Sadly and understandably there is much talk about what has happened as a result of recent disasters in Oklahoma, such as flooding and tornadoes. Recovery efforts are underway in many areas.
However, stop and think about what could happen that poses a threat. That’s where the Emergency Watershed Protection (EWP) Program can possibly come into play.
The EWP allows the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) to establish non-traditional partnerships with sponsors to address serious impacts resulting from natural disasters. The program requires NRCS to work quickly with local sponsors to protect public infrastructure and prevent environmental hazards. All projects must demonstrate that they reduce threats to life and property. Projects must be economically, environmentally, and socially sound, while meeting acceptable engineering standards.
Gary O’Neill, Oklahoma NRCS State Conservationist, said, “EWP is a USDA NRCS program that can help protect local infrastructure that has been damaged from a natural disaster. EWP can help Oklahoma rural communities get their feet back on the ground after a natural disaster such as flooding has had such a significant impact on residents.”
NRCS provides financial and technical assistance for the following activities under the EWP Program: Debris removal from stream channels, road culverts, and bridges; reshape and protect eroded streambanks that are threatening infrastructure; correct damages to drainage facilities; establish vegetative cover on critically eroding lands to protect infrastructure, and repair conservation practices, including flood-water retarding to protect infrastructure.
Public and private landowners can apply for assistance for the EWP Program but must have a sponsor. Those eligible sponsors include cities, counties, towns, conservation districts, flood and water control districts, or any federally recognized Native American tribe or tribal organization.
Benny Bowling, District 1 County Commissioner for Caddo County, said they used the EWP Program following floods in 2007. There is no hesitation in his response about how well the program works.
“It was a lifesaver for us,” Bowling said. “We had sites that we’d never be able to come in and riprap, and with EWP the biggest part of ours was all riprap jobs. It was a fantastic program for us. It saved some bridges and roads for us. That’s just telling it like it is.”
Sponsors are responsible for providing land rights for the repairs; securing the necessary permits; providing the sponsor funding for repairs, and completing the repairs using federal or local contracts.
Congress approves all Emergency Watershed Protection Program funding. NRCS can pay up to 75 percent of the cost of eligible emergency projects. Local sponsors must acquire the remaining 25 percent in cash or in-kind services.
The program allows communities to address serious and long-lasting damage to infrastructure and land following a natural disaster, also known as an event.
Once a natural disaster has occurred the local sponsor must determine if they have any damages from the natural disaster that may be eligible for EWP Program assistance. Then they must contact the local NRCS field office to schedule site visits as soon as possible. There must be either a Presidential Declaration, where the President declares an area a “major disaster area” or a State or Locally Declared disaster in which the NRCS State Conservationist determines that a watershed impairment exists.Click here to see more...