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For St. Louis area flooding, solutions could come in a variety of ways

Abandoned vehicles sit submerged in water on Tuesday, July 26, 2022, in University City.
Brian Munoz
St. Louis Public Radio
While those affected by flash flooding in late July can now request federal aid, any solutions to prevent similar flooding will likely take years.

While the Missouri legislature this past session allocated around $411 million through the federal American Rescue Plan Act toward water infrastructure grants, none of that will be going to the St. Louis area to address recent flash flooding.

Sara Pringer of the Department of Natural Resources, which is responsible for distributing the grant money to projects across Missouri, said $125 million of that funding was allocated for stormwater projects

However, the deadline to apply for those grants ended on July 14, less than two weeks before the historic flooding in the St. Louis area. Pringer said the department did not receive an application related to flooding in the St. Louis area.

“We have received some direct inquiries from some homeowners in St. Louis, asking for assistance with flooding issues, but our money is not eligible for individual homeowners,” Pringer said.

While funding from the American Rescue Plan Act is not going toward fixing St. Louis’ stormwater issues, another pot of money from the Federal Bipartisan Infrastructure Law could be used instead.

Missouri is set to receive around $9 billion from the bill, with $5 billion of it already allocated for projects.

Jim Wild, executive director of the East-West Gateway Council of Governments, said the organization will be working on a plan to define what needs to be done as well as what can be achieved.

However, even with funding to do such projects, they still take years.

“It's not as nimble, as you know, saying, ‘Well, this happened today. So tomorrow, we can start building something new to address it,’” Wild said.

In addition to federal dollars, St. Louis-area residents could eventually see their own money going toward addressing flooding and erosion through a once-rejected plan from the Metropolitan St. Louis Sewer District.

In 2019, St. Louis-area voters rejected a proposition that would have charged customers a fee based on how much of their property generates stormwater runoff. Money from that fee would have gone toward addressing flooding and erosion.

Brian Hoelscher, executive director of the sewer district, said it has the authority to work on stormwater issues but no funding to address them.

“We've already got about $700 million in issues that have been reported to us from folks, things such as creek flooding, creek erosion, backyard flooding, that's kind of sitting there without an MSD funding source,” Hoelscher said. “We haven't even been able to address those, much less things that came out of this recent event.”

Hoelscher said the district plans to again bring the proposal up to voters. But the earliest for that would be April 2024. He thinks if it does a good job of communicating the issue this time around the measure will pass. The flash flooding also has put it in the forefront.

“I think it's on folks' minds now. We need to keep it there,” Hoelscher said.

Follow Sarah Kellogg on Twitter: @sarahkkellogg

Sarah Kellogg is a Missouri Statehouse and Politics Reporter for St. Louis Public Radio and other public radio stations across the state.