While Arizona is on a list to receive over $98 million in Farm Bill funding to rehabilitate dams that provide critical infrastructure and protect public health and safety, California will receive none of the Natural Resources Conservation Service funding.

The announcement to give $262 million to 26 states for flood protection, water quality and infrastructure improvements was made in Oklahoma by NRCS Chief Jason Weller and U.S. Representative Frank Lucas, chairman of the House Committee on Agriculture.

“This investment will protect people and property from floods, help keep our water clean, and ensure that critical structures continue to provide benefits for future generations,” Weller said. “Families, businesses and our agriculture economy depend on responsible management of dams and watersheds, and we are continuing to provide that support to these communities.”

Other western states on the list include Colorado, Idaho, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon and Wyoming.

A number of the projects to be funded are in Oklahoma and Weller noted that the state had the first full watershed plan and structure completed by USDA on private lands in the 1940s. 

Funding increased

The 2014 Farm Bill greatly increased the annual investment in watershed rehabilitation, recognizing the critical role of these structures in flood management, water supply, and agricultural productivity.

From the 1940s through the 1970s, local communities using NRCS assistance constructed more than 11,800 dams in 47 states. These watershed management projects provide an estimated $2.2 billion in annual benefits in reduced flooding and erosion damages, and improved recreation, water supplies and wildlife habitat for an estimated 47 million Americans.

Weller said that funding will provide rehabilitation assistance for 150 dams in 26 states. Funds will be used for planning, design or construction. Also, 500 dam sites will be assessed for safety through NRCS’ Watershed Rehabilitation Program.

The projects were identified based on recent rehabilitation investments and the potential risks to life and property if a dam failure occurred. Overall, an estimated 250 thousand people will benefit as a result of improved flood protection made possible by these rehabilitated dams.

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“These funds will go a long way towards improving the safety and continued benefits provided by these watershed structures,” Weller said. “We will work closely with the local project sponsors to ensure that these dams continue to protect and provide water for communities and agriculture.”

For more information, visit the Watershed Rehabilitation webpage or local USDA service center.