U.S. Department of Agriculture, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Celebrate 10-Year Partnership in Florida
USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and the United States Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) celebrate and reflect on their 10-year anniversary of a unique partnership that supports Florida communities through funded projects that restore and enhance wetland habitat.
GAINESVILLE, Florida – December 8, 2022 – As 2022 nears its end, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and the United States Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) celebrate and reflect on their 10-year anniversary of a unique partnership that combines resources and expertise to support Florida communities through funded projects that restore and enhance wetland habitat.
“We have strengthened collaboration and communication between our two agencies over the years to deliver quality and timely solutions that address major water resource concerns in Florida watersheds,” said Florida NRCS State Conservationist Juan C. Hernandez. The core mission of NRCS is conservation through providing technical and financial assistance to protect and improve natural resources.
“Partnering with a federal agency like NRCS is extremely important to the local communities as well as other USACE restoration programs that focus on environmental restoration in the state of Florida,” said Col. James L. Booth, District Commander, USACE Jacksonville District. While USACE is widely known for constructing monumental feats of engineering (civil and military), it also takes care of waterways, has a key role in wetland and environmental restoration programs across the nation, and is often among the first to respond in the event of a natural disaster.
The first Interagency Agreement with USACE was signed with the USACE Savannah District in March 2012 with work beginning mid-2012. Florida’s first NRCS and USACE partnership project began April 15, 2013, and since then all USACE Interagency Agreements have been signed with the Jacksonville District. During this 10-year period, nine agreements have been completed for a total of $56 million.
During the early years of the partnership, NRCS partnered with USACE mostly to manage invasive plants. Today, partnership work is more focused on improving wetland infrastructure. Some watersheds or emergency recovery projects require an “all-hands” approach. One Florida project that demonstrates this collaboration is the Fisheating Creek Wetland Restoration Program in which NRCS and USACE are partnering to restore 7,082 acres in the Fisheating Creek watershed in Highlands County. The USACE Operations Division teams are conducting wetland restoration activities including dike construction, installation of water control structures, land smoothing, building ditch blocks, and installing sod and fencing. Other NRCS active partners involved in this project include the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission.
“The Fisheating Creek WRP project is the largest NRCS contiguous wetland restoration project in the country and integrates multiple landowners on over 34,000 acres of permanent wetland easements,” said Crenel Francis, Acting Assistant State Conservationist for Easements, Florida NRCS.
Fisheating Creek flows southeast into Lake Okeechobee, which in turn flows into the Everglades. The northern Everglades is one of the last frontiers for large‐scale land conservation in Florida and a high priority area for NRCS. Wetlands decrease the flow of surface water leaving the land and reduce the concentration of nutrients entering local water sources, Lake Okeechobee, the Everglades, and south Florida’s coastal systems.
NRCS wetland easements provide habitat for numerous rare, and federally endangered and threatened species including the bald eagle, crested caracara, Florida panther, Florida scrub jay, indigo snake, red-cockaded woodpecker, and wood stork.
Additional conservation achievements NRCS and USACE have partnered on in Florida include:
• maintenance and restoration of approximately 39,000 acres of wetland habitat
• national level coordination to ensure the state of Florida Easements program received adequate funding to assist landowners and water management districts, as well as protect endangered species around the state
• NRCS, and USACE Jacksonville District (SAJ), and US Fish and Wildlife Service partnership to preserve critical panther habitat crossing through the relocation and purchase of development rights on relocated USACE easements
• management of invasive plant species on approximately 190,000 acres
Nationally, the NRCS and USACE have formed collaborative agreements since 1986, revising as needed to reflect the most pressing shared priorities. The partnership was renewed nationally as NRCS and USACE signed a memorandum of understanding April 5, 2022, to solidify a legacy of watershed conservation and continue coordinating mission-driven assistance that best serves local resource concerns and communities.
Since 1948, NRCS’ watershed programs have designed and built 11,850 dams, constructed water storage structures and flood management systems, stabilized streambanks, relocated residences, redirected stream flows, re-established wildlife habitat and more to save lives and protect watersheds.
NRCS, originally called the Soil Conservation Service, was created in 1935 as a direct response to the Dust Bowl. NRCS helps private landowners improve the health of their operations while protecting natural resources for the future. NRCS also supports water infrastructure projects like those offered through its watershed programs. Learn more about NRCS watershed programs.
USACE traces its history to 1775 when the Continental Congress appointed the first Chief of Engineers and has adapted over time to include worldwide support to our military, disaster relief, humanitarian missions, modernizing waterways, reducing risks from flood and storm damage, and ecosystem restoration and protection. The USACE mission is to deliver vital engineering solutions for the toughest challenges, in collaboration with its partners, to secure the Nation, energize the economy and reduce disaster risk.
The USACE Civil Works program works with other federal agencies and with state, Tribal, and local agencies and others to develop, manage, restore, and protect water resources primarily through the construction, operation and maintenance, and study of water-related infrastructure projects, as well as by regulating development in waters of the United States. USACE also works with other federal agencies to help communities respond to, and recover from, floods and other natural disasters; is the Nation’s leading producer of hydropower; and is one of the leading federal providers of outdoor recreation opportunities.
NRCS Public Affairs: Cynthia M. Portalatin, email@example.com