KINGFISHER, OK – Over the past 10 years, residents in a six-block area cringed whenever authorities forecasted severe rain for their area. And on August 19, 2007, two local creeks ended up spilling from their banks and poured dirty brown floodwater downtown. But thanks to two programs that the City of Kingfisher used to buy frequently flooded lands, the City created places for water to flow and, therefore, mitigate some impacts of flooding.
“The vacant land program offered Kingfisher citizens many benefits. Frequent flooding had displaced residents, but with the acquired open space the community controlled emergency costs and, in dry times, residents used the open space,” said City Clerk and Floodplain Manager William Tucker.
The City’s buyout program, established in 2002, gave citizens owning vacant land that flooded more than once the option of selling the lot to the City for $300. Within five years, the City invested $20,000. The resulting sales relieved these owners of taxes and maintenance costs for the properties sold.
Because flooding in this six-block area of Kingfisher occurs more than annually, the City expanded its acquisition efforts with funds provided by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) through its Hazard Mitigation Grant Program (HMGP) and managed by Oklahoma’s Department of Emergency Management. The HMGP infused $170,000 to buy houses while the City added the 25 percent match.
A single flooding event typically costs the City of Kingfisher more than $200,000 in this six-block area. But when the August flood struck, the buyout program ended up saving the taxpayer money – as well as reducing the loss of personal items – and peace of mind for those living in the flood-prone area. Without the buyout program, the purchased homes would have suffered an estimated $170,000 in damage to property and contents with this one flood alone.
Tucker said, “These two programs have made a world of difference in the lives of our residents because when it rains they don’t worry, and that means more than money can buy.”