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Emergency Watershed Protection Program

General Overview

The Emergency Watershed Protection (EWP) Program was set up by Congress to respond to emergencies created by natural disasters. These emergencies must result in life and property threatening impacts in order to qualify for assistance under the program. It is not necessary for a national emergency to be declared to be eligible.  EWP assists groups of people with a common problem rather than providing assistance on an individual basis.  NRCS administers the program and provides technical assistance.

The Emergency Watershed Protection (EWP) Program consists of the traditional Emergency Watershed Protection (EWP) Program for recovery and the Floodplain Easement Program (EWP-FPE). 

All projects undertaken through the traditional recovery program require sponsorship by a political subdivision of the State such as a city, town, county, conservation district, or Tribal organization.  The sponsor secures land rights and funds 25 percent of the project cost either in cash or in-kind contributions.

Projects undertaken through the Floodplain Easement Program (EWP-FPE) do not require a sponsor if they are for agricultural or open lands.  Projects undertaken through the Floodplain Easement Program (EWP-FPE) do require a sponsor if they are for lands primarily used for residential housing.    

Emergency Watershed Protection Program Floodplain Easement  (EWP-FPE)

Easement program offers second round to accept applications to help Rhode Island recover from Hurricane Sandy, prevent damages from future flooding.  Applications will be accepted until April 18, 2014.

nullNRCS is providing up to $124.8 million in Emergency Watershed Protection Program-Floodplain Easement (EWP-FPE) funding to help prevent damages from significant storm events in Rhode Island and other states affected by Hurricane Sandy.


The Emergency Watershed Protection - Floodplain Easement Program (EWP-FPE) provides an alternative measure to traditional EWP recovery, where it is determined that acquiring an easement in lieu of recovery measures is the more economical and prudent approach to reducing a threat to life or property.

The easement area will be restored to the maximum extent practicable to its natural condition. Restoration utilizes structural and nonstructural practices to restore the flood storage and flow, erosion control, and improve the practical management of the easement.

Floodplain easements restore, protect, maintain and enhance the functions of floodplains while conserving their natural values such as fish and wildlife habitat, water quality, flood water retention and ground water recharge. Structures, including buildings, within the floodplain easement must be demolished and removed, or relocated outside the 100-year floodplain or dam breach inundation area.



Section 382 of the Federal Agriculture Improvement and Reform Act of 1996 (Public Law 104-127) amended the Emergency Watershed Protection Program (EWP), which was established under the Agricultural Credit Act of 1978, to provide for the purchase of floodplain easements as an emergency response to natural disasters or other circumstances. Since 1996, the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) has purchased permanent floodplain easements on 1,418 properties, totaling 184,254 acres located in 36 states.


Land Eligibility

NRCS may purchase EWP-FPE permanent easements on floodplain lands that:

  1. The floodplain lands were damaged by flooding at least once within the previous calendar year or have been subject to flood damage at least twice within the previous 10 years 1.
  2. Other lands within the floodplain are eligible, provided the lands would contribute to the restoration of the flood storage and flow, provide for control of erosion, or that would improve the practical management of the floodplain easement.
  3. Lands would be inundated or adversely impacted as a result of a dam breach.

1If FPE is being offered as recovery for a specific natural disaster, at least one of the instances of flooding must have been a result of that natural disaster.


Enrollment Option

A permanent easement is the only enrollment option available for EWP-FPE floodplain easements. Permanent FPE easements are available on the following types of land:

  1. Agricultural or open lands. In these cases, NRCS will pay up to 100% of the easement value and up to 100% of the costs for easement restoration. A project sponsor is not required for this option.
  2. Lands primarily used for residential housing. In these cases, NRCS will pay up to 100% of the easement value and up to 100% of the costs associated with demolishing and removing or relocating structures. A project sponsor is required for these projects.


For applicants located in Kent and Washington Counties, please contact John Richard, District Conservationist to schedule a sign-up appointment.
Telephone: (401) 822-8838, E-mail:

For applicants located in Bristol and Newport Counties, please contact Melissa Hayden, District Conservationist to schedule a sign-up appointment.
Telephone: (401) 822-8847, E-mail:

Providence County was not declared eligible for the EWP-FPE program as a result of Hurricane Sandy pursuant to the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act.


