President Joe Biden and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack recently announced that USDA is investing more than $166.5 million in 108 infrastructure projects as part of implementing the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, also known as the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA). USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) is working with local communities in 23 states and territories to invest in new dam and flood prevention projects and in repairs on existing watershed infrastructure, which are all part of USDA’s broader national infrastructure investment.
Through this first round of projects under the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, NRCS prioritized projects in communities heavily impacted by natural disasters as well as historically underserved and limited resource communities.
The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, signed in November by President Biden, provided $918 million for NRCS watershed programs, which includes the Watershed and Flood Prevention Operations (WFPO) Program, Watershed Rehabilitation Program (REHAB) and Emergency Watershed Protection (EWP) Program. Through NRCS watershed programs, NRCS works with local, eligible sponsors including state government agencies, local municipalities, conservation districts and federally recognized tribal organizations.
In California, the IIJA is being used to fund EWP projects to prevent potential debris flow damage in post fire burn scars and is funding two watershed planning efforts for the Middle San Luis Rey and Ventura River watersheds along Southern California’s coast.
“The Biden Administration is committed to building back better, and this starts with our infrastructure,” Vilsack said. “Protecting our watersheds and saving lives is paramount. These investments in our watershed programs will provide much needed support for communities to build resilience in the face of climate change. We can extend financial assistance to underserved communities that live in constant fear of flooding, help with the effects of severe weather events, and put systems in place that will ensure a climate resilient future to help communities thrive in the years to come.”
A full list of projects is available on NRCS’ Landscape Planning and Watershed Programs webpage.
Implementing the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law
Since the bill was signed into law, NRCS has hosted training webinars focused on educating potential sponsors and historically underserved communities about the funding opportunities provided by the new legislation. NRCS conducted an assessment of current needs for watershed protection and flood prevention work. This assessment supported the establishment of priorities that focused funding on the most critical and highest priority projects for improving the Nation’s land and water resources.
In California, NRCS encourages local sponsors to submit requests for funding through NRCS California State Conservation Engineer, Greg Norris at (530) 792-5609, or firstname.lastname@example.org. NRCS will compile any additional requests received and develop a second list of projects as funds are available. For more information on NRCS Watershed Programs, visit nrcs.usda.gov/wps/portal/nrcs/main/national/programs/landscape/.
Since their enactment in 1948, NRCS’ watershed programs have designed and built 11,000 dams, constructed water storage structures, flood management systems, bank stabilization, moved towns, redirected stream flows, re-established wildlife habitat and more to save lives and protect watersheds.