South Shore Harbor, heavily damaged by Hurricane Katrina will be slowly returning to life.
In January the marina's landlord, the Orleans Levee District, launched a massive salvage operation that has fished nearly 100 boats and 550 tons of debris from the harbor floor. With that effort winding down, levee district officials say they hope to begin rebuilding by month's end, with full restoration scheduled for late next year.But by listening to the news media, one would think that there would be no need for a marina, what with the city being destroyed and all.
Before the storm, the sprawling, 80-acre complex in eastern New Orleans was a cash cow for the district. The $4.6 million a year in lease payments and gambling fees from a floating casino docked there and more than $500,000 in slip fees from boat owners constituted more than 20 percent of the agency's operating budget.
...with demand for dock space at an all-time high in the metropolitan New Orleans area, officials hope that an improved marina will bump rental revenue from close to 500 boat slips as high as $900,000.
"Once the repair work is completed, we feel like we'll have a state-of-the-art facility," said Louis Capo, the district's managing director. "All the piers will be rebuilt. We'll have new electrical and plumbing systems and new lighting. I think we'll have no problem filling all the spaces."
Capo said his optimism is fueled by a waiting list of more than 100 boat owners looking to lease dock space inside the little-damaged Orleans Marina at West End, also owned and operated by the levee district. Adding to the pressure is the slow recovery of the adjacent city-owned Municipal Yacht Harbor, which remains out of commission.
For those reasons, Capo said he expects South Shore Harbor's occupancy rate to jump quickly to 100 percent, from 90 percent pre-Katrina. The levee district plans to maintain annual slip rentals at their prestorm rates, which ranged from about $1,600 to $6,400.
Plus, plans are already underway for repairs to be made.
The first step in the rehabilitation project will be the 26 covered boat slips on the marina's northwest corner.
Capo said a request for construction bids should go out in the next week or two. The timetable calls for work to start by June and the first tenants to move in by October.
A much larger project to restore the infrastructure that can accommodate more than 450 boat slips is not likely to start until late summer. While that work is expected to take more than a year, Capo said, the levee district hopes to open the marina in phases in an effort to address the needs of boaters and to begin generating money for the cash-strapped agency.
I only hope that this recovery doesn't turn into a three-hour tour, a three-hour tour.