Two U.S. coastal communities — Isle de Jean Charles, here in Louisiana, and Kivalina, 4,000 miles away in Alaska — are both preparing to move their entire populations to new locations.
Kivalina has lost nearly all its land to floods and erosion, as the Arctic climate has changed. Meanwhile, on the other side of the continent, Isle de Jean Charles is already practically underwater, after decades of oil and gas activities, subsidence, hurricanes, floods and other factors have destroyed the coast all around it.
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) will spend about $50 million to help the residents of Isle de Jean Charles relocate — part of a $92.6 million package HUD has recently announced it would send to Louisiana to help the state deal with “disaster resilience.”
“I’m very, very excited,” said Chief Albert Naquin, of Isle de Jean Charles’ Biloxi-Chitimacha-Choctaw community. “Our culture will stay intact…Maybe we can be the model community to teach others.”
And there will be others. Numerous coastal scientists and engineers have predicted that coastal towns all over Southern Louisiana will disappear into the Gulf of Mexico over the next 50 years.
The other roughly $40 million in the HUD award will go to Louisiana’s Strategic Adaptions for Future Environments Program (LA SAFE), which helps communities deal with land loss and flooding.
Residents of Kivalina are also hoping to get federal funding to help them move. President Obama’s budget request to Congress includes $400 million “to cover the unique circumstances confronting vulnerable Alaskan communities, including relocation expenses for Alaska Native villages threatened by rising seas, coastal erosion, and storm surges.”
That budget request faces stiff opposition in Congress.