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Moorhead sets priorities for flood buyouts

The Moorhead City Council on Monday established a priority system for deciding which homes will be first in line for flood buyouts.

About 60 property owners have expressed interest in a buyout program, with 12 of those homes suffering substantial damage, defined as 50 percent or more of the pre-flood value of the home.

The other homes on the list suffered damage between 0 and 49 percent of the value of the structure.

The total taxable value of homes on the list is $10.5 million, with the estimated cost of acquiring and clearing all of the properties being closer to $16 million.

It is unlikely there will be funding to cover all of the homes on the list, said Lisa Vatnsdal, Moorhead neighborhood services manager.

She said information about funding will be made public as soon as it becomes available.

"This is an awful situation for these families," Vatnsdal said.

There is no deadline for getting on the list, which is likely to change as candidates are dropped and others added, depending on whether they meet certain criteria, said City Manager Michael Redlinger.

Under a plan adopted by the council Monday, top priority will be given to properties in the floodplain that qualify for a Federal Emergency Management Agency buyout and would not be needed for flood-control structures. Rules prohibit building on land bought out by FEMA.

In such buyouts, 75 percent of the funding would come from FEMA, with 12.5 percent coming from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources and 12.5 percent coming from local sources.

Next on the priority list would be properties in the floodplain that are not eligible for a FEMA buyout, but could be useful for future flood-control projects.

In such buyouts, 50 percent of the money would come from the DNR. For those buyouts to be affordable for homeowners, additional state funding would have to be found, said City Engineer Bob Zimmerman.

Of the 27 homes in Moorhead bought out since the early 1990s, all were purchased under FEMA's program, with the local cost covered by homeowners.

Third on the city's buyout priority list would be properties that did not suffer substantial damage, but their removal would advance flood-control projects.

Owners of homes that suffered less than 50 percent damage in the latest flood may apply for building permits to make the homes livable again.

Properties beyond the 50 percent damage threshold may not be repaired until flood proofing is done, or they are adequately elevated. About a dozen homes fall into that category.

Zimmerman said it may not be feasible for some homeowners to get their properties to the point where they can be rebuilt.