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News Release

Release No. 0388.11
Office of Communications (202)720-4623

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The USDA Emergency Watershed Protection Program Possible Help For Communities Impacted By Hurricane Irene

As part of the overall federal response to Hurricane Irene, the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) can help communities address watershed impairments which might cause imminent hazards through its Emergency Watershed Protection (EWP) program. Eligibility for this assistance is not dependant on a national emergency declaration for an area.

If your land has suffered severe damage that might qualify for the EWP Program, you should contact your local authorities and/or your local NRCS office to request assistance. City and county governments, flood and water control districts, and soil and water conservation districts are the most common sponsors of EWP projects.

The Facts – The Emergency Watershed Protection Program

The Emergency Watershed Protection Program (EWP) was established by Congress to respond to emergencies created by natural disasters. The program is designed to help people and conserve natural resources by relieving imminent hazards to life and property caused by floods, fires, drought, windstorms and other natural occurrences.

All projects undertaken as part of the EWP, with the exception of the purchase of floodplain easements, must have a project sponsor, which must be a legal subdivision of the State, such as a city, county, general improvement district or conservation district. Projects also may be sponsored by Indian Tribes or Tribal Governments.

NRCS may bear up to 75 percent of the construction cost of emergency measures (90 percent within limited-resource areas as identified by the U.S. Census data). The remaining costs must come from local sources and can be in the form of cash or in-kind services. Public and private landowners are eligible for assistance but must be represented by a project sponsor. Funding for the program is provided through congressional appropriations.

Type of Work Authorized

EWP is designed for installation of recovery measures to safeguard lives and property as a result of a natural disaster. Threats that the EWP Program addresses are termed watershed impairments. These include, but are not limited to:

  • debris-clogged stream channels,
  • undermined and unstable streambanks
  • jeopardized water control structures and public infrastructures
  • wind-borne debris removal, and
  • damaged upland sites stripped of protective vegetation by fire or drought

The program can include purchasing floodplain easements. These easements restore, protect, maintain and enhance the functions and values of the floodplain, including associated wetlands and riparian areas. They also conserve natural resources including fish and wildlife habitat, water quality, flood water retention and ground water recharge, as well as safeguard lives and property from floods, drought and erosion.

EWP work is not limited to any one set of measures. NRCS completes a Damage Survey Report which provides a case-by-case investigation of the work necessary to repair or protect a site.

NRCS will only provide funding for work that is necessary to reduce applicable threats. Should sponsors want to increase the level of protection; the sponsor will be responsible for paying 100% of the cost of the upgrade and additional work.


Public and Private landowners are eligible for assistance, but must be represented by a project sponsor.

Sponsors include legal subdivisions of the State, such as a city, county, general improvement district, conservation district, or any Native American tribe or tribal organization as defined in section 4 of the Self-Determination and Education Assistance Act.

Sponsor's Obligations

Sponsors are responsible for:

  • providing land rights to do repair work,
  • securing the necessary permits,
  • furnishing the local cost share,
  • accomplishing the installation of work and
  • performing any necessary operation and maintenance.

Criteria for Assistance

All EWP work must reduce threat to life and property; be economically, environmentally and socially defensible; and be sound from a technical stand point.

Additional information about these assistance programs, safety tips and updates about USDA's hurricane relief efforts are posted on the Web at Click on the hurricane relief link. And information about the U.S. Government's hurricane response efforts is available at