Planning, Community Engagement
In 2016, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development awarded the State of Louisiana $92.6 million to implement two coastal resilience-building projects. One of those projects, awarded $48.3 million, is the resettlement of Isle de Jean Charles. The administer of this grant, the Louisiana Division of Administration’s Office of Community Development, Disaster Recovery Unit (OCD-DRU), brought in Concordia to lead the engagement aspect of the initial information gathering phase of the project. We collaborated with CB&I, who were responsible for physical assessment and land use analysis.
Isle de Jean Charles is a small Island in the southernmost fringe of southern Terrebonne Parish. It has lost the majority of its land mass over the past century due to coastal land loss in southeastern Louisiana. Older Island residents remember marshlands as far as they could see, full of animals and wildlife. Water now surrounds the small strip of land, which is buffered by small levees to keep homes from flooding at high tide. Most residents have elevated their homes, but some have not. Over the past half-century, many people have left the Island. By some accounts, the Island once had between 60 and 80 primary residences. Today, that number is 26. Current and past residents have struggled against stronger storms, more frequent and damaging floods, the loss of wetlands and wildlife around the Island, and damage to their homes. Many former residents have left the Island over the past half century, largely due to hurricane or flood damage and impeded access to work and school due to regular flooding on Island Road. Many of these former residents and family now live in southern Terrebonne Parish. Many of those who remained have elevated their homes to protect them from future floods, but most know that the Island is disappearing.
Over the course of four months, we engaged with Island residents through two meetings and several door-to-door surveys and conversations, to understand their opinions and desires related to resettlement moving forward. Residents have heard rumors about resettlement for years, and many have differing and often inaccurate impressions of what this process will entail. As this phase of work proceeded, several residents became more open to the idea of resettlement, and more trusting of the project team and process. Because there have been failed attempts at resettlement in the past, some residents are still skeptical that the project will happen as planned. Concordia Architecture Firm prepared the final report, combining the analysis work done by CB&I with resident information and preferences. The content in this report is meant to orient potential master planning teams to the perspectives and preferences held by Island residents with regard to the resettlement. Honoring resident vision will be crucial to participation and success for the IDJC Resettlement Project.