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Port of New Orleans president provides frank assessment of damage

NEW ORLEANS, La. — “Yesterday, I thought the damage could have been worse, but today, I’m not so sure.” Those were the words of Gary LaGrange, president and CEO of the Port of New Orleans, after surveying the damage to his port by Hurricane Katrina this week.

“The outcome is not good, and it has been aggravated by unexpected flooding conditions following the storm,” LaGrange said in his assessment of the situation. "Our first priority is to provide peace of mind to the citizens of New Orleans and our employees who have lost so much.”

LaGrange initially toured the port’s accessible facilities via land Monday, August 29th for about three and a half hours and again the next morning via water.

"At this time, we are not in a position to advise the dollar amount to effect repairs. All cargoes in the transit sheds should be inspected at a later time to determine the exact damage and any damage to cargoes caused by water," he said.

LaGrange said that for the most part the port’s wharves appear to be intact and able to conduct cargo operations. The transit sheds incurred damage, but could be used while repairs are made. But there are issues with procuring the labor necessary to work the vessels (a lot of the labor most likely incurred heavy damage to their homes or evacuated out of town), distribution of cargoes due to highway connectors being damaged (I-10 twin spans had sections lost and connectors in Orleans and Jefferson Parishes are under water) and initially used for recovery operations, and the ability of the river to receive vessels specifically at the southwest pass and the MRGO.

Presently river traffic is limited to tugs, barges, off shore vessels relocating and recovery boats.

"We must wait now for sounding to be performed by the pilot’s organizations and the Army Corp of Engineers," LaGrange says.

The next step will be to refine inspections of the port’s facilities and begin the process to repair them, La Grange said.