South Carolina

Local officials list buyouts in early requests for federal disaster funds

The breach at the Columbia Canal dike, as seen from a National Guard helicopter on Oct. 5.
The breach at the Columbia Canal dike, as seen from a National Guard helicopter on Oct. 5. FILE PHOTOGRAPH.

Metropolitan Columbia officials had buyouts of more than 114 flood-damaged properties in mind last week while submitting early requests for federal money available after the historic storm last fall.

Richland County plans to ask the Federal Emergency Management Agency for money to buy out 63 flood-damaged homes, plus 15 nonresidential properties, according to a preapplication filed earlier this month.

At least 25 homes in Columbia, and likely more, are eligible for buyouts, Columbia budget director Missy Caughman said. Columbia’s preapplication included $20 million to buy out homes and $2.5 million to buy out commercial properties.

Columbia officials are still developing buyout criteria and likely won’t know until September how many properties will be eligible, Caughman said.

Lexington County could ask for enough money to buy out up to 11 homes, spokesman Harrison Cahill said. No commercial properties have asked the county for buyouts, he said.

Property buyouts constitute nearly $9.7 million of the $13.9 million in projects Richland County plans to request.

Those homes mostly are clustered in the Timberlane Drive, Glenhaven Drive and Tall Pines Circle neighborhoods along Gills Creek and in the Denny Terrace neighborhood in northern Richland County, a county spokesperson said.

Richland County also included $600,000 to increase the size of nine culverts and $454,000 for flood mitigation and mosquito population control in lower Richland County.

Columbia officials submitted a list of projects worth nearly $162.7 million, though FEMA can grant only a fraction of those requests. The most significant of those is a $40 million project to create a secondary water source – either the Broad River or Saluda River – for Columbia’s water treatment plant.

Lexington County’s preapplication features $2 million in improvements to two Irmo-area bridges with load limits insufficient to carry emergency vehicles.

Forest Acres included a request for $2.45 million to build a new police station. The current one is outdated and should be moved out of the floodplain, city officials have said.

Now, the state’s Emergency Management Division is set to review the early requests and provide feedback, including explaining which projects might be ineligible for federal funding.

Local governments across South Carolina filed early applications May 5 for money to pay for more than 200 disaster-related projects, EMD spokesman Derrec Becker said.

But those applications can be changed before the final Oct. 5 deadline. Still, the early requests offer a look at which projects communities are eyeing as they compete for an estimated $36 million available in FEMA hazard mitigation grants.

That federal money can be used to pay for property buyouts and other community improvements. FEMA will cover at least 75 percent of costs for approved projects, leaving local governments to pay the remaining 25 percent.

Columbia officials haven’t yet decided how to pay for that 25 percent match, spokeswoman Leshia Utsey said.

Neither have Richland County officials, spokeswoman Beverly Harris said.

Lexington County would expect homeowners to pay the 25 percent match to have their homes bought out, Cahill said. The county likely would use in-kind contributions to pay for the 25 percent match for bridge work.

Avery G. Wilks: 803-771-8362, @averygwilks

Biggest of big-ticket requests for federal hazard mitigation grants

City of Columbia

▪  $40 million for a secondary water source for the downtown water treatment plant

▪  $30 million for an effluent pump station at the sewer treatment plant

▪  $20 million for more direct connection between the downtown and Lake Murray water treatment plants

▪  $20 million for home buyouts

Richland County

▪  $5.9 million to buy out 63 homes

▪  $3.8 million to buy out 15 nonresidential properties

▪  $1.5 million for improvements of Little Jackson Creek

▪  $600,200 to improve culverts

▪  $474,600 to build a flood-control pond at Brookgreen Court

Lexington County

▪  $1.27 million to improve Goldstone Bridge Road

▪  $750,000 to improve Cedarbrook Court bridge