- Associated Press - Saturday, April 10, 2021

ISLE DE JEAN CHARLES, La. (AP) - Isle de Jean Charles residents got to see their future homes for the first time Wednesday.

Nine of the residents who are leaving the eroding and sinking island in southern Terrebonne toured their new homes in the The New Isle subdivision on Bayou Blue Bypass Road, where Gray meets Schriever.

The state received $48.3 million to resettle current and former residents, with $11.7 million used to purchase the 515-acre property, on higher ground about 40 miles north of the island.

The plan calls for current island residents or those who moved away after Hurricane Isaac in 2012 to have houses built for them using the grant money. Those who lived on the island but moved away before Isaac will get lots on which they can build their own homes.

Isle de Jean Charles once encompassed more than 22,000 acres but has dwindled to 320 acres as Gulf of Mexico storms, erosion and rising seas have taken a toll.

Pat Forbes, executive director of Louisiana’s Office of Community Development, said the new subdivision was built with community input. He said it is the first project of its kind for resettling an entire community due to climate change.

“I wish we didn’t have to do this. I’m glad that we can,” Forbes said.

The subdivision will include two bayous running through the property, along with wetlands, walking trails, a pasture, a market center, festival grounds and a community center. The state expects those features to generate revenue to help sustain the new community financially.

So far, 37 of the island’s 42 households have decided to move to The New Isle, with one choosing to resettle independently by purchasing a Louisiana home in a non-flood zone with the state’s assistance. That accounts for more than 90% of the remaining permanent island residents. Relocated residents are able to retain ownership of their property on the island.


Isle de Jean Charles resident Simon Naquin, among those who toured the subdivision Wednesday, said he has mixed feelings about the future move.

“It will be very surreal. It won’t compare to the home I got on the island,” Naquin said, “It’s a sad and happy day. When I move my mom who’s passed won’t be here as well.”

Another resident, Chris Brunet, visited with his nephew and niece Howard and Juliette Brunet. Their journey has been documented in the short film “Lowland Kids.” For the Brunet family, the decision to relocate wasn’t something they wanted but a choice they had to make.

Howard Brunet brings up the discrepancy in improvements on Isle de Jean Charles now that residents are leaving.

“It’s sad to see investments turning the island into an attraction,” he said. “The place is being turned into something else, like fishing for sport with the new piers built that don’t help the residents.”

Howard Brunet said he can’t quite see the vision yet for the new subdivision and all of its planned amenities. Currently, the land has cracked, dry soil with the blue Chevron warehouse looming in the distance from the Brunet family’s plot of land.


The subdivision is in Phase 1 of construction. Drainage, streetlights and grading and shaping of the lots are expected to be completed this summer, said Chris Pulaski, Terrebonne Parish government’s director of Planning and Zoning. Phase 2 will then begin residential development, with residents moving in as early as this fall and all houses completed by spring next year.

Chris Brunet said he didn’t expect to see this happen in his lifetime.

“As an individual, I’m still so home-rooted to Isle de Jean Charles. I’m taking it one step at a time. It’s cautious excitement,” Brunet said. “It’s not a celebration; it’s a response to what’s going on. It’s not something we wanted but a decision had to be made. We’re expected to move before the end of the year, but if it’s not ready, I have no problem with still staying on the island. They can take their time.”

His niece Juliette feels similarly.

“Nobody really wants to leave home,” she said.

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