The U.S. Department of Agriculture is investing up to $103 million in post-disaster recovery and the rehabilitation of aging dams in 19 states.
"The Emergency Watershed Protection Program is vital to communities repairing damage and making improvements to reduce future damage from natural disasters," Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack said. "Since 2009, USDA has invested more than $647 million to help local governments restore watersheds and protect communities from the aftermath of devastating natural disasters like hurricanes Irene and Sandy and fires and flooding in the southwestern United States."
Funding through USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) was announced by assistant chief Kirk Hanlin at an event in Mother Neff State Park outside Temple, Texas. In 2015, excessive rains overwhelmed the drainage systems of many communities and threatened, damaged or destroyed culverts, bridges and roads. NRCS will invest more than $21 million to help Texas communities remove debris and stabilize stream banks to better protect drainage canals, utilities and roads from future damage.
Overall, NRCS will invest $93 million in Emergency Watershed Protection Program assistance to help state and local governments carry out much-needed recovery projects that address damage caused by floods, hurricanes, wildfires and other natural disasters. Approximately $59 million will be used in recovery projects in some of the hardest-hit areas in Texas, Mississippi and Utah. About $34 million will assist projects in Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Minnesota, Missouri, Ohio, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Washington and Wyoming. A summary of projects by state is available on the program's website.
The announcement also includes $10.4 million in Watershed Rehabilitation Program funding to help communities rehabilitate aging dams that protect lives, property and infrastructure, like drinking water in rural communities downstream. Of this total, $4.8 million will be used in Texas to complete the design and construction of four watershed rehabilitation projects in Ellis and Williamson counties, and $3.7 will be used in Utah for the construction of a dam project in Gillespie County. About $500,000 will be used to assess up to 25 aging dams nationwide this year.
USDA watershed projects provide an estimated $2.2 billion in benefits annually to local communities nationwide. Since 1948, USDA has helped local governments construct nearly 12,000 dams in 47 states and Puerto Rico to help prevent flooding and erosion damage, provide recreation opportunities, improve water supplies for drinking and irrigation and create habitat for wildlife.