Braithwaite community recovery continues one year after Hurricane Isaac

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POSTED: Wednesday, August 28, 2013 - 10:08pm

UPDATED: Thursday, August 29, 2013 - 6:12pm

People living in the Braithwaite area of Plaquemines Parish are still picking up the pieces after Hurricane Isaac sent a wall of water into their homes last year.

Homeowner Jesse Shaffer III says many families don't feel safe coming back home. He wants to see the federal government step in and create better protection for his community.

"This time last year I was living in this house. This time this year it's destroyed," Shaffer described.

Shaffer lived in Braithwaite Park neighborhood. He said it used to be full of life.

Now boarded windows, storm debris, and overgrown grass serve as a daily reminder of the devastation Hurricane Isaac left behind.

"This community is dead gone. The federal government isn't going to do anything," Shaffer said.

Shaffer and his son helped rescue 120 people from the floodwater during the storm, but there was nothing they could do to save their own home.

"For Katrina we had water to the ceiling and I put everything in my attic for Isaac, and we got five foot of water in the attic this time,” He described. “We got five foot more [water] than we did during Katrina."

Now his home sits gutted and empty.

There are 75 homes in his neighborhood. Shaffer explained so far only one person moved back.
Shaffer moved his family to neighboring St. Bernard Parish.

"Well everything would be perfect if i could get a levee. We would come back in a second, but we just can't because the insurance is going to kill you," He stated.

Plaquemines Parish President Billy Nungesser said the parish is trying to help upgrade the levees between Braithwaite and White Ditch.

“Plaquemines Parish bonded out $35 million in building a levee to the federal standards even, though it's a parish levee, to a twelve foot elevation,” Nungesser stated. “The plan is to keep raising that until it's the same height as the federal levees in St. Bernard. Unfortunately we needed four to five years without a storm to get to that level, and obviously we didn't get that with Isaac.”

"It [the levee] was 8 foot at the time when the storm come. They are going to 12, but the water came over 8 to 10 foot over the top,” Shaffer said. “We need something 18 to 20 feet tall just like the concrete wall behind us back here."

He want's to see the levees around Braithwaite get added to the federal levee protection system.

"We are a community just like they are and we would like to keep even though we have a few more threats than they might have but if we could get the right levee system and all that we wouldn't have that threat and this would kind of be over."

The 18 mile stretch of levee from White Ditch to the parish line on the Eastbank of Plaquemines Parish falls outside the federal levee protection.

“We do have $2 billion in federal levee work going on in the parish,” Nungesser said. “Unfortunately that small section of land on the Eastbank was left out, and that's going to be a fight we are going to have to continue for many years.”


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