Archive for Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Department of Agriculture offering watershed plan

September 17, 2008

The U.S. Department of Agriculture is offering an Emergency Watershed Protection Program - Floodplain Easements (EWP-FE) signup through Oct. 1, 2008, according to Eric B. Banks, State Conservationist for the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), in Kansas. NRCS is an agency of the USDA.

An EWP-FE provides landowners with frequently-flooded land an opportunity to retire that land from production, while creating wildlife benefits and helping to reduce downstream flooding. Frequently flooded means land that has been impaired within the last 12 months or that has a history of repeated flooding; that is, flooded at least two times during the past 10 years. Only private landowners are eligible to apply.

Under this program, a landowner would voluntarily offer to sell to the NRCS a permanent conservation easement that provides the NRCS with the full authority to restore and enhance the floodplain's functions and values. In exchange, a landowner receives the lowest of one of the three following values as an easement payment: (i) a geographic rate established by the NRCS state conservationist, (ii) a value based on a market appraisal analysis for agricultural uses or assessment for agricultural land, or (iii) the landowner offer.

Landowners would retain several property rights after the land is placed under easement. These include quiet enjoyment, the right to control public access, and the right to undeveloped recreational use such as hunting and fishing. The landowner must pay all property and other assessed taxes. The NRCS acquires the authority to limit or restrict all other land uses, such as cropping, construction of buildings, or any other use inconsistent with the natural functions and characteristics of the floodplain.

Once an application is accepted, the NRCS will extend the landowner an easement compensation offer. Although this offer is a set amount and is non-negotiable, the landowner would have several weeks to consider it. If the landowner accepts the offer, it may take up to a year for the NRCS to record the easement and make the land value payment.

Landowners should contact the NRCS in the USDA Service Center at 700 Jefferson, Suite B, Oskaloosa, Ks, 66066, or call (785) 863-2201 to apply. The NRCS office will forward all EWP-FE applications in to the Kansas NRCS State Office for ranking. More information is available on the Internet at www.ks.nrcs.usda.gov/programs/ewp/ and click on National EWP Floodplain Easements.

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