USDA Invests in Watershed Infrastructure in West Virginia to Help Communities Recover from and Prepare for Natural Disasters
The Biden-Harris Administration 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.
Morgantown, W.Va., May 31, 2023 - The Biden-Harris Administration 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.
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.
“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 Jon Bourdon, NRCS State Conservationist in West Virginia. “This investment through the Emergency Watershed Protection program will help communities with recovery efforts while preventing further devastation to the community.”
EWP Buyout Option in Limited Resource Areas
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. A limited resource area is defined where housing values and income are less than a state’s average and unemployment is at least twice the U.S. average. NRCS has calculated LRAs at the county level however other areas may also meet the LRA criteria, as determined by NRCS. Link to LRA interactive map.
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.
To learn more, tune into an online EWP Buyout Webinar that has been posted on the NRCS website. The webinar, presented on May 24th, 2023 provides information for communities and potential sponsors to learn about this funding opportunity provided by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.
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, please contact West Virginia’s EWP Program Manager, Donny Dodd. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org