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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 Recovery Buyout?

EWP Recovery 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 preserve the land for the purpose of restoring the natural environment.

NRCS may provide project sponsors up to 75 percent (and up to 90 percent for limited resource areas) of:

  • the fair market value based on an appraisal for the property,
  • eligible acquisition and relocation costs, and
  • site restoration costs.


Flooding from Tropical Storm Ida
East Providence, Rhode Island


Frequent flooding made roads in Luther's Corner impassable. Properties purchased under the EWP Recovery Buyout program will revert back to nature increasing flood storage capacity in the watershed.

What lands are eligible?

Properties are potentially eligible if they meet all of the following requirements for a buyout:

  • be from willing, voluntary sellers;
  • contain a structure threatened by additional flooding/erosion;
  • adjacent lands that would contribute to the conservation purposes of the program as open space; and,
  • restoration is feasible.

Structures may be relocated to an area NOT threatened by flooding or erosion, if it is determined to be an economic and feasible option.

What is the process?

EWP assistance does not require a disaster declaration by FEMA

  1. After a qualifying disaster event, an eligible sponsor must submit a request in writing to their
    local NRCS State Conservationist within 60 days.
  2. If approved for funding, NRCS will work with the project sponsor to define the terms of a cooperative agreement and clarify roles and responsibilities.
  3. Acquisition is handled by the sponsor, who then purchases the property and becomes the owner. A deed restriction is placed on the title limiting land use to open space and natural resource conservation.
  4. Structures will either be demolished or relocated outside of the flood zone.
  5. Conservation practices will be installed that restore the natural environment and provide flooding and erosion protection.
  6. Continued monitoring and maintenance of the property will be performed by the project sponsor. 

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 and contact your USDA-NRCS EWP Program Manager.


Sponsor Eligibility Guide and Resources

A Project Sponsor must be a State or political subdivision thereof, a federally-recognized Tribe or Tribal organization, or unit of local government with a legal or conservation interest in the land. Cities, Counties, and state conservation districts are the most common sponsors of EWP projects.

Project sponsors must be able to:

  • obtain all necessary property rights, water rights, and permits.
  • provide their share of the restoration costs and cover any unreimbursed expenses.
  • operate and maintain any completed restoration measures.

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

Flood plain easement construction
Provided by BIL Funding

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