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FEMA gives St. Louis region $7 million to buy out flood-prone properties

An illustration of flooded homes.
David Kovaluk
St. Louis Public Radio
FEMA will buy out 11 properties in the St. Louis region that are prone to flooding or had damage during last July's flood event.

Three municipalities in St. Louis County will receive about $7.4 million to reduce the impacts of future floods, the Federal Emergency Management Agency announced Monday.

The money goes to buy out 11 properties in University City, Webster Groves and Ladue. These include projects to purchase properties damaged by flash flooding last July and to eliminate the risk of repetitive flood damage to buildings, according to a FEMA news release. The properties are being sold voluntarily.

University City is receiving about $3.2 million in federal funding to purchase and demolish three apartment buildings on Hafner Court.

“It’s right next to the River Des Peres, so these three buildings are frequent flooders,” said John Wagner, University City’s director of planning and development. “Whenever there’s a bad flooding event these apartments are underwater.”

The funding, a Flood Mitigation Assistance grant, will pay for 100% of the buyout, he added. It’s a process that will likely unfold over the next few months, Wagner said.

The three apartment buildings were significantly affected during the flooding event last July, he said.

“Water was coming in really quickly, and people were having to jump out bedroom windows from what I understand,” Wagner said. “People still have not moved back into the first floor of these apartments since the flood of last year.”

The properties in Ladue and Webster Groves being bought out are close to Deer Creek.

Ladue is to receive about $3.6 million to purchase and demolish six residential properties at 12, 13, 15, 16, and 26 Foxboro Road and 10050 Conway Road.

“These residents have been struggling with this flooding issue for some time,” said Ladue spokesperson Susan Ryan. “This is really great for the homeowners and the city that we were able to help get them some assistance like this.”

Webster Groves will receive close to $600,000 to acquire and demolish two residential properties at 843 N. Forest Ave. and 844 E. Pacific Ave. According to a statement from Webster Groves, next steps will be discussed at an upcoming council meeting, when formal action will need to be taken to approve the city’s cost share.

Once all the properties are bought and demolished, University City and Ladue are required to maintain the land as open space. Webster Groves will have to return those lots to the natural grade of the flood plain.

“It has to remain perpetual greenspace of course, but there’s an opportunity to make it a pretty cool place,” Wagner said. “You could have a little pocket park there for the surrounding community or put wildflowers and increase biodiversity.”

Eric Schmid covers business and economic development for St. Louis Public Radio.