The Multiple Benefits of Floodplain Easements

This report provides a snapshot of a single round of successful and highly sought after Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) floodplain easements in the Upper Mississippi River Basin states of Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, Illinois and Missouri.  Floodplain easements are a cost-effective way to minimize flood impacts, reduce repeat damages and store floodwaters for benefits of downstream residents and communities.   

Key Findings:

  • Increasing flood storage: In Iowa, a conservative estimate of the storage generated through one round of voluntary floodplain easements is over 21,000 acre-feet.
  • Reductions in flood damages: Agricultural areas account for a large portion of flood losses in the Upper Mississippi River Basin.  Flood-prone farm lands can be enrolled in an easement to avoid future losses and provide benefits to water quality and downstream communities.
  • Demand outpaces supply: More than 1500 applicants requested enrollment of nearly 105,000 floodplain acres.  Due to the small amount of funds and short duration of the program, only 12,790 acres were successfully enrolled.
  • Cost-effective floodplain management: From 1993-2003, flood damages in the agricultural sector of the Upper Mississippi River Basin were estimated at nearly $16.8B.  The cost to permanently address flooding on all of the 105,000 floodplain acres that requested easements would be a one-time payment of $467M.