There are over 1,300 active or completed watershed projects nationally. Assistance may be provided in authorized watershed projects to install conservation practices and project measures (works of improvement) throughout the watershed project area. The planned works of improvement are described in watershed project plans and are normally scheduled to be installed over multiple years. All works of improvement, including floodwater retarding dams and reservoirs, are owned and operated by the sponsoring local organizations and participating individuals.
The Watershed and Flood Prevention Operations (WFPO) Program provides technical and financial assistance to States, local governments and Tribes (project sponsors) to plan and implement authorized watershed project plans for the purpose of:
water quality improvements
soil erosion reduction
rural, municipal and industrial water supply
fish and wildlife enhancement
Under the Watershed Program, NRCS cooperates with States and local agencies to carry out works of improvement for soil conservation and for other purposes including flood prevention; conservation, development, utilization and disposal of water; and conservation and proper utilization of land.
Project sponsors are provided assistance in installing planned land treatment measures when plans are approved. Surveys and investigations are made and detailed designs, specifications, and engineering cost estimates are prepared for construction of structural measures. Areas where sponsors need to obtain land rights, easements, and rights-of-way are delineated. Technical assistance is also furnished to landowners and operators to accelerate planning and application of needed conservation measures on their individual land units.
How The Program Works
NRCS does watershed planning in the following ways:
Sponsoring local organizations can request that watershed project plans be authorized for Federal Watershed Operations funding assistance.
Watershed plans involving Federal contributions in excess of $5,000,000 for contribution, or construction of any single structure having a capacity in excess of 2,500 acre feet, require Congressional approval.
Other plans can be authorized for Federal funding by the Chief of NRCS.
After approval, technical and financial assistance can be provided for installation of works of improvement specified in the plans, subject to annual appropriations, through Watershed Operations.
Technical and Financial Assistance
Watershed and Flood Prevention Operations provides technical and financial assistance in authorized watershed projects which have public sponsors who:
Conduct public meetings to assure local involvement
Obtain all land and water rights and permits required for the installation of works of improvement
Provide local share of funds to install works of improvement
Operate and maintain works of improvement
Eligibility Authorized Watershed Projects
Watershed projects up to 250,000 acres
Benefits that are directly related to agriculture, including rural communities, that are at least 20 percent of the total benefits of the project.
Funds for Watershed Projects
Funds that may be available for watershed projects are subject to the following:
Annual Congressional appropriations
State and national resource priorities
Acquisition of land and water rights, permits
Local funding established for specific project measures
Completion of structural, agronomic, and vegetative designs for project measures
NRCS and the project sponsor approval of an Operation and Maintenance Agreement involving the measures to be installed
Watershed Surveys and Planning
The Watershed and Flood Prevention Act, P.L. 83-566, August 4, 1954, (16 U.S.C. 1001-1008) authorized this program. Prior to fiscal year 1996, small watershed planning activities and the cooperative river basin surveys and investigations authorized by Section 6 of the Act were operated as separate programs. The 1996 appropriations act combined the activities into a single program entitled the Watershed Surveys and Planning program. Activities under both programs are continuing under this authority.
The purpose of the program is to assist Federal, State, and local agencies and tribal governments to protect watersheds from damage caused by erosion, floodwater, and sediment and to conserve and develop water and land resources. Resource concerns addressed by the program include water quality, opportunities for water conservation, wetland and water storage capacity, agricultural drought problems, rural development, municipal and industrial water needs, upstream flood damages, and water needs for fish, wildlife, and forest-based industries.
Types of surveys and plans include watershed plans, river basin surveys and studies, flood hazard analyses, and flood plain management assistance. The focus of these plans is to identify solutions that use land treatment and nonstructural measures to solve resource problems.