Pennsylvania receives $1.3M in Recovery Act funding for floodplain easements

HARRISBURG, PA, June 11, 2009 -- Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced that USDA will provide $1.3 million for floodplain easements in Pennsylvania under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009...

• Projects in Chester, Delaware, Greene, and Westmoreland Counties receive funding

HARRISBURG, PA, June 11, 2009 -- Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced June 2nd that USDA will provide $1.3 million for floodplain easements in Pennsylvania through President Obama's American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) of 2009. The local funding is part of more than $136 million in national floodplain easement funding announced by Secretary Vilsack. By making these investments, USDA is helping to protect against future flooding, decrease soil erosion, improve water quality, enhance wildlife habitat and reduce the need for future disaster assistance.

"While serving as Governor of Iowa, I often saw the incredible destruction that flooding can cause in our communities, and I am heartened that the funding I'm announcing today will help reduce the impact of future storms," said Vilsack. "This funding will not only protect rural communities, but also protect the environment in rural areas from repeated flooding."

The Emergency Watershed Protection (EWP) Program's floodplain easement component allows USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service (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.

"Five Pennsylvania projects, located in Chester, Delaware, Greene, and Westmoreland counties, were selected to receive this funding," stated Craig Derickson, NRCS Pennsylvania State Conservationist. "Through these projects, the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) will be able to purchase floodplain easements in order to remove degraded dams and return the areas to their natural state."

Nationally, 289 applications were selected for easements covering more than 36,000 acres of land in 36 states. USDA received more than 4,200 applications, totaling over $1.4 billion and representing 479,000 acres of flood-prone land in 47 state and territories

"The floodplain easements made possible through the Recovery Act generated tremendous interest and response from across the country," 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."

Restoring floodplains to a natural state ensures they function properly -- conserving and improving fish and wildlife habitat, water quality, flood water retention, ground water 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.

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 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 is part of the Obama Administration's plans to modernize the nation's infrastructure, jumpstart the economy, and create jobs.

>> More information about the Recovery Act
>> Learn more about your eligibility for USDA projects underway through the Recovery Act

###

More in Environmental