South Louisiana Ports Issue Unified Call For Post-Ida Federal Aid

Louisiana communities have a reputation for pulling together in support of one another following hurricanes and other disasters that impact the state, and the state’s ports are doing the same following Hurricane Ida.

Port leaders from throughout south Louisiana have joined their voices in calling on the Biden administration and Congress to provide federal assistance to aid in the recovery from Hurricane Ida, which made landfall and moved inland August 29, damaging port and maritime industry infrastructure from Port Fourchon on the coast all the way across the Mississippi River between New Orleans and Baton Rouge.

Representatives from the ports of New Orleans, Baton Rouge, Fourchon, Morgan City, Plaquemines, St. Bernard, South Louisiana and Terrebonne all formally sent the request to President Joe Biden September 7 in hopes that port infrastructure and waterway support are included in congressional funding for storm recovery.

“The Port of New Orleans and New Orleans Public Belt Railroad are resilient and strong,” said Brandy Christian, president and CEO of the port and CEO of the public belt. “Our wharves are busy post-storm, and trains are moving, but we still have challenges to overcome in order to get back to previous levels.”

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In the letter to the president, port leaders stated, “Only nine days after one of the strongest hurricanes to hit the U.S. mainland, operations have resumed. However, assessment of needs and supply chain disruptions are ongoing. Damages caused by Hurricane Ida placed significant additional stress on an already strained supply chain network throughout the country.”

Those impacts included damage and extended closures to grain terminals on the Lower Mississippi River in Louisiana in the midst of a record harvest season; restrictions along the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway (GIWW) between Morgan City and New Orleans; damage to maritime communications installations and pilot stations on the river; extended closures at four of the nine oil refineries on the lower river; extensive damage to the power grid, including the collapse of a transfer line that crosses the river above New Orleans; a lack of available housing due in large part to power outages; and damages to area bridges.

The port complex from Baton Rouge to the mouth of the river  is the biggest in the world, with about 6,000 ship movements per year. Sixty percent of the nation’s grain exports move through that same area and 20 percent of the country’s energy and bulk commodities, like steel, poultry, natural rubber, forestry products and more. South and west of the Mississippi River ports, Louisiana’s energy ports, like Port Fourchon, Port Terrebonne and the Port of Morgan City, service the nation’s Gulf of Mexico-based oil and gas industry, responsible for 20 percent of the country’s energy products.

“The nation’s supply chain depends upon the Lower Mississippi River and coastal Louisiana ports for moving agriculture, energy and consumer goods,” port leaders stated, later adding, “In order to restore this economic engine and preserve the thousands of jobs that depend on it, we respectfully ask that the White House urgently request funding from Congress to address these issues as soon as possible.”