“This program has helped countless communities recover from natural disasters. Emergency conservation measures help reduce the threat of injury, loss of life or devastating property damage should a subsequent disaster occur,” said NRCS Chief Bruce Knight.

“The proposed changes will improve the effectiveness of USDA’s response to natural disasters.”

NRCS provides technical and financial assistance through the Emergency Watershed Protection program to help remove threats to life and property that remain in the nation’s watersheds in the aftermath of natural disasters such as floods, hurricanes, tornadoes and wildfires.

Funds typically are provided through Congressional emergency supplemental appropriations and are used for such measures as debris removal, stream-bank stabilization, re-vegetation, purchase of floodplain easements and repair of water control structures and public infrastructure.

The proposed rule, published in the Federal Register on Nov. 19, 2003, gives the public the opportunity to comment on several proposed changes to the way the program is implemented. These changes include:

  • Modifying the cost-share rate for program assistance;
  • Clarifying that EWP assistance is not available for federal lands except in situations where safeguards are followed to avoid inappropriate augmentation of appropriations;
  • Allowing a greater federal cost share in areas that qualify as limited resource areas; and
  • Describing the parameters under which NRCS will purchase floodplain easements as a means to limit flood damages and reduce future federal obligations.
Comments must be received by Jan. 20, 2004. Submit them by mail to Director, Watersheds and Wetlands Division, USDA-NRCS, P.O. Box 2890, Washington D.C. 20013-2890; by fax to 202-720-2143; or by e-mail to victor.cole@usda.gov. The notice and additional information on EWP are available at http://www.nrcs.usda.gov/programs/EWP.

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