Name: Sang Ho
Interview Date: April 5, 2017
GRN Partner Organization: Mary Queen of Vietnam Community Development Corporation (MQVNCDC)
Hometown: New Orleans, Louisiana
Everyday, Louisiana loses football fields of its coastal wetlands. Few know this as well as the fishermen whose work depends on the Gulf’s waters. They live with the knowledge that sea level rise, coastal erosion, and intensified storms threaten their homes and their way of life. In the Louisiana Coastal Master Plan, our state has proposed “nonstructural” options for responding to these threats, including resources for voluntary buyouts from their homes and assistance with floodproofing and elevation. According to the state of Louisiana, if an area would flood more than 14 feet during a 100 year storm event, that area is deemed an unsafe and not resilient community. The state calls these areas “Resettlement Zones.” To ensure that communities are prepared for the future and understand where predicted Resettlement Zones will be, Gulf Restoration Network (GRN) has created a series of maps.
Below is a summary of an interview with Sang Ho, a resident of New Orleans, Louisiana, on the implications of the state’s Coastal Master Plan on his home and livelihood. Ho was born and raised in Vietnam. In 1980, the United States government sponsored his immigration because of his military service in Vietnam. Ho has been a shrimper in the Gulf of Mexico for 32 years -- he launches his boat from anchor towns all along Louisiana’s coast, including Chalmette, Venice, Leeville, and Houma. Although Ho lives within the levee protection system, the Mississippi River diversions proposed in the “structural” section of the Coastal Master plan will directly affect the fisheries that allow him to make a living. This interview was completed with the assistance of Khai Nguyen, the Business Development Counselor at Mary Queen of Vietnam Community Development Corporation, one of GRN’s community partners. Because the interview questions and some of Ho’s answers had to be translated, the responses below quote both Ho and Nguyen.
How long have you lived in your house?
Ho: “26 years.”
How many times has your home flooded since you bought it?
Nguyen: “Just once during [Hurricane] Katrina.”
Ho: “2 foot [of water].”
Is your home elevated, and if so how high?
Ho: “Up three feet.”
Nguyen: “He was able to use FEMA funds [to elevate his house] and he didn’t need to pay any money. There was an elevation grant going around after Katrina.”
Have you heard about the Coastal Master Plan? If so, what have you heard?
Nguyen: “He found out about the [structural part of the Coastal] Master Plan at that meeting at CCC [Coastal Community Consulting]. His opinion is, it will totally impact the shrimp, oyster, and crab industries fully--100 percent. He’s talking about where the shrimp, crab, and oysters spawn. Those will be affected and if that happens then none of them would grow and it would greatly affect him. He was saying, all those areas [around Leeville and Venice are vulnerable], not just from the flooding from the Gulf, but if the diversions go in, all those areas will be affected for the shrimping, crabbing, and oyster industry.”
What do you wish the state was doing to educate you on your flood risk?
Ho: “Don’t worry.”
Nguyen: “He was saying he does get warnings on his phone for emergencies. But, I was trying to ask him more about long term things. So, at the moment, I was asking if he did know about the Master Plan before and he was saying ‘Yeah, just from word of mouth from people who were more informed.’ So, I don’t know. ”
Ho: “American number one [and] don’t worry. American don’t worry. American number one on the top on the world. American number one, you know? They don’t worry about it.”
Did you know that if your home would flood more than 14 feet during a 100 year storm event, the state is not planning to provide resources for elevation and is recommending that you move? What do you think about that?
Nguyen: “He said it depends on where it is. It depends on the base flood level. The reason he raised his house to three feet was because the flood level was two feet. He understands that there are different areas, but this area [New Orleans East] is not in the Resettlement Zone right now. But this is the 50 year projections [we’re talking about and they include Venetian Isles]. So, I was just telling him that is in 50 years potentially.”
If the state provided money to elevate or to buy your home, would you move? Would you ever consider moving, say if they moved your neighbors or family as well?
Ho: “Move? Yeah.”
Nguyen: “He said he’ll be gone in 50 years anyway.”
Ho: “Ten years later [I’ll be gone]. Now I’m 65 years old already. [I have] about five children.”
Nguyen: “He said some of them moved out.”
Ho: “Three did. And right here two son live with me. [They would all] move, yeah.”
Nguyen: “He said whoever wants to go.”
Ho: “American freedom. American freedom--who want leaving, leaving. Who want move, move. Who want stay, stay. Don’t worry about it. American freedom.”
This blog is part of a series amplifying voices from communities in coastal Louisiana. Like many other residents in southern Louisiana, Sang Ho’s livelihood is dependent upon the existence and health of the coast. The state of Louisiana must work closely with communities as it begins to implement both the structural and nonstructural portions of the Coastal Master Plan. It must find the best methods to protect them while taking into account their concerns and priorities.
In collaboration with local, regional and national organizations, GRN submitted comments to the Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority on the 2017 Coastal Master Plan with suggestions on how to improve the nonstructural aspect of the plan so that it prioritizes the communities most at risk. GRN will continue to work with coastal residents as well as our community and conservation partners to share knowledge about the coastal crisis and advocate to make sure the state provides coastal communities with the information, tools and resources that they need to survive.