Owners of frequently flooded land in floodplains have until March 27 to apply for permanent floodplain easements, which are being funded by the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act of 2009.
Harold Deckerd, assistant state conservationist for the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) in Missouri, says the floodplain easements are a component of the agency's Emergency Watershed Protection (EWP) program. He said floodplain easements are similar to easements obtained by NRCS through its Wetlands Reserve Program (WRP), with one major exception: applications that were not eligible for WRP easements may be eligible for floodplain easements.
"This isn't part of the Farm Bill, so the rules that kept some WRP applications from being eligible don't apply," Deckerd said. "For example, we have some landowners who wanted to enroll land in WRP that hadn't owned the land for at least seven years, so they weren't eligible. That would not keep them from being eligible for a floodplain easement."
Deckerd said NRCS staff will be working with landowners who voluntarily agree to restore floodplains to their natural condition. The easements would convert environmentally sensitive lands into riparian corridors and wooded bottlomlands that provide good fish and wildlife habitat and reduce downstream flooding. However, floodplain restoration activities will be focused on floodplain expansion rather than on providing habitat for migratory waterfowl, Deckerd said.
Landowners with successful applications will receive both technical and financial assistance to restore the floodplains. Deckerd said that Missouri has been divided into five regions, each with a specific easement rate cap. The regions and rate caps are the same for WRP and floodplain easements. He said that applicants will know immediately what payment they would receive if their application is accepted. He added that applications will receive extra points if landowners agree to a lower rate. The goal is to have all of the floodplain easements acquired and restored within 18 months.
The floodplain easement component of EWP allows NRCS to purchase easements on land damaged by flooding. Restored floodplains generate many public benefits, including increased flood protection, enhanced fish and wildlife habitat, improved water quality and a reduced need for further public assistance. Other benefits include reduced energy consumption when certain agricultural activities and practices are eliminated and increased carbon sequestration as permanent vegetative cover is re-established.
To apply for an easement, or to get more information about it and other NRCS programs, contact the NRCS office serving your county. Look in the phone book under "U.S. Government, Department of Agriculture," or access this website: http://offices.usda.gov. Additional information is also available at this website: http://www.nrcs.usda.gov/programs/ewp/fl....