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USDA Investing $265M for Watershed Protection Infrastructure in 16 States, including Florida

Hurricane Ian flooded houses in Florida residential area. Natural disaster and its consequences.
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Hurricane Ian flooded houses in Florida residential area. Natural disaster and its consequences.

Florida - Friday June 2, 2023: The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is investing $265 million in 28 Emergency Watershed Protection (EWP) infrastructure projects in 16 states, including Florida.

The funding is being provided by the USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). It is meant to help communities prepare for, and recover from, natural disasters.

In Florida the Natural Resources Conservation Service is providing $49 million dollars to fund Hurricane Ian recover efforts in places like Fort Myers Florida. The conservation service is assisting in debris and sediment removal in numerous drainage channels to prevent future flooding. Other projects involve streambank restoration and protection.

A full list of fiscal year 2023 projects is available here. EWP projects are funded in response to a local community requesting assistance following a natural disaster.

“This investment through the Emergency Watershed Protection program will help communities with recovery efforts following Hurricane Ian while preventing further devastation to the community," said Nathan Fikkert, NRCS Acting State Conservationist in Florida.

These Emergency Watershed Protection projects are part of the $925 million investment through the 2023 Consolidated Appropriations Act and include streambank stabilization, flood prevention and watershed restoration projects.

EWP Buyout Option in Limited Resource Areas
In addition to the EWP projects, NRCS is highlighting the availability of funds from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law for EWP buyouts in Limited Resource Areas, which can help communities impacted by constant flooding or severe erosion due to a natural disaster.

With these buyouts, property rights are held locally with local sponsors, which is different from USDA’s EWP floodplain easement option.

Through these easements, a local sponsor restores the land to its natural condition, preserves wildlife habitat and provides flood storage for a community. Eligible local sponsors include cities, counties, towns, conservation districts or any federally recognized Native American tribe or tribal organization in a Limited Resource Area.

Compensation is based on land and easement value as determined by an appraisal or market analysis. These buyouts may be purchased on public or private lands, including residential properties damaged by flooding at least once during the previous year, or twice within the previous 10 years. EWP covers 90% of project costs in areas considered Limited Resource Areas.

NRCS encourages communities to engage with their local project sponsors, participate in developing a sound conservation plan that serves to protect and preserve local watersheds and connect with their local NRCS office to learn more about Watershed Program assistance.

NRCS will continue to review additional requests and compile another round of watershed funding as funds are available. Fact sheets, trainings and other resources are available on the NRCS website.