Dearborn Heights purchases first of 15 flood-prone houses

DH Mayor Paletko and home buyers - HazMit Grant Purchase  - 2016-08-25

Photo courtesy of Robert Ankrapp. Brian (left) and Deb Lauer meet with Mayor Daniel Paletko to finalize the sale of their Hanover Street house to the city of Dearborn Heights as part of the FEMA Hazard Mitigation Grant.

HEIGHTS — The city purchased its first house in the city’s Ecorse Creek flood zone for demolition.

City officials applied for the $2.8 million Federal Emergency Management Agency Hazard Mitigation Grant after the August 2014 flood to address the flooding.

Dearborn Heights residents Brian and Deb Lauer were the first to sell their house to the city under the project.

“We loved our home and neighborhood and will miss family and friends that were within walking distance,” Deb Lauer said. “While this whole process is bittersweet, we are relieved that we were given an opportunity to move out of this flood prone area without taking a severe hit to our home value.”

Under the FEMA grant guidelines, homes must be demolished within 90 days of selling them to the city.

About 15 houses are adjacent and near the Ecorse Creek on Hanover Street.

Each house that is purchased will be demolished and the lots will feature natural wildflowers with extensive root systems.

Plants will help serve as mini detention basis to improve the absorption of flood waters during future incidents.

“This is just one small step in the process to help reduce the inconvenience, pain and suffering experienced by our residents in this area,” Mayor Daniel Paletko said. “But I’m confident it will make a positive impact for those who truly want to exercise the opportunity to relocate out of this flood zone.”

By spring 2017 the city anticipates the final purchase of five or six of the 15 houses needed to complete the project.

The city hopes the entire purchase and demolition project will be completed within the next two years.

Paletko also said a long-term, wider-reaching solution is still in the works awaiting approval from the federal government and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

That solution is a $260 million project where 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 residents’ basements during floods.

If the project is 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 that use the creek from the 13 communities involved.