Government program will let floodplain revert to nature -, South Georgia News, Weather, Sports

Government program will let floodplain revert to nature

By Jay Polk - bio | email

ALBANY, GA (WALB) - Flood damage is so widespread in south Georgia, that the state and maybe the federal government will step in to help local governments with recovery.

As part of the stimulus program, the federal government is offering a new way to try to prevent flood damage. The government will most likely be helping those who have seen their homes and land go under water. But there is a new program designed to keep residents from losing their homes and farmers from losing their land in the first place.  

From Colquitt County, to Worth County to Dougherty County and everywhere else around the region, people are watching nervously as their homes and land come ever closer to being reclaimed by nature. But now the Natural Resources Conservation Service, or NRCS, is offering a helping hand.

"NRCS is offering a floodplain easement program through its emergency watershed protection program. The easement program is designed to put land, floodplains that is back into natural conditions," said Asst. State Conservationist Jimmy Bramblett.

It's another part of the recently signed stimulus package. To qualify, land has to have been damaged by flooding. "Twice in the last ten years or once in the last ten months," Bramblett said.

Also eligible is land that would be damaged if a dam just above it were to give way. And many landowners in our area, qualify for the program. The program was actually started after the 1993 floods in the Midwest. But the stimulus money allowed the government to extend it to other states, including Georgia. When a landowner signs up for the easement, the government does the rest.

 "We'll pay up to 100% of the cost of restoration," Bramblett said.  "That is, if the land is crop land, we'll put trees back in there native vegetation, bottom land hardwoods. If there's a house or other structure in that floodplain, we'll pay costs to relocate that particular structure."

Even though it costs money now, the program is designed to save the taxpayers money in the long run by reducing the costs of having to rescue people from their homes when the water approaches.

"Basically we can regulate the flow of waters downstream and reduce the amount of damages downstream, thus reducing the amount of response and relief efforts needed in natural disasters."

And while the land is no longer able to be developed, landowners still own the land and can use it for things like hunting and fishing. Perhaps the best part about this program is the chance to restore the natural floodplains of the rivers in the state.

 "Reduced erosion and sedimentation, improved water quality, protection of fish and wildlife habitat, protection of endangered species."

Landowners have until April 10th, that's a week from Friday to sign up for this program. To do that you can go to any USDA office in the state, including the one in Albany.

Jimmy Bramblett says that each state is limited to $30 million, and they're hoping to convert 5,000 acres back to its natural state.

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