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News Release

Alabama to Receive Funding to Assess Safety of Watershed Dams

Watershed Rehabilitation Program Funding Critical to Public Health and Safety

Auburn, Ala, July 18, 2014

Communities across the nation will benefit from a $262 million investment to rehabilitate dams that provide critical infrastructure and protect public health and safety.  

The 2014 Farm Bill increased the typical annual investment in watershed rehabilitation by almost 21 fold, recognizing the critical role of these structures in flood management, water supply, and agricultural productivity.

“This investment will protect people and ensure that these critical structures continue to provide benefits for future generations,” said Jason Weller, chief of USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). “Homes, businesses, and agriculture are depending on responsible management of the dams and overall watersheds, and NRCS is continuing to provide that support to these communities. ”

From the 1940s through the 1970s, local communities using NRCS assistance constructed more than 11,800 dams in 47 states.  These watershed management projects provide an estimated $2.2 billion in annual benefits in reduced flooding and erosion damages, and improved recreation, water supplies and wildlife habitat for roughly 47 million people.

More than 150 dams in 26 states will receive rehabilitation assistance for planning, design or construction through NRCS’ Watershed Rehabilitation Program.

The program will also enable 500 dam sites nationwide, including 13 in Alabama, to be assessed for safety. The projects were identified based on recent rehabilitation investments and the potential risks to life and property if a dam failure occurred. Overall, about 250,000 people will benefit as a result of improved flood protection made possible by these rehabilitated dams.

“These funds will help ensure the safety and continued benefits provided by these watershed structures,” said Ben Malone, Acting State Conservationist for Alabama. “We will work closely with the local project sponsors to ensure that these dams continue to protect and provide water for communities and agriculture.”   

For more information, visit the Watershed Rehabilitation webpage or local USDA service center.

Today’s announcement was made possible by the 2014 Farm Bill. The Farm Bill builds on historic economic gains in rural America over the past five years, while achieving meaningful reform and billions of dollars in savings for taxpayers. Since enactment, USDA has made significant progress to implement each provision of this critical legislation, including providing disaster relief to farmers and ranchers; strengthening risk management tools; expanding access to rural credit; funding critical research; establishing innovative public-private conservation partnerships; developing new markets for rural-made products; and investing in infrastructure, housing and community facilities to help improve quality of life in rural America. For more information, visit www.usda.gov/farmbill.