Mo. Seeks Buyouts for 9 Flooded Areas; Legislative Session Needed

July 22, 2008

The state of Missouri is asking the federal government for buyouts in nine areas hit hard by flooding in March, officials said on July 18.

All told, the State Emergency Management Agency is seeking buyouts of 150 homes at a total cost of about $8.6 million. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) will review each of the nine proposals and decide whether to fund some or all of the work, FEMA spokeswoman Crystal Payton said. It wasn’t clear how long the process will take.

The requests are only for areas affected by early spring flooding. Additional buyout requests are likely as the result of the near-record flooding that occurred along the Mississippi River in June and July, but SEMA spokeswoman Susie Stoner said those requests will be made later.

The first wave of buyouts in the Midwest began after the Great Flood of 1993. Stoner said more than 4,000 residential homes in flood plains around Missouri have been purchased since 1993 with the idea of moving homeowners out of harm’s way.

Under the buyout plan, the federal government pays 75 percent of the cost. Local government is responsible for the remaining 25 percent. But under the plan submitted by SEMA this week, state Community Development Block Grant funds would provide the local match, Stoner said.

Here are the nine areas seeking buyouts, and the cost of each project:

_Pacific, 27 homes, $2.4 million.

_Fenton, three homes, $690,143.

_Rogersville, three homes, $353,000.

_Wayne County, 16 homes, $553,812.

_Phelps County, two homes, $126,784.

_Ellington, 22 homes, $1.4 million.

_Piedmont, 33 homes, $1.2 million.

_Doniphan, 24 homes, $978,180.

_Poplar Bluff, 23 homes, $1.3 million.

Not everyone was happy with the proposal. Pacific Mayor Herbert Adams said 187 homes were badly damaged by March flooding along the Meramec River, far more than the 27 in SEMA’s buyout proposal.

Adams suggested using Missouri’s “Rainy Day” fund to aid Pacific and other towns. The fund includes more than $500 million for emergency use.

Jessica Robinson, a spokeswoman for Gov. Matt Blunt, said using the Rainy Day money would require a special session and two-thirds approval from lawmakers.

“Gov. Blunt considers all requests for a special session but it would depend on whether it has the support of the House and Senate leadership,” Robinson said.

Stoner said there’s only so much money to go around. Towns like Pacific could consider a buyout program in phases, she said.

Once a home is bought out, the local community takes ownership of the property. The homes are demolished, and communities turn the land into parks, gardens or other uses that are not substantially affected by floods.

At least one hard-hit area won’t be pursuing buyouts. The Lincoln County Commission decided against seeking buyouts in unincorporated areas affected by June and July flooding along the Mississippi River.

Much of the damage was in incorporated towns like Winfield and Foley.

The Lincoln County Emergency Management Agency said preliminary damage assessments show 77 homes with substantial damage and 44 with minor damage. Several other homes have not been inspected because of continuing high water or structural damage.

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