WASHINGTON, Feb. 26, 2015 -- USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service will invest an additional $84 million through the Emergency Watershed Protection Program (EWP) to help disaster recovery efforts through more than 150 projects in 13 states.

"This program helps communities carry out much needed recovery projects to address the damage to watersheds that is caused by floods, hurricanes and other natural disasters," Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said in a news release. "USDA is committed to helping repair and rebuild the rural communities that anchor rural America and are a key part of our nation's economy."

USDA calls EWP an “emergency recovery program” that provides critical resources to local sponsors to help communities eliminate imminent hazards to life and property caused by floods, fires, wind-storms and other natural occurrences. The funds support a variety of recovery projects, including clearing debris-clogged waterways, stabilizing stream banks, fixing jeopardized water control structures and stabilizing soils after wildfires.

Projects include:

--Stabilizing Ground around Florida Homes and Roads: A 2014 storm unleashed more than 20 inches of rain in one day in Florida, causing severe erosion that threatened the safety of homes and roads. Eighteen sites in Escambia, Okaloosa, Calhoun and Jackson counties have been approved for $5.9 million to help the counties recover from the damages and remove the threat to homes and roads. This work will include removal of debris and installation of structures that will stabilize the land and prevent future erosion.

--Rebuilding after Heavy Rains and Tornados in Alabama: Torrential rains and a series of tornadoes in 2014 led to millions of dollars in damage to several Alabama communities. These disasters eroded stream banks, created gullies and increased runoff of nutrients and sediment into waterways. NRCS is investing $2.9 million in projects for 32 sites, working with six cities and five counties to help restore stream corridors, remove debris, curb erosion problems and prevent future flooding.

--Conservation Work to Help Colorado Communities Rebound from Massive Flood: A 2013 flood caused $3 billion in damages in 18 counties in Colorado. NRCS is investing $56.9 million in the second phase of a project to help restore stream corridors, remove debris and prevent future flooding. Work will target about 500 sites in the area. These projects bring together state agencies, 20 local governments, watershed planning coalitions and other groups. This second phase of work builds on a $12.9 million investment in 2013.

NRCS said it will also fund projects in Alaska, Arkansas, Iowa, Mississippi, Missouri, New Mexico, New York, Oklahoma, Tennessee and Vermont. EWP work must be sponsored by a public agency of the state, tribal, county or city government. NRCS provides 75 percent of the funds for the project; the public organization pays the remaining 25 percent.


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