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Latest Gulf Storm Brings Tough Choices for Residents of Disappearing Isle de Jean Charles

Latest Gulf Storm Brings Tough Choices for Residents of Disappearing Isle de Jean Charles

Resident returns home amid floodwaters on Isle de Jean Charles in Louisiana

While most of Louisiana was spared Barry’s wrath last week, Isle de Jean Charles, a quickly eroding strip of land among coastal wetlands in the Gulf of Mexico, was not. A storm surge swept over the island, about 80 miles southwest of New Orleans, early in the morning on July 13 before Barry was upgraded from a tropical storm to a category 1 hurricane.

On July 15, I met with Albert Naquin, Chief of the Isle de Jean Charles Biloxi-Chitimacha-Choctaw Tribe (IDJC) and Wenceslaus Billiot Jr., the Tribe’s deputy chief, to travel to the island and assess the damages. That afternoon, we made our way through the receding waters that still covered Island Road, the only route connecting the island to the mainland. Days after the storm, some parts of the road on the island were still submerged in three feet of water.

Chief Albert Naquin near dead fish in floodwaters and a truck on the Isle de Jean Charles

Albert Naquin, Chief of the Isle de Jean Charles Biloxi-Chitimacha-Choctaw Tribe (IDJC), on the island standing near dead fish in the floodwaters.

Fishing camps and homes damaged amid floodwaters on the Isle de Jean Charles after Tropical Storm Barry

Fishing camps and permanent residences on the island were difficult to access on July 15, due to remaining floodwater following Barry’s storm surge.

The Isle de Jean Charles received worldwide attention in 2016, when the IDJC Tribe helped the State of Louisiana secure a $48 million federal grant to resettle the disappearing island’s residents.

The resettlement project drew considerable notice from both the media and those looking for models to relocate other coastal communities due to sea level rise quickened by climate change. Years later, however, the Tribe can point toward little progress in permanently relocating the less than 20 families remaining on the island — most of which belong to the IDJC Tribe.

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