Ships Stranded by Katrina Going Back in the Water

Governor Riley
Governor Riley

More than nine months after hurricane Katrina, part of Alabama's gulf coast is just beginning to return to normal. Katrina picked up and blew ashore dozens of shrimp boats at Bayou La Batre. Many of them are still stranded to this day.

But during a visit to the area Sunday, Governor Bob Riley offered new insight into an upcoming recovery mission.

Governor Riley was a guest of the 57th annual blessing of the fleet -- a chance to recognize the ships and the fishermen who make Bayou La Batre an important part of Alabama's economy.

"I wanted to come down here and talk to the people," Riley said.

The people of Bayou La Batre have been waiting for nine months to get stranded shrimp boats back in the water. Their insurance companies wouldn't pay for the project, so Governor Riley worked with local officials to secure money from the Bush-Clinton Katrina Fund, which has agreed to pay the $1.6 million bill.

"We have finally gotten an agreement that on May 15th they are going to go ahead and start moving these," Riley said. "I was hoping to get it done before then."

The news means this year's blessing of the fleet celebration took on new meaning. It turned into a symbol that finally, Alabama is almost entirely free of Katrina's seemingly never ending grip.

"We want to get 'em back out so they can start shrimping," Riley said. "Nothing can work down here until we get the boats back out."

About 22 of the original 50 boats that were stranded remain on land. The coast guard will be assisting with the recovery operation when it begins later this month.