Port tonnage drops; reporting workshops proposed

By: GEOFFREY STOUTE

MORGAN CITY — Although it is unofficial, the Morgan City Harbor and Terminal District anticipates it will finish ranked 109 among U.S. ports in terms of carrying the most tonnage in 2010, a year after it was ranked 98th in the same listing.

Port Manager of Economic Development Cindy Cutrera told commissioners during its monthly meeting Monday that the dip in rankings on the Waterborne Commerce Statistics Fact Card, which are published a year later for the previous year, was because of a decrease in tonnage due to the BP oil spill and extended moratorium as well as a large increase in tonnage in the Great Lakes area.

However, she noted there is very little difference between 100 and 109.

“We’re right up there with that group,” Cutrera said.

Workshops have been recommended to help users of the local waterways learn about how they can report this information.

The funding is important because the more tonnage an area has, the more likely it is to get more funds for dredging its waterways.

“Every ton counts,” port consultant Raymond “Mac” Wade said.

He said the Corps’ would be willing to come down to Morgan City for a 30 to 45 minute workshop with local companies to explain the process of reporting tonnage.

Wade said at a recent conference he and port commissioners attended, they learned that the Corps’ funding for the upcoming year will be tight and dredging projects are being pushed back.

“It’s very important that we get our tonnage,” he said.

Bill Stiles, a representative of U.S. Rep. Jeff Landry’s office, said that Landry has received a verbal agreement from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to consider the value of the tonnage being transported as well as its importance to national security when calculating who gets the most tonnage funds.

In another funding matter, Corps’ New Orleans District representative Mike Lowe reported that in the future, tightening of the Corps’ coffers may lead to reduced operations on local locks.

He said there has been a calculation, based on tonnage, of locks that would not be operated 24 hours a day, and while the Berwick Locks was initially included because of a miscalculation, it currently is OK.

Commissioners also learned Monday from U.S. Coast Guard Capt. Jonathan Burton of the Coast Guard’s Marine Safety Unit in Morgan City that attempts to salvage a barge in Bayou Shaffer that overturned during the Labor Day weekend holiday have not been successful, and he said the contractor on site has “basically abandoned the project.”

The rig was flipped when trying to raise it, Burton said.

“If you haven’t been down there, it’s now upside down,” he said. “The only thing you can see is the bottom of the hull.”

Although the contractor has left, Burton said the project cannot be rebid until after the current contractor’s contract ends on Saturday to avoid litigation issues.

They have contacted the barge’s owner to place markings and lighting on the vessel.

In other action during Monday’s meeting, commissioners:

—Agreed to a payment of $387,338 for Phase 3 work on the InterMoor bulkhead. Phillip Chauvin of project engineer T. Baker Smith reported that all primary and tieback walls on the bulkhead project have been installed and 650 feet of the bulkhead is complete. They are looking at finishing the project by the end of December or the beginning of January.

—Learned from Clay Breaud of GSE Associates that $2,500 in heating ventilation and air conditioning work in an attempt to fix the port office building’s mold and moisture problems, was expected to begin today. He said that after it is finished, insulation work also will be undertaken.

—Accepted a bid of $285,605 for paving the port’s parking lot as well as work on its awning. The work was well under budget, Breaud noted.

—Learned from April Dykes of Weston Solutions that work on the port’s boat ramp project is nearly at a standstill as they are awaiting Port Security Grant funding to proceed with the project. They still need to submit construction notification to the Corps’ and the Louisiana Department of Natural Resources, as well as other minor paperwork that also needs to be completed.

—From Executive Director Jerry Hoffpauir that the state Office of Facility Planning and Control contacted him about holding off the port signing its contract with Moffatt & Nichol until they have time to review it to make sure the port can receive reimbursement for a project at the mouth of the Atchafalaya River. He said comments should be available by next week and action on the contract can be taken at the December meeting.

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