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Caloosahatchee River Tributary

PL-566 Watershed Program -Arkansas


The Watershed Protection and Flood Prevention (WFPO) Program helps units of federal, state, local and federally recognized tribal  governments (project sponsors) protect and restore watersheds.

Watersheds in Arkansas

The USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service has assisted watershed sponsors in construction of nearly 207 floodwater retarding structures in 52 watershed projects across Arkansas. Of the 52 watersheds, NRCS has assisted watershed sponsors in installation of land treatment practices, channel improvements, and water control structures for watershed protection.

The Watershed Protection and Flood Prevention Act (PL-566) authorizes NRCS to help local organizations and units of government plan and implement watershed projects. PL-566 watershed projects are locally led to solve natural and human resource problems in watersheds up to 250,000 acres (less than 400 square miles).

PL-566 works through local government sponsors and helps participants solve natural resource and related economic problems on a watershed basis. Projects can include flood prevention and damage reduction, development of rural water supply sources, erosion and sediment control, fish and wildlife habitat enhancement, wetland creation and restoration, and increased recreational opportunities.

Arkansas has historically had flooding problems. In 1927, a third of the state was covered in water.

While flooding the last several years has caused millions of dollars of damage to homes, businesses and crops, it could have been worse in some areas.

Thanks to the 207 small and medium sized dams built by NRCS, some flooding was reduced. Built by NRCS in partnership with local watershed districts, these earthen dams provide an average annual benefit of $51 million from the reduction in flooding. In recent years, no doubt, their benefit is much higher.

The first of these watershed protection dams was built in 1954 on Six Mile Creek in western Arkansas. Twenty-four dams protect the Six Mile Creek flood plain. Most were built between 1954 and 1956. Prior to the construction of the dams, flooding in the Six Mile Creek watershed was much worse and more frequent.

In 1961, the NRCS (then the Soil Conservation Service) along with the Central Crowley’s Ridge Soil Conservation District and the Green County – Crowley’s Ridge Soil Conservation District developed a watershed protection and flood prevention work plan for the Big Creek Watershed near Jonesboro. The work plan covered 72,966 acres, including more than 1,300 farms and two-thirds of the city of Jonesboro. The plan called for 22 earthen dams, along with other watershed improvements. Twenty-one of the 22 dams were built.

The series of dams were constructed to temporarily store floodwater and then slowly release it over a period of several days through spillway pipes in the dams. In 1961, the expected average benefits from flood reduction were estimated to be more than $200,000 annually. In today’s figures, that is $2.4 million per year.

The dams in the Big Creek Watershed were built in response to the floods of the 1900s, when an average of five floods per year ripped through the then sparsely populated countryside. Crops had to be replanted, fences were washed away, farm animals were lost or destroyed and bridges were damaged. People could not travel to Jonesboro for needed supplies at the time until the flood waters receded. The storm in November 1957 inundated about 75 percent of the flood plain in the watershed comprised of Jonesboro and lands just north of Jonesboro and caused floodwater damage estimated at more than 2 million dollars (2006 value). Now the dams protect the area.

These watershed projects are planned and implemented by local people who serve as project sponsors, with assistance from the NRCS. The projects are authorized and funded through the Watershed Protection and Flood Prevention Act of 1954 (Public Law 83-566) and the Flood Control Act of 1944 (Public Law 78-534). The program is a partnership between local units of government, state government, the federal government, and landowners.

NRCS provides technical and financial assistance to states, local governments and tribes to implement authorized watershed project plans for the purpose of watershed flood reduction protection; flood mitigation; water quality improvements; soil erosion reduction; rural, municipal and industrial water supply; irrigation water management; sediment control; fish and wildlife enhancement; and wetland creation and restoration.

Watershed Project One Pagers

Benefits from Watershed Dams

  • Flood damage reduction benefits to agriculture: $13,418,034
  • Flood damage reduction benefits to non-agriculture: $3,547,742
  • Non Flood damage reduction benefits to agriculture: $14,076,407
  • Non-flood damage reduction benefits to non-agriculture: $20,343,213
  • Total Benefits: $51,385,396

Other Benefits

  • Number of people: 38,249
  • Farms and ranches: 4,723
  • Bridges: 70
  • Public facilities: 6
  • Businesses: 30
  • Homes: 188
  • Domestic Water Supplies: 9
  • Acres of nutrient management per year: 16,189
  • Tons of soil saved from erosion per year: 2,024,110
  • Tons of reduction of annual sedimentation: 506,688
  • Miles of stream and corridors enhanced or protected: 335
  • Lakes and reservoirs enhanced or protected: 5,709
  • Water bodies or stream segments improved that also provide recreational opportunities: 327
  • Acre feet of water conserved per year: 1,738
  • Wetland acres created, enhanced or restored: 3,595
  • Acres of upland or riparian wildlife habitat created, enhanced or restored: 31,719

Watershed with Active Projects

  • Ozan Creeks
  • Poinsett
  • Big Slough
  • Departee Creek

Additional Information

The documents below require Adobe Acrobat Reader

  • National Watershed Program Manual
  • National Watershed Program Handbook 

Program Contact

Randy Childress
ASTC Easements and Watershed
(501) 301-3131

WFPO Resources

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

How to Get Assistance

Do you farm or ranch and want to make improvements to the land that you own or lease?

Natural Resources Conservation Service offers technical and financial assistance to help farmers, ranchers and forest landowners.

how to get started

To get started with NRCS, we recommend you stop by your local NRCS field office. We’ll discuss your vision for your land.

NRCS provides landowners with free technical assistance, or advice, for their land. Common technical assistance includes: resource assessment, practice design and resource monitoring. Your conservation planner will help you determine if financial assistance is right for you.

We’ll walk you through the application process. To get started on applying for financial assistance, we’ll work with you:

  • To fill out an AD 1026, which ensures a conservation plan is in place before lands with highly erodible soils are farmed. It also ensures that identified wetland areas are protected.
  • To meet other eligibility certifications.

Once complete, we’ll work with you on the application, or CPA 1200.

Applications for most programs are accepted on a continuous basis, but they’re considered for funding in different ranking periods. Be sure to ask your local NRCS district conservationist about the deadline for the ranking period to ensure you turn in your application in time.

As part of the application process, we’ll check to see if you are eligible. To do this, you’ll need to bring:

  • An official tax ID (Social Security number or an employer ID)
  • A property deed or lease agreement to show you have control of the property; and
  • A farm number.

If you don’t have a farm number, you can get one from USDA’s Farm Service Agency. Typically, the local FSA office is located in the same building as the local NRCS office. You only need a farm number if you’re interested in financial assistance.

NRCS will take a look at the applications and rank them according to local resource concerns, the amount of conservation benefits the work will provide and the needs of applicants. View Application Ranking Dates by State.

If you’re selected, you can choose whether to sign the contract for the work to be done.

Once you sign the contract, you’ll be provided standards and specifications for completing the practice or practices, and then you will have a specified amount of time to implement. Once the work is implemented and inspected, you’ll be paid the rate of compensation for the work if it meets NRCS standards and specifications.