The State’s expressed purpose for the project is to provide all Isle de Jean Charles residents options for resettling in a location that is suitable to their economic and cultural values through a process that accommodates the resettled population as well as their new neighbors.
Initially, the state was approached by representatives of the BCC tribe expressing interest in pursuing this grant as a means to support resettlement efforts that had failed in the past. The understanding at that time was that the island population was comprised exclusively of BCC tribe members. Upon performing their due diligence, the state learned that Isle de Jean Charles is home to a much more diverse population, inclusive of United Houma Nation tribe members and others with no tribal affiliation. The intended beneficiaries of the state’s resettlement program are current permanent residents of the island and former island households that were displaced from the island since August 28, 2012 (Hurricane Isaac)—regardless of which tribe they may identify with, or whether they identify with any tribe at all. It is important to note that no one will be forced to leave the island as a result of the resettlement project. The residents will decide for themselves whether to participate or not.
The goals of the Isle de Jean Charles Resettlement project include—
Allow island residents to move out of harm’s way to safe, new homes in a community that provides an improved quality of life.
Collaborate with current and past island residents on the design of the new community.
Ensure that the community is economically sustainable in its new location.
Facilitate preservation and continuity of islanders’ diverse cultural identities and traditions.
Establish a model of successful relocation that can be replicated elsewhere.
Complete relocation process as efficiently as possible.
Phase I of the resettlement project, Initial Outreach and Assessment, took place from June, 2016 through July, 2017. This phase included initial outreach to and engagement of island residents as well as a preliminary land use and infrastructure survey of the island.
During this initial outreach and engagement phase, the island was surveyed household by household. The survey results showed that in addition to the BCC tribe members, there are also other Native Americans—members of the United Houma Nation—and non-Native Americans currently residing on the island.[i] The team’s interactions with residents provided insight into residents’ priorities and revealed additional complexities that will have to be addressed during the planning and implementation phases. The team learned that residents value things such as privacy, seclusion, access to water, safety, flood protection, continued access to the island, and maintaining and strengthening their cultural identities. However, values vary widely from individual to individual – there is no single set of values and priorities that is shared by all island residents.
The team also learned that residents have a number of concerns, including how new houses will be allocated in the new community; who will own the land in both the new community and the island; ADA accommodations; financial requirements associated with obtaining a house in the new community; availability of options for those who wish to relocate but do not wish to join the new community; and succession issues.
In July, 2017, the state released an RFP and a consultant team led by CSRS, Inc. was selected for Phase II, Master Planning. During the Master Planning phase, the consultant team will work closely with current and former island residents to advance conceptual planning, design and programming for the new Isle de Jean Charles community, including plans for a structured retreat from the island. Residents will be engaged to develop their vision for housing and infrastructure design and the team will work with them to initiate real estate transactions, establish economic development goals, and outline community activities
The Office of Community Development has engaged the START agency to help residents into transitional housing during this phase. All island residents who meet the criteria for the program are eligible for transitional housing to meet their housing needs while they are waiting for the new site to be completed. Individuals and families who moved away from the island after Isaac and are now experiencing a housing crisis are also eligible.
A steering committee comprised of representatives from various sectors of the island community as well as tribal representatives from B-C-C and United Houma Nation has been created to inform the phase II planning process and serve as an advisory board and liaison between the State and residents. The steering committee intends to meet monthly throughout the resettlement process.
Phase III is the execution phase, when OCD-DRU will implement the design work created during Phase II. Phase III will consist of completing the real estate transaction, acquiring permitting, laying infrastructure, constructing housing, initiating business development, launching workforce training programs and moving residents into the new community.