WASHINGTON, Dec. 18, 2013 - Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced today the selection of approximately $19.2 million in funding for floodplain easements to help the victims of Hurricane Sandy and prevent future damage in flood-prone areas in the Northeast region. Vilsack also announced that another round of applications for easement funds will be accepted starting next month. Funding is provided by Congress through the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) Emergency Watershed Protection Program (EWP-FPE).
"As we help Northeast residents overcome the tragic devastation caused by Hurricane Sandy, we can also work together to improve resilience and protect folks from flooding and other threats in the years to come," said Vilsack. "This funding is helping residents ensure that when disaster strikes, all possible measures have been taken to mitigate damage from floods, protect communities and save lives. The new floodplain easements we're announcing today are one part of a comprehensive approach to learn from Hurricane Sandy and increase our resilience for the future."
Landowners in Connecticut, New Jersey and New York are voluntarily placing their land into floodplain easements, which will be restored to natural conditions and help to prevent damages from future storms. When lands are enrolled into the NRCS floodplain easements program, homes, structures, dikes or other obstacles to water flow are removed, allowing water to move naturally across floodplains when streams and rivers rise beyond their banks.
Restoration of these perpetual easements not only helps prevent flooding, but improves conditions for wildlife. For easements on open or agricultural land, the landowner retains ownership and several other rights including the right to use the land for recreational purposes.
Examples of how easements announced today are helping landowners:
Old Field Creek area of West Haven, Conn.: A year after Hurricane Sandy, homeowners were plagued by mold and other problems. Some landowners wanted to sell their property and move to higher ground, but were unable to find buyers. NRCS will provide $2.6 million to purchase floodplain easements on 34 acres in the Old Field Creek salt marsh and 12 homes along Blohm, May, and Third Avenues to mitigate flooding during future storms and provide relief to residents.
Bay Point, N.J.: Permanent easements equaling about $4 million for the 40-acre Bay Point peninsula were awarded today. After demolition, removal and restoration, the easements will provide ecological benefit as well as provide relief to 16 homeowners dealing with significant damage and continued flooding from the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. This region is globally significant for a number of migratory bird species.
New Creek/West Branch floodplain, Staten Island, N.Y.: NRCS will provide $7.5 million to restore this urban wetland. The project includes creating wetland pools that will reduce the speed of water flow and hold flood and storm water. Approximately 80 percent of streets in and around the project area regularly flood because they do not have storm sewers, and the improvements announced today will provide outlets for storm sewers to be constructed in the future. The restoration will provide habitat for animals and will promote native habitats that range from open water to upland forest.
A total of approximately 400 acres are covered by today's announcement. For a complete list of the enrolled areas click here. Because NRCS works to enroll entire floodplains, applications are submitted in groups. A majority of applications NRCS received during the recent funding round were from areas where not all owners chose to enroll. Only applications that included every structure in the floodplain were enrolled in the first round. The second round of applications is expected to complement the properties accepted by USDA in round one.
Since 1997, NRCS has enrolled nearly 1,500 easements and more than 180,000 acres into the program, including lands in 36 states.
The second sign-up for EWP-FPE will be held in January 2014. Interested landowners should contact their local USDA Service Center to learn more about the program and submit an application prior. More information is also available on the NRCS floodplain easement website. To hear a USDA radio story about the selections click here.
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