Coastal Louisiana has lost 1,900 square miles of land — an area the size of Delaware — in the last century.
Sinking land, rising seas and an increased storm surge have all contributed to coastal erosion in the bayou. Decades of construction on oil and gas canals have also played a role.
Perhaps no place has felt that devastation more than the island of Isle de Jean Charles, which has historically been a home for the Biloxi-Chitimacha-Choctaw tribe. In the last 60 years, the community has lost 98 percent of their island. Now, frequent flooding and storms are making the island uninhabitable as the island’s vegetation continues to disappear.
The PBS NewsHour first reported on how the community was handling the changes in 2012. Now, the community will receive a federal grant to completely relocate to a new piece of land. The Department of Housing and Urban Development will grant Isle de Jean Charles $48 million as part of its “National Disaster Resilience Competition” program, which is allocating $1 billion to various communities to help cope with the effects of climate change. This grant marks the first allocation of federal tax dollars to move an entire community in response to the impact of climate change. Other coastal communities adjacent to the isle are also feeling similar impacts and are keeping a close watch on their neighbors’ relocation as a model for when they need to move.
Several community members on and around the isle spoke with the PBS NewsHour about the importance of the land, how it has changed recently and how the erosion has affected their lives. See some of their stories below, and for more, watch the full story from PBS NewsHour Weekend.