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Watershed rehabilitation program funding critical to public health and safety

LITTLE ROCK, AR – Communities across the nation, including in Arkansas 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. "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. In Arkansas, a planning project for Muddy Fork Site 1 in Washington County was funded for $445,500.

The program will also enable 500 dam sites to be assessed for safety. Arkansas will receive $780,000 to assess 39 dam sites. 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 go a long way to helping ensure the safety and continued benefits provided by these watershed structures," Weller said. "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 at www.nrcs.usda.gov or a local USDA service center.