Braithwaite Park residents confused about future - FOX 8 WVUE New Orleans News, Weather, Sports

Braithwaite Park residents confused about future, one year after Isaac

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Homes are flooded as Hurricane Isaac hits Wednesday, Aug. 29, 2012, in Braithwaite, La. As Isaac made landfall, it was expected to dump as much as 20 inches of rain in several parts of Louisiana. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip) Homes are flooded as Hurricane Isaac hits Wednesday, Aug. 29, 2012, in Braithwaite, La. As Isaac made landfall, it was expected to dump as much as 20 inches of rain in several parts of Louisiana. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
Braithwaite, La. -

In Braithwaite Park, the floodwaters are long gone but uncertainty about the future remains.

Only one resident out of 75 here has rebuilt. The others say it's too risky. The voices are unanimous. Residents say before Hurricane Isaac, Braithwaite Park was a quiet oasis.

"Just a little piece of heaven, it truly is," said Elaine Legaux, who owned four pieces of property there.

But Isaac turned heaven into something else. The storm killed two people. Now one year later, over 75 large, brick homes sit gutted and scarred from a 21-foot storm surge, and all but one are empty.

Most would come back, if they could.

"This was the best place we lived out of the five we lived in our whole life," said Roy Legaux as he toured his gutted home.

But there's too much uncertainty.

Ken Juneau said, "I got neighbors who haven't received anything, and they're having to carry flood [insurance] because they're having to carry a mortgage."

One year after Isaac, these residents are still in limbo.  They've been given partial insurance payments, and promises of buyouts that haven't materialized.

"I know people are very frustrated, as I am," said parish President Billy Nungesser.

The state allocated $8 million to a buyout program and there wasn't enough money to go around. Now, it is offering homeowners $150,000 a piece to mitigate future storm impacts.

Nungesser admits many residents might have to come up with a lot of their own money to get the job done.

"You gotta raise these houses 21 feet in the air. People want $250,000 to do that job. You do better tearing them down and driving pilings," said homeowner Russell Gelvin.

Then there are concerns about long-term state plans to divert the river for coastal protection. "The diversions gonna go through here in five years... why prolong the inevitable?" said Gelvin.

Nungesser says that diversion might not happen, and he says he's hoping that BP money will finance better levees and new berms to absorb storm surge. He said, "If we get a sizable settlement with BP, that's the one levee we need to work on."

Ironically, most of the Braithwaite victims now live inside St. Bernard floodwalls that are blamed for their flooding. And though they loved the life they used to know, they say there are too many variables to rebuild.

"Nothing would make you want to come back unless you were protected," said Legaux.

And they need more than assurances.

While Braithwaite remains surrounded by uncertainty, the parish president says improvements are being made in other parts of the parish.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is in the middle of a $2 billion project to improve levees on the west bank, but those improvements do not include Braithwaite.

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