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EXCLUSIVE: Louisiana First To Purchase Land To Resettle Community Impacted By Climate Change

The Louisiana government is set to purchase 515 acres of farmland that will become the new home for the first climate change-induced community resettlement project in U.S. history.

Flooding in Isle de Jean Charles, Louisiana, after Hurricane Gustav in 2007

The state will buy the land for $11.7M, according to Louisiana Office of Community Development Communications Director Marvin McGraw, to resettle the residents of Isle de Jean Charles.

The island community has received global attention focused on how other cities can address coastal flooding. Somewhere between 50 million and 200 million people could be forced to move out of flood-prone areas by 2050 due to climate change, according to the New York Times.

The state received a $48M grant, the first of its kind, in January 2016 to move the community 40 miles inland into a future mixed-use development between Thibodaux and Houma, Louisiana. Under the agreement, funds for the program will need to be spent by 2022.

The land purchase agreement includes a 210-day option for $150K, which the state can extend twice for 90 days each at a cost of $25K per extension, McGraw said. The resettlement will affect 60 people who live on the island, most of whom belong to the Biloxi-Chitimacha-Choctaw tribe of Native Americans.

Aerial shot of the 515 acres purchased by Louisiana as part of the resettlement of the Isle de Jean Charles

The state also created Louisiana’s Strategic Adaptations for Future Environments to address the state’s current and future flood risks, according to LA SAFE Project Lead Mathew Sanders. 

The state is looking into ways to adapt its other coastal communities, especially areas tied to immovable industries such as oil and gas and fisheries, Sanders said. Every parish in Louisiana has had some kind of major flood disaster in the last 13 years, he said.

The impacts of hurricanes Katrina and Rita led the state to invest and model out surge-flood events to provide a better understanding of flood risks. Sanders said the techniques established in Louisiana as part of the resettlement and the LA SAFE program are applicable around the world.

“We understand, just from human development patterns formed around the world, that a lot of those cities are in coastal environments,” Sanders said. “Everybody is going to have to contemplate future flood risks.”