Mayor Don Wesely said today that two new grants will help the city achieve its goals to protect and expand Wilderness Park and conserve floodplains. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) announced today it is providing $1.1 million to prevent future flood losses by purchasing conservation easements in the Wilderness Park area. The Board of the Nebraska Environmental Trust Fund has also recommended that $500,000 in lottery proceeds be used over three years to purchase additional easements in the area.
"With these easements, we can place permanent restrictions on the use of this land," said Mayor Wesely. "We can make sure that the potential for flooding is not increased by development in the area and that Wilderness Park will continue to flourish as a special natural environment for our families to enjoy far into the future."
The federal funds will be provided through FEMA’s Hazard Mitigation Grant Program, which seeks to reduce the risk from natural hazards. In Lincoln, the funds will be used to prevent future flooding risks by funding the purchase of easements within the 100-year floodplain. Under the program, FEMA funds cover 75 percent of approved projects. The City of Lincoln and Lancaster County will provide the 25 percent match. FEMA’s grant funds are administered in the state by the Nebraska Emergency Management Agency (NEMA).
The city applied for the FEMA funds in July 1999. Easements will be purchased from individual property owners only if they agree to participate. While specific properties were identified for the purposes of the original application, the target area for the project is the Salt Creek floodplain south of Wilderness Park. Other properties within this corridor which would serve the same flood storage purpose could also be considered for conservation easements.
The Nebraska Environmental Trust Fund Board has recommended that the city receive $200,000 this year for purchasing conservation easements around Wilderness Park. After a public hearing on April 4, the Board will vote on final approval of the recommendations for this year. The committee also recommended the project receive $125,000 for a second year and $175,000 for a third year. The full board will vote on those recommendations in subsequent years.
The Trust Fund grants would also have local matching funds provided by the City of Lincoln, Lancaster County, the Lower Platte South Natural Resources District, the Lincoln Homebuilders Association, the Wachiska Audubon Society, the Bluestem Sierra Club, the Friends of Wilderness Park and the Nebraska Wildlife Federation.
Wilderness Park now covers about 1,475 acres along Salt Creek in southwest Lincoln and Lancaster County.
Media note: A map of the area is available. To receive it electronically, contact Logan Christy in the Lincoln-Lancaster County Planning Department at 441-6367. To receive a hard copy, contact Diane Gonzolas at 441-7831.