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News Release

NRCS, N.H. State Conservationist Tours Saco River EWP Sites

Contact:
Jeremy J.Fowler, Public Affairs Specialist, NRCS, N.H.
603-868-9931



A view from the River Street bridge of the Saco River in Bartlett, N.H. July 27, 2021 shows the far bank (left) that was repaired under the Emergency Watershed Protection Program funded by the USDA's NRCS in response to the sever bank erosion that took place after severe flooding in October 2017. (N

DOVER, N.H. August 17, 2021 – The New Hampshire state conservationist for the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA), Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) toured two sites in the Saco River watershed July 27, 2021 to review the effectiveness of the projects that received funding under the Emergency Watershed Protection (EWP) Program.

    State Conservationist Becky Ross, the agency leader for NRCS in the state, met with stakeholders and program partners to review the sites in Bartlett, New Hampshire that were approved for funding and subsequent bank reconstruction.

    “This was an opportunity to see how the construction has weathered since installation,” said Ross. “While this area hasn’t seen another significant, sudden rainfall event since construction, this gives us a chance to review how the watershed has reacted to traditional spring rains and mountain snowmelt conditions. It allows us to determine if more action here will be necessary – at this point it appears it does not.” 

Stakeholders review the streambank reconstruction site along the Saco River in Bartlett, N.H. July 27, 2021. The banking was the site of significant erosion following the October 2017 floods and was selected for funding under the Emergency Watershed Protection Program funded through the USDA’s NRCS. Construction was completed in the fall of 2020 and the on-site review was being conducted with the NRCS State Conservationist, Becky Ross. (Natural Resources Conservation Service photo by Jeremy J. Fowler, Public Affairs Specialist, NRCS, N.H)

    Locations along the Saco and Rocky Branch Rivers suffered severe bank erosion in late October 2017 when the region saw more than five inches of rain in 24 hours, inundating the Saco River watershed. This erosion further put at risk people and property as the high bank berms that directed the river into the channel were washed out – another significant rainfall event would leave the river unchecked in a populated area.  

    Vicki Garland, from the Town of Bartlett Board of Selectmen toured the reconstructed sections of the river with Ross and were accompanied by Josh McAllister and Tucker Gordon from HEB Engineering, the contracted engineering firm for the project. NRCS Engineer Todd Guerdat, who oversaw the installation of the project, detailed the changes that were made and practices put in place to mitigate future events.

    “The aim of the EWP Program is to restore watershed processes,” said Guerdat. “Restoration provides protection of the watershed ecosystem and public infrastructure at the same time. The goal for the Bartlett project was to find ways to reconstruct the damaged areas and reduce the hazards to life and property around these river systems,” he explained.

    With the Presidential Major Disaster Declaration in January of 2018, the NRCS was able to step in to provide assistance to the communities within the watershed under the EWP program.  

    EWP offers vital recovery options for local communities to help people reduce hazards to life and property caused by drought, wildfires, floods, earthquakes, and other natural disasters. In this instance it allowed the agency to provide technical and financial assistance through local government sponsors for addressing imminent threat to human life and/or property caused by severe erosion on the streambanks.

    With those streambank berms washed away in the 2017 storm, people and property in the area were more likely to be subjected to the hazards in the event of another large storm. Through planning and working with stakeholders and sponsors, NRCS was able to align the resources to provide protection to not only the residents and their property, but the security of the watersheds.

Stakeholders review the streambank reconstruction site along the Saco River in Bartlett, N.H. July 27, 2021. The banking was the site of significant erosion following the October 2017 floods and was selected for funding under the Emergency Watershed Protection Program funded through the USDA’s NRCS. Construction was completed in the fall of 2020 and the on-site review was being conducted with the NRCS State Conservationist, Becky Ross. (Natural Resources Conservation Service photo by Jeremy J. Fowler, Public Affairs Specialist, NRCS, N.H)

    Future site visits will be conducted, particularly after significant weather events, explained Ross. “While we are confident that the design we have implemented is sound,” said Ross, “when life and property are on the line, consistent reviews of the project area are a necessity.”

    The NRCS is the lead federal agency for conservation in the United States that focuses on helping farm and forest landowners mitigate soil erosion, protect and increase water quality and to assist and rehabilitate out Nation’s watersheds. The EWP is a special program tasked to the NRCS to manage, with project funds addressing erosion related watershed impairments by supporting activities including protecting eroded banks, repairing levees and structures and reseeding damaged areas. The EWP Program allows communities to quickly address serious and long-lasting damages to infrastructure and to the land. The EWP Program authorities offer NRCS the flexibility to act quickly to help local communities cope with adverse impacts resulting from natural disasters.

    For more information about EWP, you can visit the National office’s website here: http://go.usa.gov/xFvN8 .

A panoramic view of the Rocky Branch River in Glen, N.H. July 27, 2021 shows the bank stabilization project (far bank) that was constructed under the agency’s Emergency Watershed Protection Program in the fall of 2020. The site was subjected to severe erosion following flooding in October 2017 and selected for funding under the Emergency Watershed Protection Program and the review of the project was conducted to assess the impact of the project. (Natural Resources Conservation Service photo by Jeremy J. Fowler, Public Affairs Specialist, NRCS, N.H)

 

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