HUD competition and grant award
On January 21, 2016 the U.S. Department of HUD announced the winners of its $1 Billion National Disaster Resilience Competition. The State of Louisiana and The City of New Orleans combined to receive over $233 Million.
Of the $233 million, $48 million was awarded to the Isle de Jean Charles Band of Biloxi-Chitimacha-Choctaw Indians to build a 100,000 square-foot Tribal Cultural Center and construct 100 solar powered homes in nearby Schriever. The community center will include a health clinic serving the surrounding area, a food market, and retail stores for locally produced products. The grant appears to be over $2 million per household as there are only 25 homes on the island that qualify.
The tribe's ancestors moved to Isle de Jean Charles in the 1830s to avoid relocation under of the Indian Removal Act. Since the 1930s, oil and gas dredging for pipeline and offshore access has resulted in approximately 10,000 miles of canals. The canals allow salt water to be pushed into the marsh during storms which kills the sawgrass. Almost 95% of the 22,000 original marsh acres are now classified as open water.
Originally the canals were to have been filled. However coastal restoration measures have not been started as congress refuses to allow states to keep most of the offshore tax revenue. The Gulf of Mexico Energy Security Act of 2006 was passed by Congress to generate $500 Million per year starting in 2017 for Louisiana coastal restoration by allocating 37.5% of Federal Tax revenue from outer continental shelf leases. The Act would have also generated funds for all states with offshore oil and gas revenue.
In February 2015, President Obama proposed that plan be scrapped. While there is no federal funds to fill the canals, which is the true cause of the disappearing land, funds were made available to create the "First Official Climate Refugees" as more than a dozen media sources and Secretary Kerry have titled the relocation.
Secretary Kerry reports the tribal cultural center grant as 1st climate change refugees
Reporting of the HUD grant quickly morphed. The Weather Network, wrote: “Tribe declared 1st Official Climate Refugees in U.S.” By June 2016, more than 40 articles had been written on the HUD grant. Eleven more national publications such as Bloomberg, National Geographic, NPR, the New York Times, and The Weather Channel placed in their titles “The 1st Official Climate Refugees” despite a quote by Louisiana State Official Patrick Forbes that Federal Officials did not consider the tribe to be refugees.
Second island tribe overlooked
At the end of Island Road is Isle de Jean Charles Marina, owned and operated by Theo Chaisson, a Houma Indian. Chaisson owns a dozen camps around the Marina, rented to families who spend the weekend fishing. The Houma Tribe is not part of the grant.
AWE News reported others use the marina to maintain their culture with weekend bar-b-ques, Cajun Zydeco music, and dancing. One of the guests claimed Isle de Jean Charles to be “paradise.” Most have been in the area for generations, working in oil & gas industry, proud of the schools, and enjoying the iconic marsh waters. They plan to stay and want coastal restoration. They believe the media and politicians have misrepresented the situation as "Rising Seas" and suggest the island be used to implement coastal restoration.