Romney, Jindal visit Isaac-flooded communities

CROWN POINT (AP) — Streets that looked like rivers greeted Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney, who Friday toured areas flooded by Hurricane Isaac with Republican Gov. Bobby Jindal.

The flooding, driven by Hurricane Isaac, was receding somewhat after isolating the area as the storm made landfall Tuesday.

President Barack Obama was expected to visit Louisiana on Monday.

Romney and Jindal, who has stumped for Romney’s candidacy, visited the Jean Lafitte-Crown Point area, where police told people not to drive because wakes caused by their vehicles were pushing water toward homes.

Crown Point, Jean Lafitte and other settlements that line the bay, which juts inland from the Gulf of Mexico, are accustomed to high water driven by hurricanes. But Isaac, a relatively weak storm compared to Betsy and Katrina, pushed in much more water than expected after it stalled after landfall.

Hanging from the elevated porch of one family’s home was a banner that read: “Where is our levee protection.”

The question of whether more levee protection is needed is a thorny one in this laid-back fishing community, where the water is the lifeblood of business and a way of life.

Many local residents like the free access to the bay and Gulf, and say levee and flood structures would change the balance of nature and the reason they live there.

Mike Townsend, 47, said he was happy the area was not included in levee plans despite the high water but wanted to hear what Romney had to say about approaches to protecting the area. “I like his business sense,” he said.

But he said a system of levees, floodgates and other structures would be devastating.

“We like to come and go freely. You can go for fish and crabs that come up from the Gulf,” he said, adding that levees and other structures could cut that off.

Michelle Chauncey, who lives in Barataria and owns a wholesale seafood business in nearby Westwego, La., said that freedom carries a double-edged sword.

She said the government spends so much money on emergency response when floods hit the area and then residents spend so much time cleaning up afterward that she sometimes wonders if the access is worth it.

“Do you know how much money this costs every time all of us flood?” she said. “If we could get a little help in the beginning and be proactive instead of reactive, then we wouldn’t have this situation.”

Chauncey relies on fishermen to supply her business and when storms or floods knock them out of commerce, there’s a crippling, ripple effect.

“If they can’t do their jobs, then we can’t do our jobs,” she said.

“I want everybody to be elevated,” she said. “I want people to feel like they can be safe and not have to start their lives over every five to seven years.”

As Romney’s entourage traveled the area, while emergency responders looked on as they delivered food and water to those stranded for days, Chauncey said, “I’m not impressed.”

Still, she said she was curious to hear what Romney and Obama have to say about their situation. She was unable to get close enough to Romney on Friday, but planned to watch news reports later to get the gist of his comments.

She said she heard Obama mention the area on television and announced his plans to visit the state on Labor Day.

“He’s handling it better than (President George W.) Bush did,” she said, recalling the aftermath of Katrina. “At least we’ve been acknowledged. Obama’s taking it seriously.”

Chauncey said she is a registered Democrat but “I don’t vote party lines. I vote on issues and I haven’t made up my mind yet.”

Townsend, however, said he’d rather see money go into restoring the eroding coast. “That’s where the money will be well spent,” he said.

Townsend is an air conditioning technician for the New Orleans school system. He’s a Republican — like many people in the GOP stronghold of Jefferson Parish where Romney could expect a friendly reception.

In nearby Lafitte, Richard Riley, 45, spent Friday morning walking about a mile from his flooded house to nearby Crown Point.

Riley rode out Isaac at the house, and though floodwater was receding, he decided it was time to leave.

At the Intracoastal Waterway Bridge, he was met by a Jefferson Parish sheriff’s rescue team that took him to a nearby location where family members were waiting.

Unlike Townsend, Riley — who also is a Republican — said he was in favor of building new flood protection for the Lafitte area, especially after Isaac brought in a surprising amount of water.

“It floods here a lot but this time there was a lot more water,” he said. “We need the levees. That’s the only way we can protect our homes.”

Riley also was pleased that Obama was going to visit.

“He needs to see the devastation and allocate the money that’s needed to build new levees or do whatever is needed to protect us,” he said.