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Emergency Watershed Protection Program

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 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 and More Info

To learn more about NRCS’s EWP Program in Oregon, contact the State Conservation Engineer (acting) at John.Gillilan@or.usda.gov or 503-414-3254.

EWP Success Story

When disaster strikes, call a conservationist

Emergency Watershed Protection Program protects community infrastructure while sustaining quality salmon habitat in Columbia County, Oregon

December of 2015 brought unrelenting storms to an already rain-soaked portion of northwest Oregon, resulting in damaging floods that threatened homes, business, roads and utilities.

High water overflowed river banks and overwhelmed storm drainage systems. Landslides toppled onto roads and threatened homes. Streambanks crumbled as they succumbed to erosion.

The damage prompted a Presidential disaster declaration, signed in February of 2016, to help fund recovery and repair efforts in 13 counties across Oregon.

With significant damage to property and infrastructure in Columbia County, the Columbia Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD) reached out to local conservationists to assist with recovery efforts.