FILE - Terrebonne Parish Louisiana

Island Road in Terrebonne Parish Louisiana. This road crosses through Pointe Aux Chenes Wildlife Management Area.

The Louisiana Land Trust is buying 515 acres of farmland in Terrebonne Parish to voluntarily resettle residents of an island community threatened by coastal land loss and flood risk, the state Office of Community Development announced Wednesday.

The $11.7 million purchase, funded by federal Community Development Block Grant disaster recovery dollars, will help to provide a potential new home for current and former residents of Isle de Jean Charles, according to the community development office.

“Today marks an important milestone, as we are one step closer to assisting those residents interested in moving out of harm’s way and into a new community that will provide an improved quality of life,” Pat Forbes, executive director of the Office of Community Development, said in a prepared statement. “We look forward to building the community, improving economic opportunities for its residents, facilitating preservation and revitalization of the islanders’ diverse cultural identities and traditions, and establishing a model of successful resettlement that can be replicated elsewhere.”

Isle de Jean Charles in lower Terrebonne Parish is connected to the mainland by a single two-lane road that regularly floods. It has lost 98 percent of its land since 1955, state officials say. The new site is about 40 miles north.

Resettlement will first be offered to people who currently live on the island and those who have been displaced since Hurricane Isaac’s landfall in 2012, then to those who left prior to Isaac. Participation is voluntary, and the application process will begin early this year.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development has provided a total of $48.3 million for the project, described as a “first-of-its-kind initiative” by the state OCD. Officials plan to release a master plan for the new community in the coming months and expect to break ground late this year.

Isle de Jean Charles residents are mostly Native Americans, the OCD says, and the new community will reflect their culture and history. Homes will be built above the 500-year floodplain and will comply with the requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

More information can be found at IsleDeJeanCharles.la.gov.

Staff Reporter

David Jacobs is a Baton Rouge-based award-winning journalist who has written about government, politics, business and culture in Louisiana for almost 15 years. He joined The Center Square in 2018.