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FEMA, Musselshell County to buy out Roundup properties impacted by flooding

Justin Russell, Musselshell County DES
Posted at 6:08 PM, Dec 12, 2023

ROUNDUP — When you find your dream home, it can be hard to let go. But what happens if that home is a magnet for natural disasters?

Back in June, a section of Number 4 Road in Roundup was washed out due to heavy rainfall—but the town is no stranger to natural disasters. This is why FEMA is now stepping in, offering options for homeowners.

"It's a serene place to be," said Linda Newman, a Roundup homeowner, on Tuesday.

Newman has seen her fair share of activity outside of her Roundup log cabin. Her father started building the cabin back in the '80s.

Newman's cabin
Newman's cabin

"A lot of deer over on the hill over there and elk," said Newman. "We’ve seen a bear cross the road."

But it’s not just wildlife—she also sees the occasional natural disaster.

"My mother-in-law lived here and she was out here for like two weeks," Newman said, reflecting on a past flood. "They would bring a boat to the other side."

Linda Newman
Linda Newman

Newman’s property is located on Number 4 Road which was hit hard by floods back in June.

"It just drains the edge of the road," Newman said. "It floods that whole bottom area."

Number 4 Road washed out in June
Number 4 Road washed out in June

A section of the road was washed out—but it wasn’t the first time.

“That's washed out twice since we’ve been here,” Newman said.

But now, a lifeline to residents who have seen enough.

Mussellshell County Disaster and Emergency Services is offering to purchase flood-prone properties, thanks to grants from the Federal Emergency Management Agency authorized following this summer's record flooding in south-central Montana.

“(The) purpose of this is to acquire properties that are in flood-prone areas and kind of allow the person to sell it to the county," said Justin Russell, the Musselshell County DES director, on Tuesday. "It becomes green space in perpetuity. So we can make parks or any kind of recreational spaces out there. But it allows these people that are in these flood-prone areas, kind of out."

To be eligible, DES says property owners must meet several criteria. They have to have a substantially damaged structure and the property must include a primary residence or business and be in a flood plain.

"If they’re in a flood zone, it’s really hard for them to develop their property. To sell their property even," Russell said. "Because of all of the restrictions that are in place in flood zones."

Justin Russell, Musselshell County DES
Justin Russell, Musselshell County DES

It’s not the first time the county has taken advantage of FEMA funding.

"The last time we did this was approximately 6, 7 years ago," Russell said. "We have learned quite a bit since then on how to administer this, and they wanted to re-offer it.”

The county acquired 37 properties the last time around.

As for interested residents this time around, only time will tell how many will end up participating.

"I would keep (my property)," Newman said. "The people that I know that are in the flood plain, I think they’re kind of tired of being in the flood plain."

Number 4 Road fixed
Number 4 Road fixed

A meeting was held Tuesday night on the matter, but Russell says more will occur in the future.

"The purpose of tonight’s meeting is just to see if there are any interested parties to go through our acquisition process,” Russell said. "We just like people to take advantage of this so that you can mitigate and prepare for the next disaster. Because it’s not if it’s going to happen, it’s when it’s going to happen. So if we can be proactive in our community, make it safer, make it more resilient, it’s way easier for our residents to recover."