NRCS Flood Mitigation Funding and Guidance

 

In brief …

NRCS Programs

Emergency Watershed Protection (EWP) Program safeguards lives and property from floods, drought, and the products of erosion on any watershed whenever fire, flood or any other natural occurrence is causing or has caused a sudden impairment of the watershed.

Watershed and Flood Prevention Operations (WFPO) Program provides technical and financial assistance to entities of State and local governments and Tribes (project sponsors) for planning and installing watershed projects.

Watershed Rehabilitation Program offers financial and technical assistance to rehabilitate dams constructed through NRCS Watershed Programs.  This program extends the service life of dams to meet applicable safety and performance standards or decommission the dams so they longer pose a threat to life and property.

Watershed Surveys and Planning (WSP) authorizes NRCS to cooperate with Federal, State, and local agencies and Tribal governments to protect watersheds from damage caused by erosion, floodwater, sediment and to conserve and develop water and land resources.

 


The Emergency Watershed Protection (EWP) Program

The Emergency Watershed Protection (EWP) Program allows communities to quickly address serious and long-lasting damages to infrastructure and to the land. 

The EWP Program, a federal emergency recovery program, helps local communities recover after a natural disaster strikes. The program offers technical and financial assistance to help local communities relieve imminent threats to life and property caused by floods, fires, windstorms and other natural disasters that impair a watershed.

EWP does not require a disaster declaration by federal or state officials for program assistance to begin, but ultimately partial funding must be provided by the state Legislature.

All projects must demonstrate that they reduce threats to life and property; be economically, environmentally and socially sound and must be designed to acceptable engineering standards.  The EWP Program also allows NRCS to establish non-traditional partnerships with sponsors to complete projects.

EWP Program – Recovery

NRCS provides financial and technical assistance for the following activities under EWP Program – Recovery:  

  • debris removal from stream channels, road culverts and bridges;
  • reshape and protect eroded streambanks;
  • correct damaged drainage facilities;
  • establish vegetative cover on critically eroding lands
  • repair levees and structures; and      
  • repair conservation practices.

Eligibility

Public and private landowners can apply for assistance for EWP Program – Recovery projects through a local sponsor, or a legal subdivision of state or tribal government.  Eligible sponsors include cities, counties, towns, conservation districts, flood and water control districts, or any federally-recognized Native American tribe or tribal organization.

Sponsors are responsible for the following:

  • providing land rights for the repairs;
  • securing the necessary permits;
  • providing the sponsor funding for repairs;
  • ensuring the repairs are installed; and
  • completing the repairs using federal or local contracts.

EWP Program Assistance

The EWP Program has two distinct options for assisting local communities and individual landowners —

EWP Program Projects

NRCS offers financial and technical assistance for various activities under EWP Program – Recovery, including: 

  • Remove debris from stream channels, road culverts and bridges;
  • reshape and protect eroded streambanks;
  • correct damaged or destroyed drainage facilities;
  • establish vegetative cover on critically eroding lands;
  • repair levees and structures;       
  • repair conservation practices.

Learn more, link to the EWP,

EWP Program Funding

Congress approves all EWP Program funding.  NRCS can pay up to 75 percent of the cost for eligible emergency projects.  Local sponsors must acquire the remaining 25 percent in cash or in-kind services. 

If funding becomes available, all funded projects must demonstrate they reduce threats to life and property; be economically, environmentally and socially sound; and must be designed to acceptable engineering standards, if applicable.

Link to the NRCS website to learn more – https://www.nrcs.usda.gov/wps/portal/nrcs/detailfull/national/programs/landscape/ewpp/?cid=nrcseprd1381472

The EWP Program Process

NRCS partners with diverse sponsors to complete EWP Program projects.  To begin the process, a potential local sponsor submits a letter that includes information on the nature, location and scope of the problem for which assistance is requested.  The letter, considered the application, must be signed by an official of the requesting entity.  NRCS staff is available to assist with the letter preparation and offer additional information on EWP Program eligibility.  The letter must be sent to your local NRCS office or to your NRCS State office.

For emergency situations (imminent threat to life and property): All applications must be submitted within 10 days of the disaster.

For non-emergency situations: All applications must be submitted within 60 days of the disaster.

NRCS conducts damage survey reports (DSR), or case-by-case investigations of the work requested or damages reported.  EWP Program restoration work may include removing debris from stream channels, road culverts and bridges; reshaping and protecting eroded streambanks; repairing damaged drainage facilities, levees and associated structures; reseeding damaged areas; or purchasing floodplain easements.

For more information and contact information, link to https://www.nrcs.usda.gov/wps/portal/nrcs/detailfull/national/programs/landscape/ewpp/?cid=nrcseprd1377896.

 


The Emergency Watershed Protection – Floodplain Easement (EWPP-FPE)

The Emergency Watershed Protection – Floodplain Easement (EWPP-FPE) option offers an alternative method to traditional EWP Program Recovery.  USDA’s NRCS recommends this option to landowners and others where acquiring an easement is the best approach (more economical and prudent) to reduce threat to life and/or property.  In addition to recovery projects, NRCS may purchase EWP floodplain easements instead of trying to recover damaged floodplain lands if it proves to be more cost effective than recovery.

A major goal of EWPP–FPE is to restore the land, to the maximum extent possible, to its natural condition.  Restoration techniques include the use of structural and non-structural practices to restore the flow and storage of floodwaters, control erosion, and to improve management of the easement.

