Silverleaf neighborhood in Gonzales returned to wetlands, state hopes to expand program

Silverleaf neighborhood in Gonzales returned to wetlands, state hopes to expand program
Published: Nov. 29, 2021 at 6:39 PM CST

GONZALES, La. (WAFB) - It took one year for nearly all traces of the Silverleaf neighborhood in Gonzales to be removed.

The neighborhood was a sort of guinea pig for the USDA’s Emergency Watershed Protection Program, Silverleaf was the first community to be reverted to its natural state, a watershed.

The program required all homeowners to sell their homes at market value and move out of a floodplain. The process of buying homes started in 2017 and finished in 2020. Over the course of 2020 and 2021, the neighborhood was wiped from the map.

“I actually think it is the model we need to be using and quite frankly expanding into some urban areas because we have some communities in South Louisiana that have, we’ve had homes in South Louisiana that have flooded over 40 times and they just continue to get these flood insurance checks. That doesn’t make sense,” said Rep. Garrett Graves. “You either have to protect these homes or you have to buy them out.”

In total, 41 homes were demolished, making way for 2,800 trees.

Pat Forbes, the Executive Director of Louisiana’s Office of Community Development, said there are plans to expand the program to seven communities across the state, including to a neighborhood near Centerville Street and River Road in Denham Springs.

Congress has allocated $275 million to expand the program. That money goes nationwide but only several states qualify for the program, one being Louisiana.

If expanded, it means that land will never be allowed to be built on again, per USDA requirements.

At this time, no timeline was given for when properties will be obtained for future projects.

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