News Release

USDA Brings Long-term Relief to Hurricane Sandy Landowners

Angela Wishoff

Second Round of Conservation Easement Applications to be Accepted in 2014

Syracuse, New York December 18, 2013 - Donald Pettit, State Conservationist, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service announced today $7.5 million and 8.4 acres of permanent floodplain easements to continue helping the victims of Hurricane Sandy and prevent future devastation in vulnerable flood areas.

These easements were from the first round of application selections and another application period will begin in January.

The funds were available through the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service Emergency Watershed Protection Program, Floodplain Easement Option, which allows NRCS to purchase floodplain easements as an emergency response to natural disasters or other circumstances.

“We are and will continue to use the Hurricane Sandy funds to help those who were affected by this tragedy,” said Don Pettit. “This program will help reduce future flood damage and help relieve the stress these landowners have been enduring for more than a year now.”

Landowners in Connecticut, New Jersey and New York voluntarily are placing their land into the floodplain easements and relocating, which will help prevent damages from future storms by restoring the area to natural conditions.

When lands are enrolled into the NRCS floodplain easements program, homes, structures, dikes or other obstacles to water flow are removed, allowing water to move naturally across floodplains when streams and rivers swell beyond their banks.
Restoration of floodplains improves the natural functions of the plain and establishes the flow of water back into the area, protecting other properties along the water and enhancing fish and wildlife habitat, water quality, flood water retention and ground water recharge.

These perpetual easements not only help prevent flooding, but NRCS re-establishes native vegetation, which improves conditions for wildlife. For easements on open or agricultural land, the landowner retains ownership and several other rights including the right to use the land for recreational purposes.

Easements projects in the state:

New Creek/West Branch floodplain, Staten Island, N.Y.: NRCS will provide the $7.5 million to restore this heavily impacted urban wetland, into a healthy and functional wetland corridor. The project includes wetland pools that will act to reduce the speed of water flow, and detain flood and storm water during rain events. About 80 percent of streets in and around the project area regularly flood because they currently do not have storm sewers. The improvements will provide the outlet for storm sewers in local streets to be constructed in future projects. The restoration will provide habitat for state listed animals, and will foster a variety of native habitats that range from open water to upland forest.

Because NRCS strives to enroll the entire floodplain, the entire area that may flood from a stream or river, applications are submitted in groups. But a majority of applications NRCS received were in a checkerboard pattern with some landowners in the floodplain choosing to not enroll.

Applications that included every structure in the floodplain were enrolled. However, the second round of applications may help fill in some gaps from the first round.

Since 1997, NRCS has enrolled nearly 1,500 easements and more than 180,000 acres into the program, including lands in 36 states.

The second sign-up for EWP-FPE is scheduled to be held in January. Interested landowners should contact their local USDA Service Center to learn more about the program and submit an application prior. More information is also available on the NRCS floodplain easement website.