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Nature's forces are benign today, as an OSV approaches a large rig somewhere way out on the Gulf. (Photo: Don Sutherland.) At Port Fourchon, where the movements never seem to stop, Hornbeck Offshore's Stormridge ambles past crew, supply, and dive boats of various owners. (Photo: Don Sutherland) OSVs of various owners are routinely docked four to six deep at Fourchon, most of them clearly designed with heavy seas in mind. (Photo: Don Sutherland) Port Authority, "Different reports give different opinions on the role of the MRGO during Katrina, or dangers it holds for the future, but politically, if I had to make a guess, I'd say they're going to close it." Indeed, as far back as November 2005, the Port acknowledged that "Hurricane Katrina has emphasized the need for significantly enhanced storm surge and flood prevention measures, adjustments to the depth of the MRGO, and the relocation of several terminals and industries dependent upon the MRGO at its currently authorized depth." The premise called for a new "industrial district with marine structures, such as wharves along the MRGO in St. Bernard Parish to accommodate port-related warehouses, maritime operations and industrial activity, such as offshore support vessels and other shallow-draft vessels." The Army Corps of Engineers is due to provide Congress a report by December 15, on how to close or modify the channel to address storm-protection issues. Louisiana washing away, Louisiana filling-in -- they've driven the normal debates in the region for decades. If there was a lining to Katrina's clouds, it's that they ratified an importance of the region to new eyes, including some in Washington. Too bad about those family fishermen and all, but say, did you know there are issues of national security around the Gulf? Some people didn't even know there were issues of energy-independence around the Gulf. That would make two forms of national security for the region. "Katrina showed what happens in a worst-case scenario," said Ken Wells of OMSA, "which is that domestic oil production can be interrupted, then it resumes." You would not bring down the American economy by attacking the Gulf if you were, say, a terrorist. You could create problems and cost a lot of money, but even that could be minimized. OMSA contends they could be minimized best, if policies extant long before Katrina -- like the Jones Act in all its dimensions -- were enforced. As time marches on, "the storm" becomes increasingly an object lesson of history. We've poured a few million into restoring the oil patch and are continuing to do so, so the question arises, how come unidentified foreign-flag vessels with unknown persons aboard can cruise up and admire our work? OMSA would like an answer. Meanwhile, the Senate considers a bill opening 8.3 million acres of the Gulf of Mexico to new oil and gas development. Half the royalties would go to the federal treasury, 37.5 percent would go to the four coastal states. That starts to address one of the long-standing debates: when will the Federal government provide an adequate giveback to our major center of petroleum exploitation, to an extent that actually does it some good? "Protecting our coastline," said U.S. Senator Mary L. Landrieu, D-La., introducing the Gulf Coast Protection Act last March, "will give confidence to American families who live along the Gulf Coast that they have a safe place to return home and raise their children." That they should do so is of interest to a number of shipbuilders, they tell us, who have been pinched by a shortage of qualified workers. Why such a shortage? Not enough housing, is an answer heard in the vicini- ty of Lockport. Passage of the bill would also "protect American trade and energy security" by using offshore oil and gas revenues for better coastal hurricane-resistance, including stronger levees and comprehensive coastal restoration. The bill's provisions would pursue "a sensible, fiscally responsible, and long-term financing solution to a monumental problem that will require tens of billions of dollars over many years." The Gulf of Mexico represents one of the largest oil fields in the world, situated in a domain for which humans were not designed. It takes a lot to keep them intact, and getting things to them requires a massive infrastructure. While questions linger about Venice, there's no doubt about Fourchon. Its scale and volume of activities is enormous -- if not entirely well-known in circles outside -- yet it is still ostensibly vulnerable to washing away, along with the rest of the coast. Said Sen. Landrieu of the "73,000 football fields" of land stolen by "the storm," "Imagine that. An area more than twice the size of Washington, D.C., lost (Continued on page 26) Massive OSVs DMT Diamond, MS Jolie, and Ebanks Tide practically blend into the landscape of derricks and jack-ups that line the byways of Port Fourchon. (Photo: Don Sutherland) The distinctive lines of Candies OSVs, exemplified here by the Devin Candies, appear alongside the Lachney Tide, and the Crosby Service. Tug in background at left is Dolhin IV, and at right, American Patriot. (Photo: Don Sutherland) Anchor-handling Harvey War Horse, 150-ft. long with 45-ft. beam, rated at 16,500 hp, glides in for the evening at Port Fourchon. (Photo: Don Sutherland) 22 · MarineNews · November, 2006