Shepherdsville, Kentucky

Flood-prone neighborhood is converted into a park

Shepherdsville, a small town in Kentucky, transformed a flood-prone neighborhood into a popular community park. In 1997, backflow from the Ohio River left 90% of the town underwater and forced the evacuation of 1,000 people. Afterward, the town secured FEMA grants to elevate homes south of the river and raze 20 damaged homes in a neighborhood on First Street. The town converted the land left vacant by the demolition into a park with trails, softball fields and recreational equipment, providing the community with new green space as well as a floodwater buffer zone.

Photo by Patsy Lynch - FEMA

Community facts

Population
11,967
Homes
4,483
Businesses
1,178
Source: US Census Bureau.

Mitigation actions

During subsequent flood events, the city required less emergency assistance, including emergency services, funding for housing stranded families, and clean-up. This saved the community a considerable amount. “The 2010 and 2011 flooding would have probably had us evacuating people from that area and spending resources to take care of them,” says Mike Phillips, director of emergency services, noting that such response efforts can be a significant drain on city resources.

The community enjoys the park, which serves as a public green space with soccer fields, paths and recreational equipment. When it rains, the city closes the gates, allowing the park to flood safely, providing permanent flood mitigation to the area.

Benefits of mitigation

Economic benefits
$3.2 million
Total monetized benefits
Return on investment
144.5%
Estimated return on investment
Benefit-cost ratio
2.5
Benefit-cost ratio of the Shepherdsville projects
Source: White, Esther. Establishing Long-Term Cost Effectiveness of FEMA Buyouts: A Loss Avoidance Study of the Acquisition/Demolition of 22 Properties in Shepherdsville, Kentucky. University of Kentucky Martin School of Public Policy and Administration, 2011.

Project challenges

Some long-time residents did not want to move

While most property owners were open to FEMA buyouts when their homes flooded, three declined the offer and remain in the floodplain. This means emergency services still need to support them during flooding events, although so far they have not required assistance.

“We no longer have to dispatch emergency services to assist families in that area or to do water rescues, which means we can put those resources toward other uses”
Mike Phillips, director of emergency services, Bullitt County

Future considerations

FEMA Federal Coordinating Officer Lai Sun Yee greets a flood survivor.
Photo by Patsy Lynch - FEMA
New floodplain maps put hundreds of homes into the flood zone, creating concerns about the high cost of flood insurance

The city is now working to address newly drafted floodplain maps, which locate in the floodplain 200–300 homes that were not there previously. “It is a hot issue in the city,” says Phillips. Families are threatening to move out because they cannot afford a $400–500 increase in their annual flood insurance premiums.

Phillips also notes that realtors are having problems selling in the area. His team is currently crafting a new flood mitigation strategy to lessen the impact of the new floodplain maps on these families.

Flood mitigation resources

Below is a non-exhaustive list of other flood mitigation information resources.