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News Release

Watershed Rehabilitation Program Funding Critical to Public Health and Safety

Two Projects Selected in Southern Oregon


Release No. 2014.07.017


Ron Smith, State Conservation Engineer

Sara Magenheimer, State Public Affairs Officer

Portland, Ore. (July 18, 2014) – Communities across the nation, including in Oregon 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 Oregon, projects include:

·         Plat I: $663,000

·         Copper Creek: $771,000

Both of these projects are located just outside of Sutherlin, Oregon. A Watershed Work Plan for Sutherlin Creek Watershed in Douglas County, Oregon was completed by the Soil Conservation Service, now the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), and it partners in 1963. As a result of the Watershed Work Plan, Plat I dam was constructed in 1966 and Cooper Creek dam was constructed in 1969.

Plat I reservoir provides irrigation water to agricultural producers in the areas while Cooper Creek reservoir provides supplemental water supply for the City of Sutherlin. Both reservoirs also provide flood storage and recreational opportunities to the area.

NRCS and the Sutherlin Water Control District recognize these dams are an integral part of the community and provide many benefits to the surrounding area. The dams are reaching the end of their 50-year design life. The NRCS and the Sutherlin Water Control District will work together to utilize these funds to evaluate the dams and provide rehabilitation recommendations.  Throughout this process, NRCS and the District will be conducting public meetings and will be coordinating with state, federal, and local agencies.   

The program will also enable 500 dam sites 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 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 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



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