In Louisiana Fishing Village, The Floods Keep Rising And The Land Keeps Sinking

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Harris Cheramie owns the Leeville Seafood restaurant. He says routine flooding and a downturn in the oil and gas industry have hurt his business. (Peter O'Dowd/Here & Now)
Harris Cheramie owns the Leeville Seafood restaurant. He says routine flooding and a downturn in the oil and gas industry have hurt his business. (Peter O'Dowd/Here & Now)

Louisiana lawmakers have given a green light to a 50-year, $50 billion coastal restoration plan, a day after President Trump pulled the U.S. out of the Paris climate accord.

State officials say routine flooding from rising seas and eroding coastlines could make everyday life in some places impossible in the coming decades.

As our series from the Louisiana coast continues, Here & Now's Peter O'Dowd checks in with restaurant owner Harris Cheramie, who has seen his business — and the little fishing village of Leeville — change drastically.

Interview Highlights

On his community and how he has seen it change

"I've been here all my life, and I enjoy it. I would not move to anywhere else. I like the atmosphere and the marsh... The land was high — had a lot of marsh. Now, right now they built the new bridge... and as you ride the bridge, you can see the marsh, that none — strictly water. Twenty-five years ago that was just strictly marsh. There was no water. The only thing we had was the blow-up — we used to go where a rig blew up, and made a hole. It was this big sink hole, but you couldn't get through it by water. You had to walk to the place. Now it's strictly water. You gotta go by boat. It starts from the highway and goes miles and miles to the east."

On how Leeville is both sinking and flooding

"Our town of Leeville is sinking a half an inch a year. The wind is stronger, the tides are stronger, the pass is a lot wider and a lot deeper, so it provides a bigger volume of water to come in. I often have 2, 3 feet of water in my parking lot... Recently, three weeks ago I had water all the way up to our porch here on the restaurant... We've been here 20, going on 21st year, but it has started over the last year and a half, two years.

"But that's not the major problem. The major problem is the subsiding of our land. When I was growing up — 10, 12 years old — in order to get to the water to the boats you had to go down. You had to carve steps. Now it's even. They took out so much oil in Leeville... and Golden Meadow, that it all produced a cavity. It's like a balloon full of water. You take the water out, you'll have an empty cavity and it's going to fall, and that's what's happening now... People are not going to come to the restaurant with a foot of water, much less 3 feet of water. It kills our business."

On how the dropping price of oil is affecting his business

"Let me take the example: I usually keep count [of customers] on weekends. Fridays: 130 to 150. Friday nights, Saturday night, the same thing. This year, all year long, we hit 100 one time. Nothing ideal, it looks like it's a pretty good night. We might serve 40 people, but we usually serve 60-70 people for a weeknight. Now, since the oil prices dropped, people are losing their homes, they're losing their boats. In fact, last week, a company let go 17 people. A company that we've been feeding for 10 years, and they had to cut it out, 'cause it was costing them too much, and they let go 17 employees."

This article was originally published on June 02, 2017.

This segment aired on June 2, 2017.

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Peter O'Dowd Senior Editor, Here & Now
Peter O’Dowd has a hand in most parts of Here & Now — producing and overseeing segments, reporting stories and occasionally filling in as host. He came to Boston from KJZZ in Phoenix.



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