Huntsville expected to be short on flooding infrastructure funding, which could cost locals

Huntsville expected to be short on flooding infrastructure funding, which could cost locals

HUNTSVILLE, AL (WAFF) - FEMA gave Huntsville more than $15 million in a grant for flooding infrastructure in 2018, but it may not be enough.

Huntsville Director of Engineering Kathy Martin declined an interview, but said her office is looking into the projected costs of drainage improvements near Five Points, along Dallas Branch and Pinhook Creek.

The FEMA grant is specifically designated for that work, which will reduce the floodplain risks for the areas nearby.

Martin said she expects costs go above the $15 million mark, but the office will know for sure in the coming weeks. She cited right of way, land appraisal, and construction costs as factors yet to be determined.

Huntsville City Councilwoman Frances Akridge said she wants the city to fill any funding gaps. She said a city solution would ensure residents in her district near the flood plain aren’t stuck paying excess flooding insurance costs while waiting for a extra funding from FEMA.

FEMA awarded the grant after nearly 10 years of work by city leaders.

“What [my neighbors have] been saying is we want relief as soon as possible. I’ve encouraged them to come to city council, tell people what has been an impediment to them, whether that’s the cost of floodplain insurance or disappointment in fixing up their house," Akridge said.

ValuePenguin.com estimates the average floodplain insurance policy in Alabama costs $687 a year.

Huntsville’s current policy on home construction in a floodplain requires additional regulations (and their associated costs) on any new construction in the area. This includes all additions that exceed 50 percent of the home’s market value.

“I see the effects in the lack of investment in some areas, like west of Andrew Jackson [way],” Akridge said.

Jeanne Marlow lives in the floodplain, and said the aging community is feeling the impact of the costs.

“This is not a big family neighborhood at this point, a lot of people here are older. They’re on fixed income. and so any kind of an impact that requires them to come up with another $50 or $100 a month is an impact to them,” Marlow said.

Neither Marlow nor Akridge said they had seen significant flooding in their time living near the floodplain.

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