Landowners of areas previously damaged in floods may apply for floodplain easements through USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service. About $145 million will be available nationally with California’s share of the funds dependent on the number and quality of applications received. The voluntary easement-and-restoration projects will restore an estimated 60,000 acres of frequently flooded land across the nation and create jobs in survey work, real estate, engineering, construction, and the sale and installation of native trees and plants.

The application specifies flooding patterns required on land being offered for easements. Additionally, the land must be owned privately or by state or local units of government. Sign-ups will be taken until March 27, 2009 at USDA Service Centers.

“California has many rivers with altered floodplains that would benefit from this voluntary easement and restoration opportunity,” said Ed Burton, state conservationist for NRCS in California. “Reconnecting rivers with their floodplains has abundant benefits for all components of the ecosystem — including the human component.”

NRCS will buy permanent easements from willing landowners that give the agency authority to restore and enhance floodplain functions and values such as fish and wildlife habitat, water quality, flood water retention, ground water recharge and open space. In the long term, the easements will also reduce federal disaster assistance payments, increase carbon sequestration with permanent vegetative cover, and safeguard lives and property from floods, drought, and erosion.

Landowners retain many rights to the property, including hunting, fishing and undeveloped recreation and also retain rights to control access.

The funding, obtained from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, includes both technical and financial assistance to restore historically-present floodplain functions and values on the easements. Priority will be given to projects that have a restoration plan developed or in process, as all restoration must be complete within 18 months.

For additional information, visit the National NRCS Web site at http://www.nrcs.usda.gov/programs/ewp/Floodplain/index.html or contact a California NRCS office.