Emergency Watershed Protection - Floodplain Easement
Section 382 of the Federal Agriculture Improvement and Reform Act of 1996, Public Law 104-127, amended the Emergency Watershed Protection Program (EWPP) to provide for the purchase of floodplain easements as an emergency measure. Since 1996, the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) has purchased floodplain easements on lands that qualify for EWPP assistance. Floodplain easements restore, protect, maintain, and enhance the functions of the floodplain; conserve natural values including fish and wildlife habitat, water quality, flood water retention, ground water recharge, and open space; reduce long-term federal disaster assistance; and safeguard lives and property from floods, drought, and the products of erosion.
NRCS may purchase EWPP easements on any floodplain lands that have been impaired within the last 12 months or that have a history of repeated flooding (i.e., flooded at least two times during the past 10 years).
Under the floodplain easement option, a landowner voluntarily offers to sell to the NRCS a permanent conservation easement that provides the NRCS with the full authority to restore and enhance the floodplain’s functions and values. In exchange, a landowner receives the lowest of the three values established for WRP as an easement payment
- a value based on a market analysis,
- a geographic rate established by the NRCS State Conservationist or
- the landowner offer.
Restoration of the Floodplain
The easement provides NRCS with the authority to fully restore and enhance the floodplain’s functions and values to natural conditions to the greatest extent practicable. NRCS may pay up to 100 percent of the restoration costs. 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. .
Landowners retain several rights to the property, including:
- 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 obtain 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 for 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 right of any kind to the landowner.
Farm Bill Specialist