Emergency Watershed Protection Program
The Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) administers the Emergency Watershed Protection (EWP) Program, which responds to emergencies created by natural disasters. It is not necessary for a national emergency to be declared for an area to be eligible for assistance.
The EWP Program is a recovery effort aimed at relieving imminent hazards to life and property caused by floods, fires, windstorms, and other natural occurrences. All projects undertaken, with the exception of the purchase of floodplain easements, must have a project sponsor. NRCS may bear up to 75 percent of the construction cost of emergency measures (90 percent within limited-resource areas as identified by the U.S. Census data). The remaining costs must come from local sources and can be in the form of cash or in-kind services. Funding for the program is provided through congressional appropriations.
Type of Work Authorized
EWP is designed for installation of recovery measures to safeguard lives and property as a result of a natural disaster. Threats that the EWP Program addresses are termed watershed impairments. These include, but are not limited to:
debris-clogged stream channels resulting from floods, tornadoes or ice storms that jeopardized public infrastructures such as bridges, roads or waterlines; and structures such as homes or businesses; and
damaged upland sites stripped of protective vegetation by fire or drought.
The program can include purchasing floodplain easements. These easements restore, protect, maintain, and enhance the functions and values of the floodplain, including associated wetlands and riparian areas. They also conserve natural values including fish and wildlife habitat, water quality, flood water retention and ground water recharge, as well as safeguard lives and property from floods, drought, and the results of erosion.
EWP work is not limited to any one set of prescribed measures. NRCS completes a Damage Survey Report which provides a case-by-case investigation of the work necessary to repair or protect a site. NRCS will only provide funding for work that is necessary to reduce applicable threats.
Should sponsors want to increase the level of protection, the sponsor will be responsible for paying 100 percent of the costs of the upgrade and additional work.
Criteria for Assistance
All EWP work must reduce threat to life and property; be economically, environmentally, and socially defensible; and be sound from a technical standpoint.
EWP recovery assistance is made available to project sponsors and individuals through project sponsors. Project sponsors are any legal subdivision of a state government or a state agency including: cities, counties, towns, and county conservation districts.
Sponsors are responsible for:
providing land rights to do repair work,
securing the necessary permits,
furnishing the local cost-share, and
performing any necessary operation and maintenance.
How Do I Get Assistance?
Public and private landowners - if your land has suffered severe damage that may qualify for the EWP Program, you should contact your local authorities (city or county government, flood and water control district, or local conservation district) and request assistance.
Project sponsors - contact the NRCS office at your local USDA Service Center or call (501) 301-3100.
Walt Delp, P.E.
State Conservation Engineer