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Floodplain Easements

Emergency Watershed Protection - Floodplain Easement Program

Vilsack Announces Eight Floodplain Easement Selections in Arkansas Through Recovery Act Funding

Builds on USDA Efforts to Create Jobs, Help Rural Communities and Conserve Natural Resources

TERRE HAUTE, Ind., June 2, 2009 – Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today selected 289 applications for the first national sign-up for floodplain easements under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) of 2009. The easements will cover more the 36,000 acres of land in 36 states. Eight easements were selected in Arkansas on 1,501 acres for $2,237,586.

“The floodplain easements made possible through the Recovery Act generated tremendous interest and response from across the country, which underscores the need to restore flood-prone areas to their natural state,” said Vilsack. “We are working to create jobs and ensure the most effective use of the funds by enrolling land with the greatest benefit to protect against future floods, improve water quality, enhance wildlife habitat and reduce the need for future disaster assistance.”

“A 333-acre project area adjacent to the state-owned Holland Bottoms Wildlife Management Area (WMA) in Pulaski County will convert cropland damaged by flooding and erosion to permanent native vegetation,” said Kalven L. Trice, Natural Resources Conservation Service state conservationist in Arkansas. “In addition to reducing flood damage to the floodplain, these restoration activities will provide additional protected wildlife habitat adjacent to the WMA, improve water quality by reducing sedimentation, increase available carbon sequestration, restore riparian habitats and reduce commodity payments on 225 acres of cropland.”

“The eight easements selected for funding in Arkansas will help restore the natural functions of the floodplain they are found in.  This will be accomplished by converting cropland often damaged by flooding to permanent native vegetation and restoring natural topography to the 1,501 acres included in these easements” Trice said.

The eight easements are in Arkansas, Clay, Phillips, Prairie, Pulaski, White and Yell counties.

USDA received $145 million in the ARRA to acquire floodplain easements and restore the land to its natural state while helping maintain jobs in rural America.

The Emergency Watershed Protection (EWP) Program’s floodplain easement component allows USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) to acquire permanent easements on private land, or certain land owned by units of state and local governments, that have been damaged by flooding at least once in the last 12 months or twice in the past 10 years. Once the easements have been established, NRCS will fund conservation work necessary to restore the land to its natural state.

Restoring floodplains to a natural state ensures they function properly – conserving and improving fish and wildlife habitat, water quality, flood water retention, ground water recharge, and open space; reducing long-term federal disaster assistance; and safeguarding lives and property from floods, drought, and erosion.  Landowners retain several rights to the property, including quiet enjoyment, control of public access, and undeveloped recreational use such as hunting and fishing.

During this ARRA floodplain easement sign-up, USDA received more than 4,200 applications, totaling over $1.4 billion and representing 479,000 acres of flood-prone land in 47 states and territories.  Arkansas NRCS received 56 applications from 22 counties totaling over $17 million in requested funding on 15,350 acres.

All applications were submitted voluntarily and were rigorously screened to ensure they met specific criteria before selection, such as the impact and connectivity of streams and floodplains, their proximity to wetlands and wildlife habitat, and the likelihood of generating jobs through restoration activities. These activities include, but are not limited to, removal of structures that impede or alter water flow; re-establishing natural vegetation; and restoring fish migration routes.

Funding provided through the ARRA of 2009 is part of the Obama Administration's plans to modernize the nation's infrastructure, jumpstart the economy, and create jobs. For more information, visit www.recovery.gov.

To learn more about your eligibility for USDA projects underway through the Recovery Act, go to www.usda.gov/wps/portal/usdahome.