By ZEINAB NAJM
HEIGHTS — The city announced it was awarded a $2.8 million FEMA Mitigation grant allowing it to acquire and demolish 15 flood-prone houses near the Ecorse Creek in the city’s south end.
During a press conference March 30, held in the Hanover and Madison area where 15 houses suffer from constant flooding during rain storms.
“Since I was a little boy this creek flooding was an issue in the area,” Mayor Daniel Paletko said during a press conference March 30, held in the Hanover and Madison area where 15 houses suffer from frequent flooding during rain storms. “The FEMA grant is a solution of the current flooding issue while a longterm fix is worked on.”
“It has been a long process, and I know these folks are looking forward to getting a new start in a less vulnerable environment,” Paletko said.
The Ecorse Creek has been shifting and causing damage to the area on top of the flooding issues. The plan for the city is to purchase the 15 houses in the neighborhood, demolish them and transform the land into a green space for all residents.
“The lots will be maintained as vacant ‘green areas’ that will provide a more natural and efficient runoff during future flooding events,” according to a press release issued by the city.
Council members will still need to accept the grant before the city can hire an independent appraiser to determine the value of the houses.
“The city hopes to have the appraisal and sale process completed quickly, which will usher the way for demolition process to start later this summer,” the release read.
Mold and asbestos also were concerns with the pending demolition of houses if the sales are approved by residents, which Paletko said would be handled and disposed of properly when the time comes.
After the value is set, homeowners will have a set time to decide whether to sell. Moving expenses for the residents are not planned to be provided.
“More than half of the residents have had a positive attitude towards the program,” Paletko said. “Most are asking about the price they will get for their homes and how that will be determined.”
U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-Dearborn) helped the city earn the grant with her work on the federal and state level.
“This is a good first step to help this community and many other others,” she said at the press conference. “Storms and rain have caused various issues for these residents leaving them with damage and bills when their homes are flooded.”
The city also is involved in a study being conducted by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on the ongoing North Branch Ecorse Creek Flood Mitigation project.
With the suggested $260 million project, five to six retention basins will be added throughout the 13 communities affected by flooding, including one in Dearborn Heights.
Backed up sewage water will be held in the basin, then flow into the creek, Detroit River and finally Lake Erie instead of sitting in basements of residents.
If the project is picked up and approved by the Army Corps, about $169 million will be paid for by the federal government with the remaining $91 million bonded over 30 years paid by residents, businesses and government who use the creek from the 13 communities involved.
(Zeinab Najm can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)