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NRCS announces sign-up for floodplain easements

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By The Staff

COLUMBIA  – The Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) will hold a signup for floodplain easements, a component of the Emergency Watershed Protection Program through March 27.

Funding comes from the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act of 2009, part of the economic stimulus, and provides both technical and financial assistance to eligible applicants.  

Nationally, up to $145 million will be available to landowners for the restoration of an estimated 60,000 acres of frequently flooded land to its natural state and to create jobs.

“We will be working with landowners who voluntarily agree to restore the floodplains to their natural condition by placing their land into easements,” said Niles Glasgow, NRCS state conservationist for South Carolina.

The easements will convert environmentally sensitive lands into riparian corridors and wooded bottomlands that are vital for fish and wildlife habitat and to mitigate downstream flooding.

“This is a great opportunity to enroll those areas that flood regularly,” Glasgow said. “Jobs can be created in rural communities nationwide when landowners establish conservation practices on the land entered into an easement. Jobs will be created mostly in the engineering, biology and construction fields when trees and native grasses are planted and the hydrology of the floodplain is restored.”

All funds will be spent on targeted projects that can be completed with economic stimulus funds. The goal is to have all floodplain easements acquired and restored within 12 to 18 months.

The Emergency Watershed Protection Program’s floodplain easement component allows USDA-NRCS to buy easements on lands damaged by flooding.

The restored floodplain will generate public benefits, such as increased flood protection, enhanced fish and wildlife habitat, improved water quality and a reduced need for future public disaster assistance.  

Other benefits include reduced energy consumption when certain agricultural activities and practices are eliminated and increased carbon sequestration as permanent vegetative cover is re-established.

For details, interested landowners can contact the Lancaster USDA Service Center at 286-4455, extension 3.

For details about EWP Program floodplain easements, please visit http://www.nrcs.usda.gov/programs/ewp/Floodplain/index.html.