Some 170 residents face May 16 deadline for flood buyout in Whitestown

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WHITESTOWN — In the wake of a public meeting concerning property buyouts for those living in a designated Sauquoit Creek flood plain in the town of Whitestown, town officials are looking for solutions, one being guiding select residents through the potential buyout of their property.

That solution is through an easement program administered through a Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) floodplain restoration program and hosted by the Town of Whitestown.

On April 13, the town hosted a public meeting for residents who received a letter of intent and home appraisal from NRCS. In a recap this week, Town Supervisor Shaun Kaleta said the meeting, which was an opportunity for residents to talk about the issues, was positive in nature. 

Kaleta said there are currently about 170 residents who have received a letter of intent and home value appraisal from NRCS. 

And, residents have 30 days — until May 16 — to decide whether they want to continue pursuing a possible buyout through the program.

Project manager Margaret Reilly, of the Utica office for engineering firm Ramboll, added that after May 16, NRCS will collect all the “yes” and “no” responses, and plot the addresses on a map to determine which properties can be removed to create the most impact on the goal of restoring the Sauquoit Creek floodplain.

Ramboll has been contracted by the town to work on a number of flood mitigation issues in the last few years.

While Reilly and Kaleta acknowledge that not everyone opting in to the buyout program will get a final buyout offer, the town and contract engineers are committed to helping as many as possible.

“We will work extremely hard with NRCS to make sure as many as possible are helped,” Kaleta said, adding that the town has also created a task force to assist homeowners who do ultimately receive a buyout payment, find comparable property to buy with money from their buyout offer.

Flood issues relating to Sauquoit Creek have a history of flooding and damaging nearby homes, and while much flood abatement work has been done in the region, village and town of Whitestown officials are keeping a wary eye on the waters and working diligently to try to protect homes and property.

One example being construction launched in June of 2021 on a $3.9 million flood mitigation project to bolster resilience and improve habitats along Sauquoit Creek. The scope of the project called for the creation of a new 12-acre floodplain bench — with plantings, stream bank stabilization, erosion and sediment control facilities — and install five, 48-inch diameter culverts under a CSX Railroad embankment.

Projects such as this have been ongoing in the last several years to curb future flood impacts, Kaleta said, emphasizing the town’s commitment to helping as many residents impacted by persistent flooding as possible.

“Some of the folks have been flooded 5, 6, 7, 8 times,” Kaleta said.

Reilly added that even with mitigation plans in place, Mother Nature can be unpredictable.

“These homes will continue to flood based on where they are in the watershed,” Reilly said, and referring to the buyout program, added “we’re hopeful this will be successful.”

Those who were unable to attend the April 13 public meeting at Whitesboro High School, can contact Reilly at 315-725-5230.

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