Proposed Regional Cross Canal Watershed Flood and Conservation Easement Projects
The District, along with several local partnering agencies, is interested in coordinating with land owners willing to sell flood and conservation easements on rice lands that are also located within the floodplains of the Cross Canal Watershed. In exchange for monetary payment, a qualifying property owner can continue agricultural activities while allowing rice lands to be periodically inundated with water during large winter storm events. This would include rice lands adjacent to Auburn Ravine, Markham Ravine, Pleasant Grove Creek, Coon Creek, Yankee Slough and their tributaries, which have been historically subject to flooding.
The goal of the easement program is to conserve these rice lands and the riparian corridors along existing creeks to the mutual benefit of the Flood Control District and the property owner. Under this program, rice growing operations in new easement areas would not be altered but rather protected and conserved. Existing wetland and riparian areas adjacent to creeks would be improved and protected, any current waterfowl hunting operations could remain and the property owner would receive fair market value for the sale of an easement. The District and its partners would benefit by working with participating rice farmers to simply operate existing check gates during a large storm event to retain periodically occurring floodwaters. The check gates would be kept closed during major flood events, holding floodwaters in retention within the checks for up to 30 days, rather than keeping the gates continually open throughout the winter. Retention of these flood waters during the typically non-productive months will reduce downstream flooding and may also serve to help degrade rice husks.
The District is currently seeking interested land owners willing to coordinate on such a flood and conservation easement approach. Costs for this easement program would be funded entirely by federal or state agency grants as well as local matching funds provided by partnering agencies. Two federal grant programs that would apply include the National Resource Conservation District’s (NRCS) Emergency Watershed Protection program as well as the Farm and Ranch Lands Protection program. More detailed information on these programs can be found at: http://www.nrcs.usda.gov/programs under the easement program descriptions. There are also several state grant programs through the Department of Conservation and the Department of Water Resources that may apply.