways should be deliberately made shallower, according to a line of thought that sees storm surges into populated areas as the consequence of deeper water. From an industrial point of view, that would make big shipyards along the route unable to receive big ships. And the locks of alternative routes are too narrow for modern barges built by the yard. The authorities have proposed trying to secure funding to relocate industrial facilities displaced by any changes, but "We'll have to see how it plays out," said a Bollinger representative, adding that "sites of opportunity" could be considered in another state. Normal debates had long-included the Mississippi River Gulf Outlet (MRGO), known in the region as the "Mister Go." Said a representative of the New Orleans 20 · MarineNews · November, 2006