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Old Valmeyer Farms
30 Apr 2014
Published To

The story of Valmeyer’s experience with the Great Flood of 1993 was primarily framed by national news as that of a large-scale community relocation. However, in focusing on the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s assistance with moving Valmeyer to the top of the nearby bluffs, the national narrative ignored those who decided to stay in the flood-ravaged community of Old Valmeyer. Homes that were less than 50 percent damaged were allowed to be repaired, according to federal ruling, although the cost of repairs could not exceed half the home’s original value. Homes ruled to be more than 50 percent damaged were condemned, and no new homes are allowed to be built on the flood plain. Because of the extent of the flooding—approximately 90 percent of the village’s buildings were ruled irreparably damaged—few residents qualified to remain in Old Valmeyer even if they wanted to. However, approximately 20 to 24 homes remain occupied in Old Valmeyer today.

The individuals remaining in Old Valmeyer stay at their own risk; since 2007, FEMA has been warning residents that five metro east levees don’t measure up to federal strength standards. According to St. Louis Today, funding for the levees’ repairs has been “in flux and plans have been complicated over scheduling disagreements,” leaving Old Valmeyer’s residents susceptible to flooding due to a levee break, as was experienced in 1993. Additionally, choosing to remain in the flood plain subjects citizens to extraordinarily high flood insurance costs; flood insurance is required for anyone who lives in a flood plain and has a federally backed mortgage. In order to get a loan to repair her home from flood damage, Susan Schillinger, a remaining resident of Old Valmeyer, was told she had to carry $187,000 worth of flood insurance, which cost her almost $7,000 in addition to over $650 annually in premiums.

However, the residents of Old Valmeyer see their sacrifices and potential risk as worthwhile due to their strong connections to their family properties, many of which are farms that have been passed down for generations. While confident for the most part that a flood the magnitude of 1993’s will not hit Valmeyer again in the near future, Old Valmeyer’s residents are comforted by the knowledge that if flooding is an issue again, the residents of New Valmeyer will be there to help them. Village Clerk Laurie Brown agrees that the village would “work to protect the people in Old Valmeyer as they did before the 1993 flood”; despite two miles and a 400-foot difference in elevation, the people of Old Valmeyer are considered “part of the village.”

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