USDA, Army Corps of Engineers Renew Partnership on Infrastructure, Natural Resource Planning
The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and the United States Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) announce the renewal of a critical partnership focused on infrastructure projects and natural resources planning.
The partnership renewal continues joint efforts to combat ongoing threats to our natural resources and promotes inter-agency strategic planning — coordinating mission-driven assistance that best serves local resource concerns and communities. Renewing the partnership solidifies a legacy of watershed conservation.
“Partnering with other federal agencies like NRCS is extremely important to the USACE Civil Works program,” said Al Lee, USACE Director of Civil Works. “Through effective partnerships, we can combine resources and expertise to support all communities — to include rural and disadvantaged communities — across the country. It’s just a smart way to get things done for the Nation.”
“This partnership works extremely well for critical infrastructure projects that benefit local communities,” adds NRCS Chief Terry Cosby. “By strengthening collaboration and communication between our two agencies, we will be better positioned to deliver quality and timely solutions to address major water resource concerns in watersheds across the landscape. The scope of our partnership allows both agencies to have a much broader reach and enable more projects to be completed with the best expertise in the Nation.”
The partnership is especially important now as both agencies work to implement Bipartisan Infrastructure Law-funded projects to address watershed infrastructure needs.
The NRCS and USACE have formed collaborative agreements since 1986, revising as needed to reflect the most pressing shared priorities. While USACE is widely known for constructing monumental feats of engineering (civil and military), it also takes care of waterways and is often among the first to respond in the event of a natural disaster. The core mission of NRCS is conservation, providing technical and financial assistance to protect and improve natural resources.
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.
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.
To renew the partnership, the two agencies signed a memorandum of understanding April 5, 2022. Working together enables both agencies to improve the management and protection of natural resources and improve public services and recreational opportunities throughout the United States and its territories.
Examples of Partnerships
Some watersheds or emergency recovery projects require an “all-hands” approach, which this partnership provides.
One project that demonstrates this collaboration is the Skokomish River Ecosystem Restorations in Washington state, which greatly benefits from the combined expertise of both agencies. USACE is working with the local Skokomish Indian Tribe to restore 277-acres along the Skokomish River Basin including designated critical habitat areas for Chinook and chum salmon (key food sources for resident orca pods), steelhead and bull trout and over 100 additional wildlife species known to use the Skokomish River for different phases of their lifecycle. For this project, NRCS is collaborating on the Operations and Management plan that will provide ease of access through an existing watershed floodplain easement to perform required restoration work.
Additionally, each winter, the Llagas Creek floods hundreds of households and businesses in Santa Clara County, California. Both agencies have provided resources throughout the different phases of the project since 2019. Planning and construction are managed by USACE while NRCS continues to extend technical and financial assistance. The project includes channel modifications, riparian and stream restoration, strategic floodwater diversions along the waterways, improving migratory fish habitat and restoring water quality to impacted communities.
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.
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.
USDA touches the lives of all Americans each day in so many positive ways. Under 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 safe, 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.