Update – 1/09/19: The Louisiana Land Trust today purchased the land for the “resettlement” of the islanders. The land is 40 miles away from Ilse de Jean Charles– away from the rising coastal water that has devoured almost all of the island.
The next step, says Pat Forbes, CEO of the state Office of Community Development, will be the federally-funded construction of homes on the site: 515 land-locked acres of what used to be a sugar cane farm near Schriever, LA.
However, a press release announcing the land purchase promised that state officials “will not force anyone to leave the island, and will ensure that all residents make their own, independent decisions.” It’s unclear how many residents remain.
Isle de Jean Charles, LA – It’s almost the end for the few remaining homeowners on Isle de Jean Charles in Terrebonne Parish.
In what the state is calling a “first of its kind initiative,” federal funds will pay to move the entire community off the island.
The narrow strip of land was once 12 miles long and 5 miles wide. But it’s been washing away with the rising sea level, and now the island is less than 2 miles long and just a quarter-mile wide.
Today, the Louisiana Office of Community Development announced that the state is starting the process of buying a 515-acre tract of land near Schriever, about 40 miles north of the island. The price of the land is $11.7 million dollars, but the cost of resettling fewer than two dozen families is expected to be more than $48 million dollars– both costs paid by the federal government under the Department of Housing and Urban Development.
The land in Schriever, a former sugar cane farm, “is the site preferred by the majority of the residents… for their new community,” according to Office of Community Development Executive Director Pat Forbes. Groundbreaking is expected to begin early next year.
However, many residents have blamed the state, and the federal government, for building levees in areas along the Terrebonne coastline that aren’t intended to protect the island and often make its flooding worse.
The state blames “environmental changes” for a “98 percent land loss since 1955,” leaving no hope for residents who want to remain.
“This is not to say that they want to leave the island,” says Forbes, “but the island is, in effect, leaving them.”