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News Release

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.

The 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.

Allowance

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.

Targets

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.

National Incentives

The floodplain easement program is part of a nationwide effort to convert environmentally sensitive lands into riparian corridors and wooded bottomlands.

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.

Funding

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.

Details

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 the USDA-NRCS Emergency Watershed Protection - Floodplain Easement webpage.