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Katrina boats fished from New Orleans marina

A Florida contractor is fishing for boats that Hurricane Katrina sunk at the bottom of one of the city's largest marinas.
/ Source: The Associated Press

A Florida contractor is fishing for boats that Hurricane Katrina deposited at the bottom of one of the city’s largest marinas.

As many as 200 boats are submerged at Municipal Yacht Harbor. By Wednesday evening, a huge crane had pulled up a dozen in a project that could cost up to $1 million.

“Sonar readings might show one boat, but it could be sitting atop another one or even two,” said Bruce Hammatt, a state Department of Environmental Quality administrator overseeing the cleanup.

Resolve Marine Group of Port Everglades, Fla., is expected to finish the job in about a month, Hammatt said. The Federal Emergency Management Agency is paying for 90 percent of the work, with the state picking up the rest.

Hammatt said he has supervised removal of 500 to 1,000 boats around South Louisiana so far, including commercial shrimping and fishing boats from the harbors at Empire and Venice in Plaquemines Parish.

The Coast Guard has taken hundreds of boats from navigable waterways and coastal harbors, he said.

The city of New Orleans did not ask for help at the marina until last summer, and it has taken until now to complete the environmental assessments and get through the state bidding process, Hammatt said.

Before a vessel can be scrapped, all chemicals and electronic equipment must be removed and separated for disposal.

The agreement also calls for Resolve to remove an estimated 300 tons of debris — from wood pilings to refrigerators to splintered boat parts — from the harbor bottom.