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Dredging Industry Copes With the Hurricanes

On Friday, August 27, the owners of Dredging Supply Company were at their fishing camp at Shell Beach, on Bayou Yscloskey off the Mississippi River Gulf Outlet.

Employees were going to join them the next day for their annual fantasy football draft, along with some fishing.
Despite warnings that the hurricane was headed toward Louisiana, some people spent the night and went fishing on Saturday morning. However, television reports alerted them that Hurricane Katrina was indeed on its way, and people began evacuating.

"(We) got the boats out of the water and started packing up what we could take with us," said Robert Wetta, company vice president.

He and his brother Billy (company president) rented RV's and took their families to a KOA campground near Lafayette, Louisiana on Saturday night.

"In the tracking maps that I have seen, it appears the eye passed almost directly over Shell Beach. I guess that's why we have nothing there to remember," said Robert Wetta. The camp is elevated about eight feet above sea level, and got one foot of water from Hurricane Georges in 1998. They expected about four feet of water in the camp from Katrina.

"But we would never have thought that it would just all wash away," said Wetta. From reports … the camp was more than likely completely submerged. That means the water came up over 20 feet. The camp is located just off Lake Borgne, so with the 20-foot water rise, this would move Lake Borgne on top of the camp," said Wetta.

An aerial photo of the area taken after the storm shows no buildings remaining - only concrete slabs and pilings where the docks had been.

On September 1, Larry Patella, executive director of the Western Dredging Association, put out a call on the group's email list for people in that area to email in. A number of people in Louisiana and Mississippi responded.
Dierdre McGowan, director of the Inland Rivers Ports and Terminals Association (IRPT) reported that she was fine, but her house in Bay St. Louis, Mississippi was gone. Others who wrote had family members whose houses were flooded, but all who responded were grateful to have escaped with their lives.

On September 11, Ancil Taylor, vice president of Bean Dredging, reported that all in the company were fine, and that their downtown New Orleans headquarters had been split into several branch offices.

"All our projects are running and we are assisting the Corps in their monumental effort of getting the Gulf Coast under control," said Taylor.

The Mobile Register reported that Bean Stuyvesant had about three miles of beach to go in the 16-mile Baldwin Beach renourishment project when Katrina hit. Officials estimated that about 15 to 30 percent of that sand was washed or blown away by Katrina and the tidal surge it created.

On September 6, Robert Wetta posted a message saying that the DSC facility in Reserve, about 30 miles west of New Orleans, was unharmed, and that the company was up and running.

"We are inundated with people applying for jobs and we are gearing up to increase our workforce in order to meet the demands for our products and services as well as offering relief to the people that have been devastated," said Wetta. DSC provided landing places for FEMA helicopters to use as re-fueling stations, he said.

C&C Technologies in Lafayette posted an interactive map on their website to help the evacuated population of New Orleans determine the approximate water depth at any location around the city. The water depths were updated as NOAA, Digital Global and ground truthing statistics were made available. Jeff Fortenberry of C&C reported on September 23: "We are up to 17 million hits and over 325,000 unique vistors. We have received thousands of emails from users showing their appreciation of the service."

Carmanah Industries diverted all of its inventory and production to the hurricane region, after receiving orders for 500 of its 700 Series marine navigation LED lights. By September 13 they had delivered them to the U.S. Coast Guard in Mobile, Alabama, for distribution to affected areas of Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. There was relatively little shoaling in the navigation channels of the Mississippi River, the Port of New Orleans and other ports on the Gulf Coast. Navigation was obstructed by the lack of navigation aids, and Carmanah was helping with this effort.

Dianne Allen, who works in contracting at the New Orleans District, Corps of Engineers, had evacuated to Vicksburg and was called in to work there, one of two people managing emergency contracts during this time.

On September 8, she sent the amendment announcing the bid opening of a previously-advertised emergency dredging contract for Southwest Pass, establishing the bid opening date of September 9, to contractors who had registered. Bean Stuyvesant LLC was low bidder at $2,652,600, and the contract was awarded the same day. The dredge Stuyvesant went to work in the Southwest Pass soon after that.

On September 26, Odom Hydrographic Systems finished up a side-scan survey of the Port Arthur, Texas channel in their survey boat Echotrac. They found no shoaling as a result of Hurricane Rita, which had come through the area on September 24. At press time, the damage from Hurricane Rita was still being assessed by local officials.

A second emergency ID/IQ contract, for cutterhead dredging in the New Orleans, Galveston, Mobile, and Vicksburg Districts, was issued on September 27, with a closing date of September 30. Six $200,000 contracts were awarded through this solicitation on October 5.

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