Please review the following documents prior to making a sign-up appointment.

The following documents require Acrobat Reader.

Easement Payments

Although participation in EWP-FPE is voluntary, landowners selected for enrollment are required to sign a permanent conservation easement for the property included in their application. Through the signing of the easement, the NRCS purchases a series of rights from the landowner including the authority to restore and enhance the floodplain's functions and values. Once an easement has closed, the boundary configuration and terms of the agreement cannot be modified under any circumstances.

As compensation for the rights purchased by the NRCS, the landowner will receive the lowest of three values:

  1. The fair market value (FMV) of the land. The fair market value may be determined through either of two methods: an area-wide market analysis or survey (AWMA) or an individual Uniform Standards for Professional Appraisal Practice (USPAP) appraisal. (See NEWPPM, Section 515.60(B)(D)).
  2. The geographic area rate cap (GARC). The GARC reflects the value the State Conservationist, with the advice of the State Technical Committee, determines to be fair compensation for the value of the easement.
  3. A voluntary written offer by the landowner. At the time of application, the landowner may voluntarily offer to accept less compensation than would be offered by NRCS. This may enhance the probability of enrollment. An offer to accept a lower compensation amount will be documented in writing on the ranking factors worksheet.

Easement compensation for projects that include residences or other structures will be determined by an appraisal.


Easement Restoration

The easement provides NRCS with the authority to restore and enhance the floodplain's functions and values. NRCS may pay up to 100% of the restoration costs. To the extent practicable, NRCS actively restores the natural features and characteristics of the floodplain through re-creating the topographic diversity, increasing the duration of inundation and saturation, and providing for the re-establishment of native vegetation. The landowner is provided the opportunity to participate in the restoration efforts.


Landowner Use

After the sale of the permanent EWP-FPE easement, landowners still retain several property rights, including:

  • The right to quiet enjoyment
  • The right to control public access and
  • The right to undeveloped recreational use such as hunting and fishing

At any time, a landowner may request authorization from NRCS to engage in other activities, provided that NRCS determines it will further the protection and enhancement of the easement's floodplain functions and values. These compatible uses may include managed timber harvest, periodic haying, or grazing. NRCS determines the amount, method, timing, intensity, and duration of any compatible use that might be authorized. While a landowner can realize economic returns from an activity allowed on the easement area, a landowner is not assured of any specific level or frequency of such use, and the authorization does not vest any rights outside of those specified in the easement to the landowner.


Traditional Emergency Watershed Protection Program

The EWP Program administered by NRCS assists sponsors, landowners, and operators in implementing emergency recovery measures to relieve imminent hazards to life and property created by a natural disaster that causes a sudden impairment of a watershed. No State or Federal roads are covered under the EWP Program.  Impairments may include but are not limited to:

  • Debris-clogged stream channels
  • Undermined and unstable streambanks
  • Jeopardized water control structures
  • Wind-borne debris removal
  • Damaged sites where protective vegetation has been removed by fires or storms

This program provides both technical and financial assistance to local sponsoring authorities in order to preserve life and property. If a site is eligible, NRCS provides up to 75 percent of the costs for the repairs. The other 25 percent must be provided by a local sponsor and can be in the form of cash or in-kind services. The local sponsor can be a city, county, conservation district, or Tribal organization.

As a sponsor, you must submit a formal request to Mr. R. Phou Vongkhamdy, State Conservationist for assistance within 60 days of the natural disaster occurrence, or 60 days from the date when access to the site is available. Your request must include a statement that you understand your responsibilities as a sponsor and are willing to pay your portion of the cost-share as well as information pertaining to the natural disaster including the nature, location and scope of the problems and the assistance needed. 

The following documents require Acrobat Reader

Please click the following link for a sample sponsor letter.  Sample Sponsor Letter  (44 KB)

The requests for assistance should be sent to:

R. Phou Vongkhamdy, STC
USDA - Natural Resources Conservation Service
60 Quaker Lane, Suite 40
Warwick, RI 02886

If you identify possible projects within your community, please contact our office and submit an official request for assistance under the EWP Program.

Please feel free to contact Alan Gillespie, NRCS State Engineer to provide you with additional information in regard to the EWP program. Telephone 401-822-8842 E-mail:

For More Information

If you need more information about EWP, please contact:

Alan Gillespie  -