USDA puts up $103 million to rebuild, improve dams

By Whitney Forman-Cook

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WASHINGTON, April 1, 2016 - USDA says it will invest up to $103 million in dams in 19 states that need vital repairs and improvements.

Most of the funding will come from the Natural Resources Conservation Service's (NRCS) Emergency Watershed Protection (EWP) program, which Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said Thursday “is vital to communities repairing damage and making improvements to reduce future damage from natural disasters.”

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The funding announced Thursday for EWP - $93 million - will be split up by state, with $59 million going to flood, hurricane, and other natural disaster recovery projects in Texas, Mississippi and Utah. About $34 million will go to projects in Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Minnesota, Missouri, Ohio, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Washington, and Wyoming.

Another $10.4 million in funding for NRCS' Watershed Rehabilitation Program will be allocated for the rehab of aging dams. About $4.8 million will go to two Texas counties - Ellis and Williamson - to complete the design and construction of four watershed rehabilitation projects, and another $3.7 million will be used in Utah for dam construction in the cities of Lehi and Highland. About $500,000 will be used to assess aging dams nationwide in 2016.

USDA estimates these watershed projects provide $2.2 billion in annual benefits to local communities.

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“Since 2009, USDA has invested more than $647 million to help local governments restore watersheds and protect communities from the aftermath of devastating natural disasters like Hurricanes Irene and Sandy and fires and flooding in the Southwestern United States,” Vilsack said.

In 2015 alone, NRCS invested more than $21 million in Texas to help remove debris and stabilize streambanks after heavy rains had overwhelmed drainage systems and damaged or destroyed culverts, bridges and roads.

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