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Sitting on the Dock of the Bay, Grant Bundy Wonders if He Will Recover

by Ed Lallo/Gulf Seafood News Editor

Sitting on a wooden porch swing hanging from what is left of his shrimp dock on Bayou Barataria, Grant Bundy is still in shock.  For nore than seven months since Hurricane Ida blew through Jean Lafitte leaving little behind, he has tried and tried; and then tried again to unsuccessfully get a loan from th Small Business Administration (SBA) to fix his docks, only one of two remaining along the bayou.

With his big dock in the background destroyed, the Jean Lafitte shrimp dock owner stands where once he unload thousands of pounds of shrimp daily. Photos: Ed Lallo/Gulf Seafood News

“I have to rebuild because I don’t know anything else,” said the owner of Bundy’s Seafood. “This is my whole life right here.  I could probably go get a job and start at the bottom, but I can’t support my family on minimum wage.  This is my life; I’m not going anywhere.  I’m going to rebuild every time.”

Bundy, who turns fifty this year, has been a lifelong resident of the Town of Jean Lafitte. With no insurance on his business, which also includes boat storage sheds and a rental house, he immediately applied for SBA loan so he could start repairs on the more than $300,000 in damages Ida inflicted.

“I need some help fixing my place up.  I’m not asking for nothing.  I would like to get an SBA loan; I’d pay it back.  I’ d like to get my place back the way it was so I can make some money,” he told Gulf Seafood News. “Right now I am fixing a little bit at a time as I make a few dollars.  It’s looking like the $300,000 worth of damage will all have to come out of my pocket.”

What’s left of Bundy’s Seafood’s two large docks. Costs to repair will exceed $75,000. Photo: Ed Lallo/Gulf Seafood News

The Barataria Bay area resident admits he didn’t figure Ida would cause a great amount of damage.  “This is the worse we ever had.  It tore us to pieces,” he said. “I don’t have any docks left, my boat sheds are destroyed, my office complete gone and the equipment is messed up. We flirt with danger every day; we have to, it’s a battle”

Bundy, who sells the shrimp to Lafitte Frozen Foods, says restoring the docks so large boats will once again be able to tie up will be a costly affair. He has already spent more than $16,000 repairing a smaller 60-foot dock.Replacing the two larger docks will cost more than $75,000, money he doesn’t have at the moment. The top walkway of the docks is completely missing and new pilings will need to be sunk into the bayou because of rotting. “You couldn’t see the rotting before the storm with the tops on.  I’m not going to put brand new walkway boards on without replacing the pilings.”

No Insurance, No Income

He admits that insuring his business is not practical because the cost is ridiculous.

Bundy had more than a dozen boat sheds he rents to local fishermen and uses to support his income in the off winter months. Photo: Ed Lallo/Gulf Seafood News

Situated between his docks and LA Highway 46, which ends when it meets the water of the bay, Bundy had more than a dozen boat sheds he rents to local fishermen and uses to support his income in the off winter months.  He has allowed locals to scavenge the wood that once were the walls.

“I lost all my income for the winter and I can’t rebuild because I can’t get a loan. If I were able to rebuild the boat sheds tomorrow, every one would be rented immediately.  We can’t store boats in our yards anymore and Lafitte Harbor is the only other place where boats can be stored,” said the shrimp dock owner.

He says he can’t get a loan until the docks are up and running. He would to rebuild and expand the boat sheds, but no loan. “They want to see income.  I am in Catch-22.”

“I’ve been in business for years and years.   I have an SBA loan on other property and never missed a payment.  I don’t know why they wont loan me for my business. Small business should be able to get an SBA loan.  Or track record is good.  We have great credit.  They won’t even come and look at our place.”

Since the hurricane he has been driving a fix a forklift the storm left without brakes. He says he can’t afford the $4000 to fix them so he uses the emergency brake to stop. “I’ve been moving thousands of pounds of shrimp with the fork lift without those breaks. When working near the water you have to say a prayer your able to stop before going over, but right now I have no choice.”

Before Hurricane Ida large shrimp boats were able two unload at Grant Bundy’s two large docks. Photo: Ed Lallo/Gulf Seafood News

Bundy expressed the need to get the SBA off the fence and come see his operations.  “Come see the destruction down here so people like me can start to get our businesses back.  We are not trying to get it for free; we are going to pay it back. We need the money to restore our business.”

“Our fishermen shouldn’t be in the position of having to beg for money after every disaster,” said Ben Graham, who represents the state’s Finfish Task Force on the Louisiana Fishing Community Recovery Coalition.

Graham, who works in the commercial real estate business, explained that most businesses have “Business Interruption Insurance” or other more streamlined options to get access to federal aid.  He believes there should be a more permanent, clearly defined process in place where fisherman and other’s in the seafood industry can access federal and state recovery resources, possibly similar to the Federal Crop Insurance Program.

After the storm new boats were added to his business when another dock destroyed by Ida, Randy Nunez, shuttered his doors for good.  If he is unable to repair the larger docks before the inland season opens the more than 40 boats regularly selling to him will have to find other docks.  In addition, without his shrimp Lafitte Frozen Foods will have to find another supplier.

Talking with Go Fish’s Mike Robert, Bundy squats on the new small dock he was able to build for $15,000. Photo: Ed Lallo/Gulf Seafood News

The Bayou Barataria native says he is not alone in efforts to rebuild. “We had a lot of our boats flip over during the storm.  Fishermen are still trying to rebuild and get them ready for the season.”

He express his disappointment with the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries in not keeping the inland brown shrimp season open longer after the hurricane. Local fishermen lost two months of harvesting; he was hoping the State would have the compassion to keep it open longer so fishermen could earn a little money.  Ninety percent of his boats fish inshore waters.  “They could still open the season for another month or two. It would really help us out.”

He would like to see Wildlife and Fisheries be more responsible on season opening. He feels for the past few years’ openings have been too late and shrimp have left in bay for deeper waters.  He believes the season should open every year either the last week of April or first week in May.  In addition he would like the Coalition to lobby for crop insurance for fishermen, similar to that offered farmers across the country.

“We can’t make any money right now.  We can’t fix nothing until we start-making money.  We are limping it right now,” he admits.  “I used to have an office right here where we are standing.  It’s gone; we don’t know where it went.  We lost all our records, licenses and file cabinets.  Right now we are working out of what looks like an outhouse to make tickets.  We are going to have to build a whole new office.  It’s depressing, very depressing.”


Bundy’s dock is only one of two left in Jean Lafitte after Hurricane Ida. The other is operated by Paul Poon. Photo: Ed Lallo/Gulf Seafood News

As only one of two shrimp docks left on the bayou reopening is absolutely essential for the entire Bayou Barataia community.  Without his dock smaller boats would have few options to unload, one in Lafitte or Dean Blanchard’s on Grand Isle.  “The problem with unloading at Dean’s is that he has so many big boats.  Sometime you have to wait two days to unload, the smaller boats would run out of fuel waiting.

He wants his state legislators to come and see first hand what he is experiencing.

“We lost Randy Nunez’s dock. He was one of the first down here.  He opened in the 1950’s, now he is out of business. The question is why?  He was one of the biggest shrimp buyers down her and now he’s out.  If I go out, and he’s out, who are all these fishermen going to sell to?” he asks.  “I hope we get back. I hope someone helps us out to give us the money to rebuild.”

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