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Environment

How to Save a Town From Rising Waters

Louisiana’s Isle de Jean Charles Resettlement Project is the only government-funded climate relocation in the country—and a test case for more to come.
An abandoned home in Isle de Jean Charles, Louisiana, where the population has dwindled to 99 people.
An abandoned home in Isle de Jean Charles, Louisiana, where the population has dwindled to 99 people. Michael Isaac Stein

The only land route that connects Isle de Jean Charles, Louisiana, to the rest of the continental United States is Island Road, a thin, four-mile stretch of pavement that lies inches above sea level and immediately drops off into open water on either side. Even on a calm day, salt water laps over the road’s tenuous boundaries and splashes the concrete.

The road wasn’t so exposed when it was built in 1956. Residents could walk through the thick marsh that surrounded the road to hunt and trap. But over the coming decades, the landscape transformed.