EAST PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Some Rhode Island homeowners who deal with repeated flooding now have the option to take part in a voluntary buyout program.

The buyouts are available to certain homeowners in East Providence, Middletown and Narragansett. If they agree and are eligible, their property would be turned into floodplain easements.

U.S. Sen. Jack Reed, along with officials from the U.S. Department of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservation Service (USDA NRCS) and East Providence Mayor Bob DaSilva, joined local residents to announce the approval of up to $9.65 million in federal funding for property buyouts in the city on Thursday.

In East Providence, the funding will provide relief to eligible residents who have been impacted by repeated flooding along the Runnins River.

In addition to the initial $9.65 million cost estimate for East Providence, Middletown is slated to receive $1.2 million and Narragansett should receive nearly $1 million in federal funding under NRCS’s Emergency Watershed Protection Program for similar projects.

No local match is required for the funding, according to Reed’s office.

The federal funding, which Reed helped secure, is being made available through NRCS’s Emergency Watershed Protection Program.

Reed said the funds will allow residents who volunteer to participate in the buyout program to sell their homes for fair value. Once acquired, these homes and other structures will be removed and the land will be restored to its natural state.

“We have seen rising seas. We know flooding is getting much, much worse everywhere,” Reed said.

“We’ve also seen people whose whole life savings were wiped out because a flood took their property and damaged it beyond repair,” he added.

The acquired properties will be designated as floodplain easements within an undevelopable wetland watershed area in an effort to provide an additional flood buffer for the rest of community by absorbing additional stormwater and creating new natural habitat.

The next step will be for NRCS to distribute information and applications to property owners, followed by an appraisal process.

If owners decide to sell through the buyout program, the city or town becomes the property owner, subject to a floodplain easement.

No other permanent structures may be built on the land within the floodplain easement, and it must remain forever “green” in accordance with NRCS regulations, Reed’s office noted.