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Climate change forces an entire Louisiana town to move
Eli Dile   on Tuesday, March 27, 2018 at 12:00:00 am

Economic pressures, such as the decline of a traditional industry, often compel residents to leave their home towns. Now, global warming is having the same effect.

The Isle de Jean Charles is a tiny bayou town in one of the southernmost stretches of marshy Louisiana (Times-Picayune). Over generations, the community of primarily Biloxi-Chitimacha-Choctaw Indians learned to subsist in a place that’s more water than land. But as climate change forces Louisiana to cede more land to the ocean, it became clear that island residents were waging a losing battle.

In response, residents are being relocated farther inland to more solid ground. After assessing 16 sites, the Louisiana Office of Community Development purchased a 515-acre sugar farm 40 miles north in Terrebonne Parish for $11.7 million. This money comes from $48 million allocated from the first-ever relocation grant under the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. The land will be developed in line with the community’s preference for low-density, single-family homes, and additional property will be set aside for economic development purposes.

Two years ago, it was estimated just 65 to 100 people remained on the island (Yale Environment 360). Many have already left, staying in nearby Houma in apartments covered by HUD until their new homes are finished in 2019. But Isle de Jean Charles is just the beginning; many more displaced southern Louisianans may settle in the new planned community, whose population could one day reach 300.

Moving an entire city is not without precedent. Kiruna, a mining city of 18,000 in northern Sweden, is in the process of relocating two miles away to New Kiruna (CNN). A new city hall, administrative buildings, and 3,000 homes are under construction; 21 historic homes will be picked up and transported by truck as well.

Kiruna sits on Europe’s largest iron ore mine, and cracks in the Earth began showing up underneath several buildings. Rather than shutter the mine, the largest source of employment for Kiruna, the state-owned mining company made a deal to buy out residents’ homes at a total cost of $1 billion.

Image: Karen Apricot / CC BY-SA 2.0

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