Johnson County looking at possible FEMA buyouts for flood prone homes

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JOHNSON COUNTY, Iowa (KWWL) — FEMA buyouts are back on the table in Eastern Iowa after a disaster proclamation was issued for flooding across the state and Johnson County is looking to take advantage.

Today, Johnson County leaders discussed the potential buyout program during a Board of Supervisors meeting where Johnson County Emergency Management Agency Director, Dave Wilson and Director of Johnson County Planning, Development, and Sustainability Department, Josh Busard gave a presentation about the program.

After hearing the announcement that grant money was up for grabs for all 99 Iowa counties, Johnson County held a public meeting to see if any homeowners would be interested. About 22 residents said yes.

These buyouts would be focused in areas that regularly see floodwaters like the Tri-County Bridge area, Izaak Walton Road neighborhood, and Riverfront Estates.

If you’ve been in Riverfront Estates, you know it’s a little hidden oasis, with perfect riverfront views. However, that view comes at a cost, flooding. After a devastating year, the State of Iowa is looking at ways to reduce risk, one of them is offering money for mitigation projects.

“Through the hazard mitigation plan, the states number one priority is buyouts and purchase of flood-prone or flood-affected properties. So that’s open to all 99 counties in Iowa,” said Wilson.

The buyouts, if approved, would alleviate homes in areas known as floodways. Homeowners in areas around the Tri-County Bridge and Riverfront Estates often fall under evacuation orders when the rivers and Coralville Reservoir fill up.

“Many of those structures after the 08′ floods were elevated above the 100-year flood plain, and some of them even above the 500-year flood plain. However, they’re still in the floodway which means during a flood they cannot be accessed,” said Wilson.

In fact, earlier this week the Tri-County area was under evacuations, and the same was true back in October.

“As I understand, they’re going to look at each property on an individual basis. So some properties may be deemed not cost-effective,” said Busard.

The buyouts could be a way out for homeowners stuck in a flood plain as it’s the first time buyouts have been available since the 2008 floods.

Chairperson of the Johnson County Board of Supervisors, Lisa Green-Douglass said the buyouts could be a good opportunity for homeowners stuck in a flood plain as it’s the first time buyouts have been available since the 2008 floods.

“It’s getting to a situation where, every year, there’s some amount of flooding. And while those homes are evaluated so they might be out of danger, it does cut off access. It will cut off access to emergency services,” said Green-Douglass.

Johnson County plans to submit the application to the State of Iowa, which will make a recommendation to FEMA.

Ashley Neighbor

Ashley Neighbor

Reporter, Cedar Rapids
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