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Verbatim: $3 million available for Wabash River project

Statement issued Tuesday:

INDIANAPOLIS, August 3, 2010—The U. S. Department of Agriculture has announced that over $3 million in funding is being made available through a Wetlands Reserve Enhancement Program (WREP), for farmers along the Wabash River in nine Indiana counties.

This project is based on a proposal by The Nature Conservancy, called the Wabash River Floodplain Corridor Project. The nine Indiana Counties include Posey, Gibson, Knox, Sullivan, Vigo, Vermillion, Parke, Fountain and Warren. Farmers in those counties, who have land in the Wabash River floodplain and meet Wetlands Reserve Program (WRP) requirements, are eligible for participation.

“There have been a lot of flood damages to farmland in the last three years and some of these farmland acres have been damaged badly enough to affect crop production,” says Jane Hardisty, state conservationist for the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) in Indiana. “There are fields along the river where flooding has happened repeatedly, and owners are asking themselves if it is still feasible to farm those fields.”

WREP, a component of the Wetlands Reserve Program, leverages assistance from NRCS’ partners to provide financial and technical assistance to eligible landowners to protect, restore, and enhance wetlands and improve wildlife habitat. “We are happy to partner with The Nature Conservancy on this Wabash River Floodplain Corridor Project,” said Hardisty. “This WREP project will leverage federal conservation resources with the resources of The Nature Conservancy and the Indiana Department of Natural Resources.”

“Eligibility for the Wabash Corridor WREP Project is the same as for the Wetlands Reserve Program,” said Jerry Roach, WRP coordinator for NRCS in Indiana. “Under the Wetlands Reserve Program, land qualifies if it would have been considered a wetland area before it was converted to agricultural production. This is a multi-year project with a goal of securing 1,000 acres of floodplain land in 2010, and 5,000 acres overall. ”

NRCS buys easements on lands to remove them from production agriculture. Once the easements are in place, NRCS may do some restoration work to put the land back into floodplain use or wetland conditions. Restoration work, for which NRCS pays up to 100 percent, helps temporarily retain flood waters in floodplains and associated areas, restore water quality, and provide habitat for wildlife. For the WREP project, The Nature Conservancy is also assisting with restoration costs.

Easement compensation is based on a cap set for each county, and the land is valued either as cropland or non-cropland. Interested landowners can get more information and apply by visiting NRCS at their local USDA Service Center. More information can be found on-line at: http://www.in.nrcs.usda.gov/programs/ under “Easement Programs, Wetlands Reserve Program.”

USDA Service Center locations can be found at: http://www.in.nrcs.usda.gov/contact/directory/field_offices.html

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