Skip

Emergency Watershed Protection Program-Floodplain Easements

Introduction

The Emergency Watershed Protection - Floodplain Easement Program (EWP-FPE) provides an alternative measure to traditional EWP recovery, where it is determined that acquiring an easement in lieu of recovery measures is the more economical and prudent approach to reducing a threat to life or property.

The easement area will be restored to the maximum extent practicable to its natural condition. Restoration utilizes structural and nonstructural practices to restore the flood storage and flow, erosion control, and improve the practical management of the easement.

Floodplain easements restore, protect, maintain and enhance the functions of floodplains while conserving their natural values such as fish and wildlife habitat, water quality, flood water retention and ground water recharge. Structures, including buildings, within the floodplain easement must be demolished and removed, or relocated outside the 100-year floodplain or dam breach inundation area.

EWP-FPE Hurricane Sandy Relief

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced the tentative selection of approximately $19.2 million in funding for floodplain easements to help the victims of Hurricane Sandy and prevent future damage in flood-prone areas in the Northeast region. Vilsack also announced that another round of applications for easement funds will be accepted starting in Jaunary 2014.

“As we help Northeast residents overcome the tragic devastation caused by Hurricane Sandy, we can also work together to improve resilience and protect folks from flooding and other threats in the years to come,” said Vilsack. “This funding is helping residents ensure that when disaster strikes, all possible measures have been taken to mitigate damage from floods, protect communities and save lives. The new, tentative floodplain easements we’re announcing today are one part of a comprehensive approach to learn from Hurricane Sandy and increase our resilience for the future."

Total Cost of Easements for Connecticut:  $7,532,001

Table of of Easement Location and Cost
(Connecticut)

State County, City Project Cost
CT East Haven $442,685
CT Madison $1,943,508
CT Old Lyme $820,700
CT West Haven $3,058,369
CT Bridgeport $1,266,739

 

Background

Section 382 of the Federal Agriculture Improvement and Reform Act of 1996 (Public Law 104-127) amended the Emergency Watershed Protection Program (EWP), which was established under the Agricultural Credit Act of 1978, to provide for the purchase of floodplain easements as an emergency response to natural disasters or other circumstances. Since 1996, the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) has purchased permanent floodplain easements on 1,418 properties, totaling 184,254 acres located in 36 states.

Land Eligibility

NRCS may purchase EWP-FPE permanent easements on floodplain lands that meet 1, 2 and 3 below. Land that meets 4 below also could be eligible on a case-by-case basis.

  1. Private lands and those owned by local and state governments which are located in a floodplain
  2. Have been damaged by Hurricane Sandy flooding
  3. Are not subject to tidal influence or action from storm waves (i.e. FEMA Zones V, VE or V1-30)
  4. Would contribute to the restoration of flood storage and flow, provided for control of erosion, or improve the practical management of the floodplain easement

Enrollment Option

A permanent easement is the only enrollment option available for EWP-FPE floodplain easements. Permanent FPE easements are available on the following types of land:

  1. Agricultural or open lands. In these cases, NRCS will pay up to 100% of the easement value and up to 100% of the costs for easement restoration.
  2. Lands primarily used for residential housing. In these cases, NRCS will pay up to 100% of the easement value and up to 100% of the structure's value if the landowner chooses to have it demolished. If the landowner wished to relocate their residence instead of demolishing it, the NRCS will pay 100% of the costs associated with relocating it to a location outside of the floodplain. A project sponsor is required for these projects and is required to purchase the remaining lot after structures are removed.

Easement Payments

Although participation in EWP-FPE is voluntary, landowners tentatively selected for enrollment are required to sign a permanent conservation easement for the property included in their application. Through the signing of the easement, the NRCS purchases a series of rights from the landowner including the authority to restore and enhance the floodplain's functions and values. Once an easement has closed, the boundary configuration and terms of the agreement cannot be modified under any circumstances.

As compensation for the rights purchased by the NRCS, the landowner will receive the lowest of three values:

  1. The fair market value (FMV) of the land. The fair market value may be determined through either of two methods: an area-wide market analysis or survey (AWMA) or an individual Uniform Standards for Professional Appraisal Practice (USPAP) appraisal. (See NEWPPM, Section 515.60(B)(D)).
  2. The geographic area rate cap (GARC). The GARC reflects the value the State Conservationist, with the advice of the State Technical Committee, determines to be fair compensation for the value of the easement.
  3. A voluntary written offer by the landowner. At the time of application, the landowner may voluntarily offer to accept less compensation than would be offered by NRCS. This may enhance the probability of enrollment. An offer to accept a lower compensation amount will be documented in writing on the ranking factors worksheet.

Easement compensation for projects that include residences or other structures will be determined by an appraisal.

Easement Restoration

The easement provides NRCS with the authority to restore and enhance the floodplain's functions and values. NRCS may pay up to 100% of the restoration costs. To the extent practicable, NRCS actively restores the natural features and characteristics of the floodplain through re-creating the topographic diversity, increasing the duration of inundation and saturation, and providing for the re-establishment of native vegetation. The landowner is provided the opportunity to participate in the restoration efforts. NRCS may pay 75 percent of the cost of removing buildings when appropriate.

Landowner Use

After the sale of the permanent EWP-FPE easement, landowners still retain several property rights, including:

  • The right to quiet enjoyment
  • The right to control public access and
  • The right to undeveloped recreational use such as hunting and fishing

At any time, a landowner may request authorization from NRCS to engage in other activities, provided that NRCS determines it will further the protection and enhancement of the easement's floodplain functions and values. These compatible uses may include managed timber harvest, periodic haying, or grazing. NRCS determines the amount, method, timing, intensity, and duration of any compatible use that might be authorized. While a landowner can realize economic returns from an activity allowed on the easement area, a landowner is not assured of any specific level or frequency of such use, and the authorization does not vest any rights outside of those specified in the easement to the landowner.

How to Apply

If you are interested in applying for EWP-FPE, please review the documents listed below as they will need to be completed when you apply. For more information about EWP-FPE, contact Arthur Ramthun or Carol Donzella.

Program Signup Forms Available Online

Additional Program Information

7 C.F.R. Part 624

Federal Agriculture Improvement and Reform Act of 1996 ( landing page | full text)

Emergency Watersheds Protection Program Floodplain Warranty Easement Deed, NRCS-LTP-20