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Vilsack announces floodplain easement selections through Recovery Act funding


Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack announced June 2, the selection of 289 applications for the first national sign up for floodplain easements under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. The easements will cover more than 36,000 acres of land in 36 states.

During this ARRA floodplain easement sign up, USDA received more than 4,200 applications, totaling over $1.4 billion and representing 479,000 acres of flood-prone land in 47 states and territories.

"The floodplain easements made possible through the Recovery Act generated tremendous interest and response from across the country, which underscores the need to restore flood-prone areas to their natural state," said Vilsack. "We are working to create jobs and ensure the most effective use of the funds by enrolling land with the greatest benefit to protect against future floods, improve water quality, enhance wildlife habitat, and reduce the need for future disaster assistance."

U.S. Department of Agriculture received $145 million in the ARRA to acquire floodplain easements and restore the land to its natural state while helping maintain jobs in rural America. The nation-wide sign up was held earlier this spring.

Of the floodplain easements selected for funding, three are from Kansas. The easements are in Doniphan, Labette, and Rice counties. The easements restore and permanently protect 853 acres of frequently flooded land for nearly $2.3 million. The floodplain easements are administered by the Natural Resources Conservation Service.

"Floodplain easements and Kansas are a perfect fit," said Eric B. Banks, Kansas State Conservationist for the NRCS.

"The state has been hit hard by flooding the past two years," said Banks. "Now, those recently flood-damaged lands will be restored to their natural functions and values--meaning crop ground will be returned to native grass and wooded bottomlands."

The Emergency Watershed Protection Program's floodplain easement component allows USDA's NRCS to acquire permanent easements on private land, or certain land owned by units of state and local governments, that have been damaged by flooding at least once in the last 12 months or twice in the past 10 years. Once the easements have been established, NRCS will fund conservation work necessary to restore the land to its natural state.

Restoring floodplains to a natural state ensures they function properly--conserving and improving fish and wildlife habitat, water quality, flood water retention, groundwater recharge, and open space; reducing long-term federal disaster assistance; and safeguarding lives and property from floods, drought, and erosion. Landowners retain several rights to the property, including quiet enjoyment, control of public access, and undeveloped recreational use such as hunting and fishing.

"Fully-functioning floodplains are critical to future economic and environmental health of Kansas communities and farmsteads," said Banks.

"By reconnecting floodplains and streams--allowing floodwaters to spread out and slow--the often devastating downstream affects of floods can be lessened."

All applications were submitted voluntarily and were rigorously screened to ensure they met specific criteria before selection such as the impact and connectivity of streams and floodplains, their proximity to wetlands and wildlife habitat, and the likelihood of generating jobs through restoration activities. These activities include, but are not limited to, removal of structures that impede or alter water flow; re-establishing natural vegetation; and restoring fish migration routes.

Funding provided through the ARRA of 2009 is part of the Obama Administration's plans to modernize the nation's infrastructure, jumpstart the economy, and create jobs. For more information, visit www.recovery.gov.

To learn more about your eligibility for USDA projects underway through the Recovery Act, go to www.usda.gov/wps/portal/usdahome.

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