Port Fourchon Seeks to Shake Off Hurricane

Many oil refineries remain engulfed in water along Louisiana's coast. Ted M. Falgout, executive director of Louisiana's Port Fourchon, assesses the condition of the facility and the state of the waterways leading to the port.

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RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

Oil refineries along the Gulf coast are still assessing the damage done by Hurricane Katrina. We're going to hear now about the largest energy port on the Gulf. Ted Falgout is the director of Port Fourchon in southern Louisiana, and we gave him a call.

Mr. TED FALGOUT (Director, Port Fourchon): Good morning.

MONTAGNE: What is the situation this morning there at Port Fourchon?

Mr. FALGOUT: Well, we're going to actually open up the port for the first time this morning, and we're gonna allow vehicle traffic into the port. We've finally gotten the roads cleared. The water has receded. Water was over the roadways, and a considerable amount of debris and vessels and you name it were over on top of our roadways. And we've gotten those things moved and electrical lines and we're gonna--we've checked the waterway out. It appears there--in our entrance channel, there are no sunken vessels, hopefully no underwater obstructions. And the channel depths seem to be of a range that will allow the vessels that are necessary to go out to open oil fields back up in and out of the port. After that, the big issue will be determination of the amount of damage to offshore facilities and pipelines and transmission systems with the domestic oil coming out of the Gulf of Mexico.

MONTAGNE: Well, when do you think the facilities will return to normal production, and what would that be?

Mr. FALGOUT: Wow. It's gonna be a guess right now because, again, what's been determined--the damage determined so far has been mostly damage from aerial view. And we have not yet begun to bring the crews out there to assess damage beneath the water. And there could be considerable damage to pipeline systems. Ivan caused considerable damage to pipeline systems, and this storm took a path a little closer to the heart of the oil and gas industry in the offshore Gulf of Mexico. So one would suspect that there may be some additional infrastructure damage that's unseen right now. What has been seen is substantial, so we're still in a determination, wait-and-see mode now.

MONTAGNE: You have seen other hurricanes blow through the Gulf. How does Katrina compare?

Mr. FALGOUT: Well, I've been port director for this port for 27 years now, and we've had dozens of storms. But even before I was port director, I sat through Betsy as a young man and got the heck scared out of me with that storm, but this one was even worse. And we had never experienced this kind of weather. And luckily, our particular port was on the western edge of the eye wall, which is not the strongest side. And we still did sustain considerable damage. We have a number of vessels that are overturned in our inland channel. That's gonna be another feat that we have to accomplish is clearing out the inland channels so the supply of services, of goods necessary to renourish and resupply the offshore can come through.

MONTAGNE: Thank you very much for talking with us.

Mr. FALGOUT: It's a pleasure.

MONTAGNE: Ted Falgout is the director of Port Fourchon in Louisiana.

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