USDA Invests in Watershed Infrastructure to Help Communities Recover from, Prepare for Natural Disasters as Part of Investing in America Agenda
USDA is investing $265 million through the Natural Resources Conservation Service in 28 Emergency Watershed Protection infrastructure projects in 16 states impacted by extreme weather events, including Florida.
GAINESVILLE, Florida – May 31, 2023 - The Biden-Harris Administration today announced that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is making investments, including from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, in watershed infrastructure to help communities recover from and prepare for natural disasters.
USDA is investing $265 million through the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) in 28 Emergency Watershed Protection (EWP) infrastructure projects in 16 states impacted by extreme weather events.
These EWP projects are part of the $925 million investment through the 2023 Consolidated Appropriations Act and include streambank stabilization, flood prevention and watershed restoration projects.
NRCS is also announcing the availability of up to $135 million in financial assistance through EWP buyouts for property within Limited Resource Areas (LRAs) that have been impacted by constant flooding. These buyouts are part of the broader Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL) investment in watershed infrastructure and will assist communities with climate resiliency.
Today’s announcement reflects the goals of President Biden’s Investing in America agenda, which is growing the American economy from the bottom up and middle-out – from rebuilding our nation’s infrastructure to driving over $470 billion in private sector manufacturing and clean energy investments in the United States, to creating good paying jobs and building a clean-energy economy that will combat climate change and make our communities more resilient.
“Natural disasters are unavoidable and NRCS is focused on helping flood prone communities prepare and recover from extreme weather events that can leave communities in a state of emergency,” said Nathan Fikkert, NRCS Acting State Conservationist in Florida. “This investment through the Emergency Watershed Protection program will help communities with recovery efforts following Hurricane Ian while preventing further devastation to the community.”
The Hurricane Ian event on September 29, 2022, affected approximately 75 percent of the counties in Florida. NRCS will assist in debris removal and sediment removal in numerous drainage channels to prevent future flooding. Other projects will involve streambank restoration and protection.
A full list of fiscal year 2023 projects is available here. EWP projects are funded in response to a local community requesting assistance following a natural disaster.
EWP Buyout Option in Limited Resource Areas
In addition to the EWP projects announced today, NRCS is highlighting the availability of funds from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law for EWP buyouts in Limited Resource Areas, which can help communities impacted by constant flooding or severe erosion due to a natural disaster.
With these buyouts, property rights are held locally with local sponsors, which is different from USDA’s EWP floodplain easement option.
Through these easements, a local sponsor restores the land to its natural condition, preserves wildlife habitat and provides flood storage for a community. Eligible local sponsors include cities, counties, towns, conservation districts or any federally recognized Native American tribe or tribal organization in a Limited Resource Area.
Compensation is based on land and easement value as determined by an appraisal or market analysis. These buyouts may be purchased on public or private lands, including residential properties damaged by flooding at least once during the previous year, or twice within the previous 10 years. EWP covers 90% of project costs in areas considered Limited Resource Areas.
A webinar was held on May 24 to provide valuable information on the opportunity, eligibility and reserve time to respond to participant questions.
How Communities Can Get Help
NRCS encourages communities to engage with their local project sponsors, participate in developing a sound conservation plan that serves to protect and preserve local watersheds and connect with their local NRCS office to learn more about Watershed Program assistance.
NRCS will continue to review additional requests and compile another round of watershed funding as funds are available. Fact sheets, trainings and other resources are available on the NRCS website.
For more information on EWP in Florida, please contact Jason Strenth, state conservation engineer, (352) 338-9559, firstname.lastname@example.org.
USDA touches the lives of all Americans each day in so many positive ways. In the Biden-Harris administration, USDA is transforming America’s food system with a greater focus on more resilient local and regional food production, fairer markets for all producers, ensuring access to healthy and nutritious food in all communities, building new markets and streams of income for farmers and producers using climate smart food and forestry practices, making historic investments in infrastructure and clean energy capabilities in rural America, and committing to equity across the Department by removing systemic barriers and building a workforce more representative of America. To learn more, visit usda.gov.
USDA is an equal opportunity provider, employer, and lender.
Florida NRCS EWP Contact:
Jason Strenth, State Conservation Engineer
(352) 338-9559, email@example.com