The emergency funds will be used to stabilize watersheds, prevent massive flooding and erosion and protect infrastructure and private property. The USDA Forest Service is focusing recovery activities on lands in four southern California national forests while the Natural Resources Conservation Service is addressing recovery efforts on private lands.

"USDA is working cooperatively with local, state and federal agencies to ensure public safety and to start recovery efforts on the land," said Agriculture Secretary Ann M. Veneman. "We have committed significant resources to address the immediate concerns, and are also dedicated to long-term recovery and prevention efforts."

The Forest Service is conducting emergency stabilization activities, which includes clearing culvert for water passage, water bar construction along roads and trails to slow and direct runoff, mulching by both aerial and ground methods to protect the soil surface, and clearing debris from bridges to avoid damage to passage ways. Emergency stabilization efforts total $8.7 million.

The Natural Resources Conservation Service in California provided $480,000 in Emergency Watershed Protection Program funds to address urgent and compelling situations associated with potential flooding and debris flow within residential areas as a result of wildfire damage in the watersheds.

NRCS teams of specialists in five counties – Los Angeles, Ventura, San Diego, Riverside and San Bernardino – are conducting over 100 damage assessments on more than 80,000 acres. In addition to urban areas, the fires of Southern California affected nearly 48,000 acres of agricultural land, destroying orchards, crops and rangeland along with the irrigation infrastructure to support it.

EWP provides technical and financial assistance to local project sponsors to help heal the watershed and prevent further damage following a natural disaster. EWP funds are used for such work as clearing debris from clogged waterways, restoring vegetation and stabilizing stream banks.

Emergency stabilization activities will accelerate the long-term rehabilitation work, which occurs over the course of several years.

Combined, the Forest Service and the NRCS has fielded 16 to 20 teams to assess and implement stabilization activities.

The southern California fires burned 739,597 acres, took 22 human lives and cost more than $250 million to contain.

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