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Emergency Watershed Protection (EWP) Program Buyouts

NRCS administers the Emergency Watershed Protection EWP Program, which is designed for emergency recovery work, including the purchase of floodplain property buyouts.


The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) administers the Emergency Watershed Protection Program (EWP) to assist project sponsors in protecting lives and property from flooding or soil erosion after a natural disaster. In communities impacted by constant flooding or severe erosion due to a natural disaster, a property buyout might be the best solution..

What is an EWP Buyout?

EWP buyouts are used where structural projects to reduce threats from flooding and erosion are not cost-effective and/or beneficial. Once NRCS determines that buying a flood-prone property (for example) would provide the pivotal solution and sustainable course of action for a community, EWP has the authority to provide local sponsors with financial assistance to purchase and restore the property.

NRCS may provide project sponsors up to 75 percent of:
•    the fair market value based on an appraisal for the property,
•    relocation costs, and
•    the site restoration costs.

What lands are eligible?

Any land use is potentially eligible for an EWP Buyout. Agricultural land, land with/without structures and communities with residential properties, are eligible if the buyout:
•    provides protection from additional flooding or soil erosion,
•    reduce threats to life or property, 
•    restore the hydraulic capacity to the natural environment to the maximum extent practical, and 
•    is economically and environmentally defensible and technically sound.

What is the process?

EWP assistance does not require a disaster declaration by FEMA. The EWP process begins with a request for assistance from an eligible local Sponsor within 60 days of the disaster (or 60 days from when the site is accessible). Once the request is received, NRCS will work with the project sponsors determine eligibility, select the best solution (structural, buyout, or easement), and develop a cost estimate.

The NRCS State Conservationist and project Sponsor enter into an agreement where NRCS would provide cost-share funds for the recovery measures, which may include structural, buyout, or easement solutions. When a buyout is the best alternative, NRCS will provide financial assistance for the property purchase, removal of structures, and site restoration.

What are the benefits?

Buyouts are effective in preventing future damage, make residents safer and protect communities. Once purchased, the land is returned to a natural open space where it provides the added benefit of absorbing storm runoff, reducing future flooding, and providing wildlife habitat.

Criteria for Assistance

All EWP work must provide protection from future flooding or soil erosion; reduce threats to life and property; restore the natural function to the watershed; and be economically and environmentally sound.

How do I obtain assistance?

If property has been damaged by flooding or threatened by severe erosion and meets the eligibility requirements, it may qualify for EWP assistance. To request assistance, work with a local project sponsor to contact your USDA-NRCS EWP Program Manager.


A Project Sponsor must be a State or political subdivision thereof, qualified Indian tribe or tribal organization, or unit of local government. Cities, Counties, and state conservation districts are the most common sponsors of EWP projects.

Contact your local NRCS office to learn more about EWP buyouts.

Flood plain easement construction
Provided by BIL

EWP Buyouts for Limited Resource (LRA) communities

When a floodplain buyout proves to be the best option for flood-prone properties in Limited Resource Areas (LRAs), EWP offers a lifeline thru the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL).

Ready to get started?

Contact your local service center to start your application.

Find Your Local Service Center

USDA Service Centers are locations where you can connect with Farm Service Agency, Natural Resources Conservation Service, or Rural Development employees for your business needs. Enter your state and county below to find your local service center and agency offices. If this locator does not work in your browser, please visit