City of Newport makes push to buy Mississippi River flood-prone homesA mild winter with little snowfall spared Newport from another spring flood scare this year. That hasn’t stopped city officials, however, from pursuing a plan to buy out Newport’s most flood-prone homes that sit nearest a weakened Mississippi River levee.
A mild winter with little snowfall spared Newport from another spring flood scare this year. That hasn’t stopped city officials, however, from pursuing a plan to buy out Newport’s most flood-prone homes that sit nearest a weakened Mississippi River levee.
City officials are in negotiations to purchase a home on Cedar Lane that sits beside a decades-old earthen levee the Army Corps of Engineers has declared deficient and that officials say they fear will be breached by high floodwaters.
The home is one of seven low-lying properties the city has identified as purchase targets to help mitigate flooding risks and to increase public access to the river, said City Administrator Brian Anderson.
“People have been waiting, thinking the levee is going to breach,” he said of the structure weakened by years of erosion, animal burrows and structures that have been constructed on it by neighbors. “They’ve been saying that for decades. It has always been in the city’s interest to see if we can’t purchase more river access.”
Newport sought more than $3 million in state-borrowed funds in a bonding proposal during last year’s state legislative session that had support from Sen. Katie Sieben, DFL-Cottage Grove, and Rep. John Kriesel, R-Cottage Grove — as well as Gov. Mark Dayton.
The measure — proposed as Newport and other Mississippi and St. Croix river cities braced for forecasted major flooding that never arrive — ultimately wasn’t included in the bonding bill.
The city has already purchased one home, at 1645 Cedar Lane, for $220,000 in 2009. Newport’s portion of the purchase cost was $120,000.
Now, the owners of a home located at 1605 Cedar Lane have offered to sell their property to the city for $85,000, well below the assessed $128,000 market value.
Newport City Council members directed city staff to make a counter-offer to the property owners. The city will also seek Minnesota Department of Natural Resources grant dollars from a flood mitigation program.
“It’s a possible opportunity to buy at a reasonably low rate,” Anderson said.
Anderson said the city likely won’t be able to move forward on the purchase without the DNR matching funds grant that he said would halve Newport’s cost to acquire the property.