Schafer Announces $390 Million Available for Natural Disaster Recovery Assistance
WASHINGTON.—Agriculture Secretary Ed Schafer today announced $390 million is available through the Emergency Watershed Protection (EWP) program for landowners and communities to cope with the aftermath of recent floods, fires, drought, tornadoes and other natural disasters.
“USDA employees work shoulder to shoulder with their neighbors at the outset of these emergencies, and remain involved as a member of these communities,” said Schafer. “I’m proud that we follow up with emergency support to recover an area’s damaged watersheds and remove hazards to life and property.”
The $390 million is included in a $162 billion supplemental spending bill that helps the Midwest states with areas ravaged by recent flooding. However, it also provides funding to cover about $140 million in EWP projects from earlier natural disasters, such as tornadoes and wildfires.
USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) administers the EWP program, which provides technical and financial assistance to address public safety and restoration efforts on private, public and tribal lands. Through sponsorships, NRCS can pay landowners and communities up to 75 percent of the cost of removing debris from stream channels, road culverts and bridges; protecting eroded streambanks; correcting damaged drainways; and reseeding damaged areas. NRCS also can purchase floodplain easements on land that qualifies for EWP program assistance.
Public and private landowners are eligible for assistance through the EWP program, but they must be represented by a project sponsor. Local sponsors include any legal subdivision of state or local government, including local officials of city, county or state governments, Indian tribes, soil conservation districts, U.S. Forest Service and watershed authorities. Sponsors must secure 25 percent of the costs in cash or approved in-kind contributions. However, in some cases, the EWP program can cover up to 90 percent of the construction costs for projects in limited resource areas.
NRCS employees assess site damages for potential EWP program assistance and help local governments remove the imminent hazards to life and property caused by flooding and erosion.
In addition to the $390 million obtained through this fiscal year’s supplemental appropriations for recovery assistance, NRCS has obligated $78 million in fiscal year 2008 to help states cope with various natural disasters. EWP program funding is normally obtained through supplemental appropriations during the fiscal year.
Producers also can use the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) for financial and technical assistance to restore conservation practices damaged or destroyed during the recent flooding if they were installed using this program. USDA will provide an additional $8.7 million of EQIP funds this fiscal year to six Midwest states ravaged by the recent flooding—Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan and Wisconsin.
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