Federal grant to help Dubuque flood victims protect homes

Published: Nov. 10, 2016 at 5:17 PM CST
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A federal program is fueling $31.5 million into the Dubuque community. Part of that money will help hundreds of homeowners better protect their homes.

The United States Department of Housing and Urban Development awarded Dubuque the money through the National Disaster Resilience Competition Grant.

$8.4 million dollars of that money will help homeowners and renter pay for things like replacing basement windows, putting in a sump pump or fixing cracks in the foundation. The city says they plan to spend between $15-18,000 on each home.

Anyone living in Downtown Dubuque remembers July 28th, 2011.15 inches of rain dumped on Dubuque in a matter of just 12 hours.

"It looked like a river coming down here on Elm Street. I wouldn't believe the water got up so high like that,” said Fred Marburger, who lives along Elm Street in Dubuque.

For Marburger it wasn't just the great 2011 rainstorm. Every single time there's a heavy rain, water fills his basement.

He's made repairs but the cost to prevent water from getting in is more than he can afford.

"I figure it's going to cost $15 to 20 thousand dollars for all of this, you know. And I can't just do that because I am on a fixed income," said Marburger.

H.U.D designed the Bee Branch Healthy Homes program to help low-income flood victims.

"That population is more vulnerable, so it really breaks down the structure of their family and their way of life when things like this happens," said Sharon Gaul, City of Dubuque Resiliency Coordinator.

Flooded streets are common along several city streets every time there's a big rain.

"We have an old storm sewer system that is undersized and also all of the water get to those places at the same time," said Gaul.

Some relief is already underway in the form of the city's Bee Branch Watershed project. The city will use part of the new H.U.D. grant to help with that $219 million project.

The rest of the money will be used to help people like Marburger make needed improvements to keep the water out.

"I want to have someone come in and dig some kind of footing, like a foot down or two and just build it up higher and have it slope towards the alley," said Marburger.

The healthy homes program is open to more than just neighborhoods in downtown Dubuque.

The city created a searchable map to help residents figure out if their home is eligible for that program.