The community, known as Canadaville because it was built by Canadian industrialist Frank Stonach, once had about 200 residents but the number was less than 30 before the high water sent people packing.
The development, formerly named Magnaville because Stonach heads auto parts maker Magna International, sits on about 900 acres.
Katrina refugees could llive in one of 50 modular homes rent-free for five years if they passed a background check and abided by rules.
The rules included they must work or go to school, they must volunteer several hours a week to the community, they must participate in the government of the community and they must not use drugs.
Additionally, Stonach bought the town new police cars and paid the salaries of three additional policemen. He also built a local community center which could be used a shelter in an emergency.
Before the curent flooding, only four of the 49 houses were being used.
In Nov. 2010, it was reported that Stonach’s copany was looking into building a crude oil refinery near the development.
When Simmesport Mayor Eric Rusk learned the water would rise above flood stage in his town, he asked Magna Industries if evacuees could use some of the vacant houses. The company agreed.
Rusk said flood victims can live there for 60 days rent-free as long as they pay their utilities. Officials think all the vacant houses will be used. Many of the families are from the Simmesport and Spring Bayou communities.
“I think we’re going to fill up,” said Shane Carmichael, a Magna official who oversees the project.
Carmichael said he wasn’t surprised by Rusk’s call because the development has housed evacuees from other disasters such as urricane Gustav in 2008.
Thirty percent of the Mississippi’s water is allowed into the Atchafalaya River, which runs past Simmesport.
With the Mississippi at record levels, the Atchafalaya is high, too. The spillway opening has compounded flooding upriver from the structure, said Joseph Suhayda, a retired LSU engineering professor.
Ashley Michot, 27, said she, her husband, and their three children left the Marksville area Monday, two days after water was released over the weekend at the Morganza spillway.
Michelle Reech, 38, said she and her family decided to evacuate to Magnaville from Big Bend when waters came within 150 yards of her home.
Reech’s mother, Patricia Desselle, 64, said their neighborhood in Big Bend hadn’t flooded since the last time the Morganza spillway opened in 1973.
Much of this report originated with The Associated Press.