The flood on June 17th prompted us to re-examine how we are thinking about those residents whose homes are often flooded. The first order of business is to make sure that the residents' homes are safe and any cleanup and repairs are done immediately. The City Manager and his staff made every effort to carry this out as quickly and efficiently as possible.
The City held an informational meeting on July 10, 2013 in which some very special volunteers helped the affected residents fill out claims and appeals for insurance offered by MSD. Unfortunately, MSD only covers damage that results from the overflow of their underground sewage systems into the basements of homes, but does not take responsibility for any damage due to overland flooding experienced by our residents (shown in the pictures above).
Both the MSD Executive Director, Brian Hoelscher, and MSD Spokesperson, Lance Lecomb, told the attendees at this meeting that the nearby property owners actually owned the River de Peres, thereby absolving MSD of any responsibility to remove silt buildup or clear the channel of undergrowth… this in spite of the historical behaviors of MSD to concrete the sides and sometimes the bottom of the river, as well as putting some sections underground and redirecting the course of the river in other sections. To date, MSD has NOT provided us with any verification of their claim, though I made such a request of Mr. Hoelscher. Until such a time as this is verified, the question of ownership and what the owners can do will remain open. Residents should not expect anyone to clear the River de Peres in the near future.
We are in the process of seeking funding for an Army Corps of Engineers study to determine which residences, if any would be eligible for buyouts, similar to those on Wilson Ave. The money is not yet available, and if it were to be, we are looking at a 5-year timeframe to find out whether we qualify. I was told privately there is no money for a buyout, but we are still moving forward since things can change.
On the other hand, there have to be other solutions, and Councilmember Terry Crow brought one to my attention a couple of weeks ago. A resident who is involved in the remediation of flooded structures contacted Mr. Crow with the information about homes in Missouri and other parts of the country, which were being raised above the level of the flood waters. Other geographical areas that were hard-hit by hurricanes had come to the conclusion that buyouts and teardowns may not be the most advantageous solution to pursue because they were destroying neighborhoods, losing tax base, and decimating their school, police and fire systems.
The homes can be elevated in place one or two feet above the base flood elevation, so when it does flood the structure is not damaged. There are advantages for University City in taking this approach: neighborhoods remain intact, tax base remains, the property value increases, houses can be sold and flood insurance premiums drop.
We want to preserve our University City neighborhoods, and want the neighbors to live in an attractive, safe and healthy environment. How will the houses look after they are elevated? Below are the before and after pictures of a recent home elevation.