DES ALLEMANDS, La. - Vaniess Dufrene used to raise pigs on the island near his home, but the ground slowly sank into Bayou Des Allemands.
Now work is under way to better protect the land on the eastern edge of Lafourche Parish. A federal grant is funding a $3.6 million bulkhead to replace the crumbling wood. Loads of sheet pile start arriving Wednesday, and crews will drive the metal more than 40 feet down into the earth.
"For tropical storms or hurricanes, this area could be subject to flooding," said Lafourche Parish Public Works Director Don Edwards. "This bulkhead will protect it from those types of events."
The bulkhead is one of several multi-million dollar projects going on across Lafourche Parish to better protect the area against storm surge. That's why it's so important that it counts in the eyes of FEMA.
Some rate hikes under the revamped National Flood Insurance Program were set to take effect Tuesday. Lafourche Parish is still challenging its base flood elevation maps, and FEMA officials visited the area a couple of weeks ago.
Lafourche is part of the pilot program that gives credit for non-federal levees, natural ridges and other features that could reduce storm surge.
"We had a good meeting with them," said Edwards. "Yes, I do think that they're listening and I get the feeling that we're all going to work towards a common goal of coming up with a reasonable solution here."
If that solution isn't reached, Dufrene plans to drop his flood insurance. His home is paid off.
"If they're going to be stupid, I'll be stupid too and cancel mine," he said. "I mean, what you can do?"
He said some of his neighbors don't have that luxury. Like the little island, they too could slowly disappear.