Community Benefits

Floodplain easements restore, protect, maintain and enhance the functions of floodplains while conserving their natural values such as serving as fish and wildlife habitat, improving water quality, retaining flood water, and recharging groundwater.  Structures, including buildings, within the floodplain easement must be demolished and removed, or relocated outside the affected floodplain area.

Reasons for Purchase of Floodplain Lands

NRCS may purchase EWPP-FPE permanent easements in floodplains for the following reasons:

  1. The land has been damaged by flooding at least once during the previous calendar year or subject to flood damage at least twice within the previous 10 years 1.
     
  2. Other lands within the floodplain may be eligible if they contribute to the restoration of floodwater storage and flow, offer a way to control erosion, or improve the practical management of the floodplain easement.
     
  3. Lands that would be inundated or adversely impacted as a result of a dam breach.

1If FPE is being offered as recovery for a specific natural disaster, at least one instance of flooding must have occurred because of that natural disaster.

Enrollment Option and Eligible Lands

A permanent easement is the only enrollment option under EWPP-FPE.  Permanent floodplain easements are available on the following types of land:

  1. Agricultural or open lands.  NRCS will pay up to the entire cost of the easement value and up to the entire cost for easement restoration.
     
  2. Lands primarily used for residential housing.  In these cases, NRCS will pay up to the entire easement value and up to the entire cost of the structure’s value if the landowner chooses to have it demolished.  If the landowner prefers to relocate the residence instead of demolishing it, NRCS will pay all costs associated with relocating the residence to a location outside the floodplain.  A project sponsor is required for lands primarily used for residential housing and for the purchase of the remaining lot after structures are removed.

For more information, link to https://www.nrcs.usda.gov/wps/portal/nrcs/detail/national/programs/landscape/ewpp/?cid=nrcs143_008216.

 


Watershed and Flood Prevention Operations (WFPO) Program

Watershed and Flood Prevention Operations (WFPO) Program provides technical and financial assistance to entities of State and local governments and Tribes (project sponsors) for planning and installing watershed projects that protect and restore watersheds up to 250,000 acres.

This program provides for cooperation between the Federal government and the states and their political subdivisions to work together to prevent erosion; floodwater and sediment damage; to further the conservation development, use and disposal of water; and to further the conservation and proper use of land in authorized watersheds.

USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) offers financial and technical assistance through this program for the following purposes:

  • Erosion and sediment control
  • Watershed protection
  • Flood prevention
  • Water quality Improvements
  • Rural, municipal and industrial water supply
  • Water management
  • Fish and wildlife habitat enhancement
  • Hydropower sources

Learn more, link to the Watershed Protection and Flood Prevention Program


Additional Resources

National Watershed Program Manual and Handbook

 


Watershed Rehabilitation Program

Link to FY 2016 Watershed Rehabilitation Projects Funding Table

Local sponsors request funding assistance from NRCS when a potential rehabilitation project is identified. NRCS is committed to cost sharing the planning, design, and construction of eligible projects contingent upon available funding.  NRCS selects projects based on the risks to life and property if a dam failure were to occur.

Benefits of Watershed Rehabilitation

Across the Nation, watershed projects provide an estimated annual benefit of $2.2 billion in reduced flooding and erosion damage and improved wildlife habitat, recreation, and water supply for an estimated 47 million people. These projects provide additional benefits, such as improved water quality through sediment and erosion control.  Watershed rehabilitation projects can also create rural economic growth and job opportunities.

In addition to dam rehabilitation assistance, NRCS maintains a robust dam safety program. NRCS GeoObserver for Dams is a geospatial dam monitoring tool that helps NRCS engineers keep up-to-date information for the National Inventory of Dams. NRCS DamWatch  provides NRCS engineers and local project sponsors with web-based monitoring of dams during rainfall, snowmelt, or seismic events.

Watershed Rehabilitation and Drought

The Watershed Rehabilitation Program allows sponsors to build or augment existing water supplies.  More than 80 rehabilitation projects being planned may include increases in water storage capacity.  Once built, these projects would protect the lives and property of more than 119,000 people and boost resilience to climate change.  

For more information, link to https://www.nrcs.usda.gov/wps/portal/nrcs/detail/national/programs/landscape/wr/?cid=nrcs143_008448


 

Watershed Surveys and Planning (WSP)

The Watershed and Flood Prevention Act, P.L. 83-566 (PDF, 42 KB), August 4, 1954, (16 U.S.C. 1001-1008) authorized this program. Prior to fiscal year 1996, small watershed planning activities and the cooperative river basin surveys and investigations authorized by Section 6 of the Act were operated as separate programs.  The 1996 appropriations act combined the activities into a single program entitled the Watershed Surveys and Planning program.  Activities under both programs are continuing under this authority.

The purpose of the program is to assist Federal, State, and local agencies and tribal governments to protect watersheds from damage caused by erosion, floodwater, and sediment and to conserve and develop water and land resources.  Resource concerns addressed by the program include water quality, opportunities for water conservation, wetland and water storage capacity, agricultural drought problems, rural development, municipal and industrial water needs, upstream flood damages, and water needs for fish, wildlife, and forest-based industries.

Types of surveys and plans include watershed plans, river basin surveys and studies, flood hazard analyses, and flood plain management assistance.  The focus of these plans is to identify solutions that use land treatment and nonstructural measures to solve resource problems.

For more information, link to https://www.nrcs.usda.gov/wps/portal/nrcs/detail/national/programs/landscape/wsp/?cid=nrcs143_008272.