The Emergency Watershed Protection (EWP) Program, a federal emergency recovery program, helps local communities recover after a natural disaster strikes.
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What is EWP Floodplain Easement (EWP-FPE)?
The Emergency Watershed Protection - Floodplain Easement (EWPP-FPE) option offers an alternative method to traditional EWP Program Recovery. USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) recommends this option to landowners and others where acquiring an easement is the best approach (more economical and prudent) to reduce threat to life and/or property.
A major goal of EWPP–FPE is to restore the land, to the maximum extent possible, to its natural condition. Restoration techniques include the use of structural and non-structural practices to restore the flow and storage of floodwaters, control erosion, and to improve management of the easement.
Floodplain easements restore, protect, maintain and enhance the functions of floodplains while conserving their natural values such as serving as fish and wildlife habitat, improving water quality, retaining flood water, and recharging groundwater. Structures, including buildings, within the floodplain easement must be demolished and removed, or relocated outside the affected floodplain area.
Reasons for Purchase of Floodplain Lands
NRCS may purchase EWPP-FPE permanent easements in floodplains for the following reasons:
- The land has been damaged by flooding at least once during the previous calendar year or subject to flood damage at least twice within the previous 10 years.*
- Other lands within the floodplain may be eligible if they contribute to the restoration of floodwater storage and flow, offer a way to control erosion, or improve the practical management of the floodplain easement.
- Lands that would be inundated or adversely impacted as a result of a dam breach.
*If FPE is being offered as recovery for a specific natural disaster, at least one instance of flooding must have occurred because of that natural disaster.
Enrollment Option and Eligible Lands
A permanent easement is the only enrollment option under EWPP-FPE. Permanent floodplain easements are available on the following types of land:
- Agricultural or open lands. NRCS will pay up to the entire cost of the easement value and up to the entire cost for easement restoration.
- Lands primarily used for residential housing. In these cases, NRCS will pay up to the entire easement value and up to the entire cost of the structure's value if the landowner chooses to have it demolished. If the landowner prefers to relocate the residence instead of demolishing it, NRCS will pay all costs associated with relocating the residence to a location outside the floodplain. A project sponsor is required for lands primarily used for residential housing and for the purchase of the remaining lot after structures are removed.
Although participation in EWPP-FPE is voluntary, landowners selected for enrollment are required to sign a permanent conservation easement for the property as part of their application. Through the signing of the easement, NRCS purchases surface and other rights from the landowner, including the authority to restore and enhance the floodplain's functions and values. Ownership of the land is retained by the original landowner until they decide to sell or transfer the property to another party. Once an easement has been purchased and closed, 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:
- The fair market value of the land. The fair market value may be determined through either of two methods: an area-wide market analysis or survey or an individual Uniform Standards for Professional Appraisal Practice (USPAP) appraisal.
- 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.
- A voluntary written offer by the landowner. When the landowner applies for the easements, he or she may voluntarily offer to accept less compensation than NRCS would offer. This may enhance the probability of the easement becoming enrolled. 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 through an appraisal.
The easement provides NRCS with the authority to restore and enhance the floodplain functions and values. NRCS may pay up to the entire restoration costs. To the extent practicable, NRCS actively will restore the natural features and characteristics of the floodplain such as re-creating the topographic features like ridges and swales, increasing the length of time the land is flooded, and establishing native vegetation. NRCS offers the landowner the opportunity to participate in the restoration efforts.
After the sale of the permanent 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. NRCS may allow other activities, called compatible use, if it is determined the activity 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 EWPP-FPE, please review the application documents listed below. More information about the EWPP-FPE can be obtained from your local USDA NRCS Field Office.
Other Disaster Assistance
Disaster Assistance Programs At a Glance
USDA is ready to help in the aftermath of natural disasters. Find which program best fits your current situation and needs.
USDA along with other agencies offer a wide range of disaster recovery assistance following these unfortunate events. Check out the agencies and their programs below for more information.
Farmers, ranchers, and non-industrial private forestland owners can apply for resource assistance through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program. Eligible land includes cropland, rangeland, and non-industrial private forestland. Recovery assistance includes but is not limited to: immediate soil erosion protection, minimizing noxious and invasive plant proliferation, protecting water quality, restoring livestock infrastructure necessary for grazing management, emergency animal mortality management.
Emergency Animal Mortality Management
When catastrophic non-disease natural events (ie. flood, fire, weather-related) occur, financial assistance for emergency animal mortality management may be offered.
Producers can contact the local field office at that time for more details.
Ready to get started?
Contact your local service center to start your application.
How to Get Assistance
Do you farm or ranch and want to make improvements to the land that you own or lease?
Natural Resources Conservation Service offers technical and financial assistance to help farmers, ranchers and forest landowners.
To get started with NRCS, we recommend you stop by your local NRCS field office. We’ll discuss your vision for your land.
NRCS provides landowners with free technical assistance, or advice, for their land. Common technical assistance includes: resource assessment, practice design and resource monitoring. Your conservation planner will help you determine if financial assistance is right for you.
We’ll walk you through the application process. To get started on applying for financial assistance, we’ll work with you:
- To fill out an AD 1026, which ensures a conservation plan is in place before lands with highly erodible soils are farmed. It also ensures that identified wetland areas are protected.
- To meet other eligibility certifications.
Once complete, we’ll work with you on the application, or CPA 1200.
Applications for most programs are accepted on a continuous basis, but they’re considered for funding in different ranking periods. Be sure to ask your local NRCS district conservationist about the deadline for the ranking period to ensure you turn in your application in time.
As part of the application process, we’ll check to see if you are eligible. To do this, you’ll need to bring:
- An official tax ID (Social Security number or an employer ID)
- A property deed or lease agreement to show you have control of the property; and
- A farm tract number.
If you don’t have a farm tract number, you can get one from USDA’s Farm Service Agency. Typically, the local FSA office is located in the same building as the local NRCS office. You only need a farm tract number if you’re interested in financial assistance.
NRCS will take a look at the applications and rank them according to local resource concerns, the amount of conservation benefits the work will provide and the needs of applicants.
If you’re selected, you can choose whether to sign the contract for the work to be done.
Once you sign the contract, you’ll be provided standards and specifications for completing the practice or practices, and then you will have a specified amount of time to implement. Once the work is implemented and inspected, you’ll be paid the rate of compensation for the work if it meets NRCS standards and specifications.