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Watershed Protection and Flood Prevention Program

PL-534 – “The Potomac River Basin Program”

The Flood Control Act of 1944, Public Law 78-534, also known as PL-534, authorized the Secretary of Agriculture to work with local sponsors to install watershed improvements that provide flood protection within designated river basins.  The Potomac River Basin which includes the Shenandoah River drainage area was included in PL-534.  Protection under this program has been provided through the construction of dams, dikes and channel work, and to a lesser extent through the relocation, elevation, and flood-proofing of property and vital infrastructure.   

Modifications made to the program in the early 1980s permitted the NRCS to also provide technical and financial assistance to private land users in the installation of conservation practices on their private lands.  Thus the original flood prevention focus of the program was broadened to allow for improvements that protect long-term productivity of on-farm resources and at the same time protect water quality.  The installation of conservation practices on private lands within sub-watersheds or sub-basins of the Potomac River basin is also referred to as land treatment. 

PL-534 Dams in Virginia
Status of PL-534 Dams in Virginia

PL-566 – “The Small Watershed Program”

The Watershed Protection and Flood Prevention Act of 1954, Public Law 83-566, also known simply as PL-566, authorized the Secretary of Agriculture to assist local units of government to provide protection from flooding during major storm events within sub-basins of identified watersheds, within our major river systems.  Flood protection under this program has been provided similar to PL-534 through the construction of dams, dikes and channel work, and to a lesser extent through the relocation, elevation, and flood-proofing of property and vital infrastructure.   

More recent changes to this program have allowed for acquisition of conservation easements within floodplains where repetitive damages have occurred, as well as the installation of land treatment measures similar to PL-534 on individual farms and other private land holdings to protect on-site productivity and improve water quality.