Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced that USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) will provide $3 million in Emergency Watershed Protection (EWP) Program funds to five Western states where record mountain snowpack presents a potential flood risk. The funds will be available to carry out emergency restoration projects as quickly as possible.

"Having the EWP Program funds in advance will help USDA work quickly with local, state and tribal sponsors to provide needed assistance if the snowpack melts rapidly and causes flooding," Vilsack said. "USDA has long played a vital role in helping state and local governments and communities with water management in this region."

Five NRCS state offices each will receive $600,000 in financial and technical assistance: Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Utah and Wyoming.

Working with local government sponsors, the EWP Program provides assistance to areas that have been damaged by natural disasters such as floods, windstorms, drought and wildfires. The EWP Program safeguards lives and property by installing conservation measures to reduce storm water runoff and prevent soil erosion as well as remove watershed impairments such as debris caught in culverts and under bridges.

USDA's Snow Survey and Water Forecasting Program provides critical information on western snowpack and water supply conditions. Current program data show regional snowpack levels are as much as 200 percent more than normal for this time of year. NRCS estimates that these conditions present significant flooding risk to communities and private lands in the floodplains in these states. Several states are already experiencing localized flooding with the onset of warm weather.

USDA conducts snow surveys using a network of high elevation snow measurements throughout the West. Should rapid melting cause flood damage, NRCS field offices can quickly survey damaged areas, work with their partners to identify the full scope of the damage, and prepare disaster recovery projects.