USDA-NRCS Caribbean Area Offers Floodplain Easement Payments
SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — March 16, 2009 — Time is running short for
landowners to sign up for a new USDA program that will offer them up to
$30 million in easement payments.
Emergency Watershed Protection Program, funded by
the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 — the most recent
economic stimulus package — will pay landowners who sign up for
voluntary easements on their frequently flooded property.
By selling an easement on the property, the landowner
will allow the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) to restore
the parcel to its natural state, which will help reduce future flooding
and protect water quality, according to the agency.
The landowner retains complete ownership and all rights
to control public access to the land.
Any parcel of land that’s been damaged by flooding once
in the past 12 months or twice in the past 10 years is eligible for
application, lands that would be inundated or adversely impacted as a
result of a dam breach, be privately owned, or owned by State
or local units of government could be eligible for the program according
to Juan A. Martinez, NRCS Director Caribbean Area.
Qualifying damage includes crop or structural damage
caused as a direct result of flooding. The damage must be documented,
either by photographs or insurance claims, according to Martinez. The
state agency will inspect and assess all parcels before they’re accepted
into the program.
The floodplain easement program is part of a nationwide effort to
convert environmentally sensitive lands into riparian corridors and
By putting land back into its natural state through
planting grasses, trees or shrubs, the agency hopes to create fish and
wildlife habitat and mitigate further flooding.
Restoration activity is also expected to create 'green'
jobs area-wide, specifically in the engineering, biology, and
construction fields when trees and native grasses are planted and the
hydrology of the floodplain is restored.
Land enrolled in a permanent easement will not be
allowed to be farmed, according to Martinez.
Nationally, $145 million has been set aside for the
program, with no state to receive more than $30 million, Martinez said.
Payments will be made by the acre, but no definite
figure has been determined.
"If a landowner is interested, they should go ahead and
apply. Once we come up with the figure, if they think it’s not enough,
they can drop out," Martinez said.
"Landowners aren’t tied into participating until they
actually sign a contract," he said.
Martinez also recommended landowners talk to their tax
adviser about potential tax implications and options to manage liability
when a property easement is sold.
Martinez said land owners may sign-up
for the program by March 27, 2009
at their local USDA Service Center. Landowners accepted into the program
will be notified in April, 2009.
To find your local service center, visit the
Contact Us page or the
National USDA Service Center Locator page.
For more information about the program or floodplain easements, visit
USDA-NRCS Emergency Watershed Protection - Floodplain Easement webpage.