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Louisiana's seafood industry devastated; MRGO, environmental damage

The DMN's "Seafood industry forced over the edge" reports that the $2.6 billion a year industry has been severely damaged by both hurricanes:

...That has heightened uncertainty about the future of an industry that provides nearly 30,000 jobs and lands almost half of the shrimp, 26 percent of the crabs and 37 percent of the oysters caught in the United States...
Oystering - an industry built on leasing reefs on which oysters are planted and harvested like land crops - already had been hurt by saltwater intrusion from the Mississippi River Gulf Outlet, a controversial 76-mile canal constructed in 1968.
The channel, known as MRGO, was designed to shorten the distance that deep-water transport ships had to travel to reach New Orleans from the open waters of the Gulf.
It also may have provided a devastatingly efficient pathway for Katrina's enormous storm surge.
St. Bernard Parish and much of Plaquemines Parish, the state's two biggest seafood producers, were covered in 12 to 14 feet of water, and much of both parishes' fishing fleets were pushed onto nearby roads, bridges and levees. The storm pushed huge amounts of mud and debris that smothered oyster beds, damage that experts say will take two years or more even to begin to undo.
Shrimping grounds were littered with debris. Boats reported seeing animal carcasses and shredded bits of buildings as much as 100 miles into the Gulf.
The U.S. Geological Survey says that before Katrina, Louisiana was losing almost 44 acres a day of the marshlands that serve not only as coastal buffers but also as nurseries for the state's fisheries. The USGS now estimates that the hurricane obliterated nearly one and a half times the amount of Louisiana marshland eroded into the sea over the previous 48 years...

Honore: Plaquemines Parish still not at "recovery part yet"

Thirty-percent of Plaquemines Parish is still under water, and according to Parish President Benny Rousselle, 16,000 out of their 28,000 residents are still displaced. However, note the very low death toll in this report:

...[Army Lt. Gen. Russel Honore says] "To these people, the crisis is still going on... They haven't gotten to the recovery part yet... This is critical terrain... It's critical to the nation."
Army and Coast Guard helicopters dropped sandbags as large as 3 tons to patch eight levee breaks in the southern half of the 80-mile-long parish. Honore said another six heavy-lift helicopters were on the way from Texas, after completing Rita-related missions there. Barges and airboats are also being used in the effort.
The Corps of Engineers has said it hopes to have the floodwaters out next week.
Col. Duane Gapinski of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said most floodwater had been pumped out before Rita, but now, "We're playing catchup."
Three residents are confirmed dead, two more deaths have been reported and two residents have been missing for more than a month, Rousselle said.
Honore shook his head as he saw miles of communities with houses and businesses crumpled or torn from foundations, overturned boats, ruined citrus trees and flooded cattle pastures. A Shell Oil pipeline was ruptured by Katrina, adding to the mess.

NO might be drained within a week

Col. Duane Gapinski, commander of the Unwatering Task Force for the Corps of Engineers says: "It's a winnable battle... We had the city under control before Rita, and I'm pretty optimistic we're going to do it again."
On Sunday, he said that Plaquemines Parish would take another three weeks.

Hurricane Rita flooded the lower 9th Ward on Friday when water cascaded over four sections of the Industrial Canal...
"I believe that water was pushed from the Intracoastal Waterway into the Industrial Canal by Rita," Gapinski said.
...Water has stopped from flowing over three sections of the Industrial Canal levee. "There is still one section where water is seeping into the 9th Ward," Gapinski said. "As it turns out, there was a breach in that section of the levee. The water is down to seepage and by today we should have that under control."
On Saturday, the Corps of Engineers maintained that repairs it made on levees had remained intact and there were no new breaches when Hurricane Rita struck.
As Gapinski spoke, four helicopters lined up behind him over the Lake Pontchartrain shoreline, waiting to drop 7,000-pound sandbags hooked to cables beneath the aircraft. The sandbags were taken to the breach on the east side of the Industrial Canal just north of the Claiborne Street Bridge. The helicopters dropped 200 sandbags in the breach Saturday. Gapinski said another 200 were to have been dropped Sunday...

The bolded section above might be a bit controversial. There appears to be a question of whether the repairs did indeed hold or not.

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