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Boat owners aggravated over poor conditions at city yacht harbor

Before work begins, city officials say there will be a study on how best to rebuild. (FOX 8 photo) Before work begins, city officials say there will be a study on how best to rebuild. (FOX 8 photo)
NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) -

Nearly 10 years after the big storm, many say the city is missing out on a big opportunity.

The Municipal Yacht Harbor remains a shell of what it once was due to ongoing problems settling up with FEMA.

He plays to a near-empty marina every morning, in what used to be one of the best boat harbors in the South.

"I've been looking over my shoulder, but happy for today," said Tim Wade, who lives rent-free,on a decrepit boat dock.

"Good for me.I can see why people want it fixed, but I'm here right now," Wade said.

In pre-Katina condition, this dock could command a slip fee of as much as $400 a month.

"Every slip was full, and there was a four-year waiting list to get a slip," said Curtis Christensen, with neworleanssailing.com.

Now, the marina is at about a third of its capacity.

There's no power or running water, and most slips haven't been repaired since the storm.

"They can't wash their boats, no electricity, this is no way to run a marina," said Ricardo Gutierrez of New Orleans.

Christensen added, "Gulfport's repaired, Bay St. Louis has a multi-million-dollar harbor, Biloxi - we're last on the list."

We asked Deputy Mayor Cedric Grant why the project been so difficult. He said, "I don't think FEMA is experienced with yacht harbors."

Municipal Yacht Harbor is one of the last items to be negotiated with FEMA. City officials hope to announce a $20 million settlement soon.

"We are close to an agreement," Grant said. "We expect them to release in weeks the obligations, what they finally settled with us on."

There's a lot at stake for West End. Some say what happens to the harbor could affect the entire area with some long-delayed projects finally getting off the ground. Some expect a boom in restaurants and stores.

"There are so many businesses suffering because of the lack of capacity," Gutierrez said.

Before work begins, city officials say there will be a study on how best to rebuild.

"I'm hoping this market study can be done, in five months, and then design in 2016 and start building," Grant said.

Tim Wade will eventually have to set sail, saying, "I'm thinking about getting the boat squared away around Bayou Lacombe."

While city and FEMA negotiations wind down. Wade will continue to blow his bagpipe, not having to worry about offending any boat owners.

Grant said the proposed $20 million settlement is much better more than the original $11 million discussed in early negotiations. He's hoping to announce that a deal has been reached in the next few weeks.

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