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Watershed Rehabilitation

The Watershed Rehabilitation Program helps project sponsors rehabilitate aging dams that are reaching the end of their 50-year design lives.  This rehabilitation addresses critical public health and safety concerns.  Since 1948, NRCS has assisted local sponsors construct more than 11,800 dams.

Latest News

USDA recently launched DamWatch, a new web-based application that provides real-time monitoring of rainfall, snowmelt, stream flow and seismic events that could pose potential threats to dam safety. Learn more.

Current State of Watershed Rehabilitation

During the past 20 years, more than 4,300 inventory dams reached or exceeded their 50-year design life. Over the next 10 years, another 3,500 dams will have met or exceeded their design life.  Many of these dams are classified as high hazard with a potential for loss of life if the dam should fail.

To protect public health and safety, as well as evaluate the potential for expansion of water supply in drought areas, USDA invested $73 million in fiscal year 2015 through NRCS’ Watershed Rehabilitation Program to rehabilitate and assess 150 dams in 23 states. NRCS will commit technical and financial assistance to the local sponsors for all phases of rehabilitation including planning, design, and installation.

FY 2015 Watershed Rehabilitation Projects Funding Table

Local sponsors request funding assistance from NRCS when a potential rehabilitation project is identified.  NRCS is committed to funding the planning, design, and construction of entire projects. NRCS selects projects based on recent rehabilitation investments and the risks to lives and property if a dam failure would occur.

Benefits of Watershed Rehabilitation

Across the nation, watershed projects provide an estimated annual benefit of $2.2 billion in reduced flooding and erosion damages, 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 also can 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 create new, or add to, existing water supplies. More than 80 rehabilitation projects now 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.    

NRCS and Project Sponsors

Watershed project sponsors represent interests of the local community in federally assisted watershed projects. Sponsors request assistance from NRCS. When funding is allocated, the sponsor and NRCS enter an agreement that defines the roles and responsibilities of each party to complete the rehabilitation.

A watershed plan is developed for each project that addresses environmental impacts, costs, and benefits, planned conservation practices, and the responsibilities of involved parties. A variety of agencies and organizations can assist sponsors with developing a plan.

NRCS provides technical and financial assistance to sponsors and assists them with the planning, design, and construction of the projects.

Project sponsors are responsible for and agree to carry out specific parts of the project, including:

  • Obtaining landrights,
  • Obtaining required permits,
  • Operation and maintenance throughout the evaluated life of the project (generally 100 years),
  • Monitoring easement encroachment,
  • Meeting permitting requirements,
  • Developing and updating emergency action plans for high-hazard dams,
  • Conducting regular inspections of installed works of improvements, and
  • Working with regulatory agencies (dam safety agency.


2014 Watershed Rehabilitation Update

The 2014 Farm Bill made about $262 million available for rehabilitation of 151 dams in 26 states.  These watershed management projects provide an estimated $2.2 billion in annual benefits in reduced flooding and erosion damages, recreation, water supplies and wildlife habitat for roughly 47 million people. Projects were identified based on recent rehabilitation investments and the risks to life and property if a dam failure occurred.

FY 2014 Watershed Rehabilitation Projects Funding Table (PDF, 220 KB)

Overlay Weller at NCS


YouTube smallWatershed Rehabilitation Program Announcement Full Video (1:04:25, Chief Weller Introduction by Gary O’Neal, State Conservationist, Oklahoma, 16:00-25:20)

"Federal, state, and local dignitaries gathered at Perry Lake in Perry, Oklahoma to announce the upcoming national watershed rehabilitation program. This program, part of the 2014 Federal Farm Bill, will fund the rehabilitation and repair of watershed dams throughout the nation.

The dam at Perry Lake was chosen as the site to make this national announcement because it is one of the first structures that will be rehabilitated as part of this program. It is part of the Upper Black Bear Creek Watershed system and helps to protect the City of Perry and Interstate 35 from potential flood events.” – City of Perry, Oklahoma

Additional Reports

The following documents require Adobe Acrobat Reader.

Watershed Rehabilitation Progress Report, March 2015 (PDF, 447 KB)
Watershed Rehabilitation Status Summary Report, March 2015 (PDF, 323 KB)
Watershed Rehabilitation Progress Report, January 2013 (PDF, 491 KB)
Watershed Rehabilitation Status Summary Report, January 2013 (PDF, 230 KB)

Fact Sheets
Caney Coon Watershed Dam No.2M OK (PDF, 459 KB)
Little Sandy Trail Creek Dam No.1 GA (PDF, 465 KB)
New Creek 14 WV (PDF, 461 KB)
Plum Creek 5 TX (PDF, 409 KB)
Pohick Creek Dam 2 VA (PDF, 444 KB)
Poteau River 5 Rehab. AR (PDF, 490 KB)
Sallisaw Creek Watershed Dam No. 26 OK (PDF, 401 KB)
South River Dam 10A VA (PDF, 478 KB)
Su-AS-CO Nichols Dam Ma301 Rehab. MA (PDF, 427 KB)
Switzler Creek Dam 7 KS (PDF, 446 KB)


Martinez Creek Dam No. 5 was built in 1964 for flood control and protection of agricultural land.

Pohick Watershed Dam No. 3

Martinez Creek Dam No. 5, Bexar County, Texas

Pohick Creek Watershed Dam No. 3,
Fairfax County, Virginia

Yellow River Watershed Dam No. 14 Gwinnett County, Georgia Sugar Creek Watershed Dam No. L- 44 Caddo County, Oklahoma

Yellow River Watershed Dam No. 14,
Gwinnett County, Georgia

Sugar Creek Watershed Dam No. L- 44,
Caddo County, Oklahoma


Watershed Rehabilitation Links

National Watershed Coalition