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Emergency Watershed Protection Program



Wildfires ravaged a hillside, turning all trees and vegetation into piles of ash and leaving the soil exposed and vulnerable to the next heavy rainfall.

A tornado flattened homes, businesses, and other infrastructure, depositing the debris in local creeks, streams, or drainage ditches.

A major snowstorm dumped two feet of snow on a community and the resulting runoff from a rapid melt flooded everything in its path, even eroding local streambanks.

Torrential rains from a powerful hurricane scattered debris into drainage ways, causing waterways to overflow their banks and wreak havoc in coastal areas.

The Emergency Watershed Protection (EWP) Program, a federal emergency recovery program, helps local communities recover after a natural disaster strikes. The program offers technical and financial assistance to help local communities relieve imminent threats to life and property caused by floods, fires, windstorms and other natural disasters that impair a watershed.

The EWP Program Helps Communities and Landowners

The EWP Program allows communities to quickly protect infrastructure and land from additional flooding and soil erosion. EWP does not require a disaster declaration by federal or state government officials for program assistance to begin. The NRCS State Conservationist can declare a local watershed emergency and initiate EWP program assistance in cooperation with an eligible sponsor (see the "Eligibility" section below). NRCS will not provide funding for activities undertaken by a sponsor prior to the signing of a cooperative agreement between NRCS and the sponsor.

All funded EWP projects must demonstrate they:

  • provide protection from flooding or soil erosion;
  • reduce threats to life and property;
  • restore the hydraulic capacity to the natural environment to the maximum extent practical; and
  • are economically and environmentally defensible and technically sound.

EWP Program Projects

NRCS offers financial and technical assistance for various activities under EWP Program, including: 

  • Remove debris from stream channels, road culverts and bridges;
  • reshape and protect eroded streambanks;
  • correct damaged or destroyed drainage facilities;
  • establish vegetative cover on critically eroding lands;
  • repair levees and structures;       
  • repair certain conservation practices, and
  • purchase floodplain easements

The EWP Program cannot be used:

  • to address the same structural issue or practice 3 times within 10 years;

The same structural practice (i.e. levy breach) are limited to two installations with a ten-year period. If the structure fails twice, the only EWP solution remaining is the purchase of a flood easement.

  • for existing operation and maintenance;

EWP funds cannot be used to maintain the structure. A sponsor may be asked to provide Operation and Maintenance Plans (O&M) to the ensure the work is not routine maintenance.

  • to repair, rebuild, or maintain any transportation facilities, utilities, or similar facilities;

Repairing a road is not eligible whereas providing protection to remaining and repaired roads is eligible.

  • to restore projects installed by another federal agency;

Federal lands fall to the Federal land management agency responsible for securing funding to undertake emergency repair activities within lands under its control.

  • to repair nonstructural management practices;

Conservation tillage (as one example) would be considered a nonstructural management practice. EWP’s focus is on exigent threats to property or human life.

  • to repair coastal erosions to beaches, dunes, and shorelines, including those along the Great Lakes;
  • if the recovery measures are eligible for the Emergency Conservation Program offered thru the Farm Service Agency (FSA).


Recovery projects begin with a local sponsor or legal subdivision of state or tribal government. Eligible sponsors include cities, counties, towns, conservation districts, or any federally-recognized Native American tribe or tribal organization. Interested public and private landowners must work through a sponsor.

In some situations, landowners can directly apply for assistance through a floodplain easement at the local NRCS office when project funding for floodplain easements becomes available. States will hold a signup period for the impacted communities and the local NRCS offices will publicize that information in the affected communities.

Contact Information

To learn more about NRCS’s EWP Program, please contact your state's EWP Program Manager.