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Valmeyer, Illinois, was once a community of about 900 on the banks of
the Mississippi River, 25 miles south of St. Louis. The Great Flood of
1993 left 90 percent of Valmeyer’s buildings damaged beyond repair. The
village’s levee broke on August 1, 1993, and a "river" continued to flow
through the middle of town a full two months later. The flood affected
not only Valmeyer residents, but also about 1,600 people living on farms
throughout the surrounding countryside. Moving back into their homes was
not a choice for most of these 2,500 people. A makeshift trailer village
set up by the Federal Emergency Management Agency – "FEMAVille," as it
was called – became home for many.
In late August 1993, the County’s regional planning committee drew up
five options for the future:
A few weeks later, the fourth option was selected. Valmeyer would be rebuilt
on a 500-acre parcel on a nearby bluff overlooking the river. In May 1994,
the first business reopened in the new Valmeyer – MAR Graphics, the town’s
largest employer. The first homeowner moved in during April 1995. As of
December 1996, 115 new single-family homes had been completed, along with
a 24-unit senior citizens’ apartment complex, a new school, government
facilities, and businesses. About 450 people now live in the new town,
and home construction continues.
Rebuild to pre-flood conditions;
Selective rebuilding/buyout/partial community relocation;
Agricultural sector rebuilding/total community relocation, and
Reversion of floodplain to wetlands/open space.
Valmeyer was the first community to benefit from the assistance of the
Working Group on Sustainable Redevelopment. With funding from the U.S.
Department of Energy’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy,
a Sustainable Redevelopment Team of national experts was assembled to help
the town learn about and incorporate sustainable technologies into their
new town’s design. The group met three times with residents, concluding
with a weekend community planning session in June 1994. Later that summer,
workshops were offered on passive solar design and ground-source heat pumps.
Seeds planted during those sessions resulted in a number of steps taken
to make the new Valmeyer a resource-efficient community. Among the most
notable developments are the following:
Energy-efficient home construction
Nearly 50 of Valmeyer’s new homes are highly energy-efficient. The Bureau
of Energy and Recycling within the Illinois Department of Commerce and
Community Affairs (DCCA) offered grants of up to $1,700 to residents who
agreed to incorporate a series of resource-efficiency measures into their
homes. The measures included high amounts of insulation, energy-efficient
windows, low-flow showerheads, water-conserving toilets, and efficient
heating and cooling systems. A total of $70,000 was distributed through
the voluntary program. A $36,000 grant was also awarded to the developer
of the senior citizens’ apartment complex for incorporating the same efficiency
measures into all 24 units.
The use of renewable energy was encouraged as well. As a result, six
passive solar homes have been constructed, and ground source heat pumps
are being employed in another six homes.
Energy-efficiency measures incorporated into the village’s new school
(also home to the town library) could reduce utility bills by up to $35,000
annually. The Illinois DCCA awarded a $78,000 grant to partially finance
an efficient heating, cooling, and ventilation system for the school, plus
high-grade windows and extra insulation.
The Emergency Services Building, which houses the police and fire departments
and other town government offices, employs state-of-the-art solar and energy
efficiency technologies to dramatically reduce lighting, heating, and cooling
costs. A $30,000 grant from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory was
used to hire a leading sustainable architecture firm to design the passive
solar, superinsulated building. The DCCA contributed $30,000 to help finance
the efficiency improvements.
Future renewable energy development
Down the road, a portion of Valmeyer’s energy may be supplied by renewable
energy sources. The Illinois State Water Survey has installed a climate
monitoring station near the new town to collect data on the area’s wind
and solar resources.
A second wind data collection station is being monitored by Jack
Rozdilsky, who chose Valmeyer as the topic of his master's degree thesis
while enrolled in the Environmental Studies Program at the University of
Illinois at Springfield. Valmeyer
Wind Energy Project: Wind Data provides wind data collected for
that study. Additional information about the town can be found
– A New Beginning and on the Web site of the Cincinnati
A third renewable energy source, geothermal energy, may also be in Valmeyer’s
future. An abandoned limestone quarry near the new town includes a 5-million-square-foot
area in which the temperature constantly remains at 56-58 degrees F. It
may be feasible someday to tap into that constant temperature for heating
and cooling portions of Valmeyer using a distributed, water-based heat
To learn more about the flooding in Valmeyer and the town's approach
to rebuilding, see the on-line article "A
Town Makes History by Rising to New Heights."
For more information, contact the following:
Dennis Knobloch, Village Administrator
626 South Meyer Avenue
Valmeyer, IL 62295
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