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Emergency Watershed Protection Program

Image of the Emergency Watershed Protection Program Before and After Picture

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 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. EWP does not require a disaster declaration by federal or state officials for program assistance to begin, but ultimately partial funding must be provided by the state Legislature. If funding becomes available, all funded projects must demonstrate they reduce threats to life and property; be economically, environmentally and socially sound; and must be designed to acceptable engineering standards, if applicable.

EWP Program Assistance

The EWP Program has two distinct options for assisting local communities and individual landowners — EWP Program-Recovery and EWPP-Floodplain Easements.  Click on this comparison page to see the difference between these two options.   

EWP Program Projects

NRCS offers financial and technical assistance for various activities under EWP Program – Recovery, 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 conservation practices.

In addition to recovery projects, NRCS may purchase EWP floodplain easements instead of trying to recover damaged floodplain lands if it proves to be more cost effective than recovery.

The EWP Program cannot be used:

  • to address problems that existed prior to the disaster;
  • to improve the level of protection above the existing level at the time of the disaster;
  • for projects’ operation and maintenance;
  • to repair private or public transportation facilities or utilities;
  • to install non-essential restoration work that will not reduce or eliminate adverse impacts from the natural disaster; or
  • to restore projects installed by another federal agency.

Eligibility

All EWP Program – Recovery projects begins 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 can apply for EWP Program – Recovery assistance through one of those sponsors.

Landowner eligibility for EWP-floodplain easements functions differently. Landowners can apply for assistance through the EWP-floodplain easement option directly at the local NRCS office when project funding for floodplain easements become 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, e-mail Shawn Anderson, Acting EWP Program Manager, or call 202-720-5795 (office).