Louisiana selects site for Isle De Jean Charles resettlement

Residents of the environmentally at-risk Isle de Jean Charles are a step closer to a resilient and historically contextual resettlement community. The Louisiana Office of Community Development is starting the process of purchasing a 515-acre tract of high ground near Schriever in northern Terrebonne Parish for $11.7 million.

This announcement of the purchase marks one of the most significant developments to date for the IDJC resettlement. The resettlement is a federally funded, first-of-its-kind initiative to move an entire community of residents from Isle de Jean Charles, which has experienced a 98 percent land loss since 1955 as the result of environmental changes.

“The Terrebonne Parish property is the site preferred by the majority of the residents of Isle de Jean Charles for their new community,” Pat Forbes, executive director of the Louisiana Office of Community Development, said. “This is not to say that they want to leave the island, but the island is, in effect, leaving them. Unfortunately, coastal Louisiana is experiencing subsidence, relative sea level rise and coastal land loss faster than anywhere in the country. Fortunately, we’re also on the leading edge of resilience-building approaches to adaptation, drawing on innovative science and technology right here in Louisiana.”

With the selection of the site, located about 40 miles north of Isle de Jean Charles, the resettlement now moves toward its development phase, with groundbreaking anticipated in early 2019.

“In collaboration with the Isle de Jean Charles residents and the planning team, we will design a new community with a range of housing, educational and training opportunities,” Mat Sanders, OCD resilience policy and program administrator, said. “Although we anticipate this resettlement will serve as a model for other coastal communities facing these same risks, we also know success depends on due consideration of the island’s history, as well as the needs of the residents.”

OCD has hosted four community meetings for current and former residents of Isle de Jean Charles to collaborate on the design of the new community. The discussions included site preferences, budget considerations and off-island housing made available to residents during the transition. In addition, a steering committee composed of residents and other stakeholders meets with the planning team on a monthly basis to review the resettlement’s progress.

The $48.3 million resettlement is administered by the Louisiana Office of Community Development as the recipient of the National Disaster Resilience Competition funded by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Keep abreast of developments at IsledeJeanCharles.la.gov, the official website of the Isle de Jean Charles resettlement project. View images and drone footage of the site here. OCD also maintains an Isle de Jean Charles social media presence that offers snack-able content on Facebook and Twitter.