Last April, the flood-swollen Mississippi River threatened to over-top levees on the Illinois side. To prevent this, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers cut the Birds Point levee near New Madrid, Mo., flooding nearly 135,000 acres of choice Missouri Bootheel land.
Early this year, Congress appropriated $216 million under the Emergency Watershed Protection program. In January, 2012, USDA distributed the funding nationally to help relieve imminent hazards to life and property caused by floods, fires, tornadoes and other natural disasters. Missouri was granted $35 million, primarily to address the Mississippi River flooding of southeastern Missouri. Counties affected are Butler, Cape Girardeau, Dunklin, Mississippi, New Madrid, Scott and Stoddard.
“This money will go mostly to cleaning sediment and debris out of drainage ditches,” said Harold Deckerd, NRCS assistant State Conservationist. “We’ve also approved some EWP work for counties in northwest Missouri, but most of the projects are being done in the Bootheel.”
Congress set up the EWP to respond to emergencies caused by natural disasters. The purpose of EWP is to help groups of people with a common problem; it’s generally not an individual assistance program.
“For the most part, EWP work is not done on individual private lands,” said Deckerd. “Individual landowners need to have a sponsoring agency—county commission, levee district, drainage district, etc.—some entity that has general property easements.”
Most local soil and water conservation districts cannot sponsor EWP projects because these districts do not have such easements.
USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service is responsible for administering the program.
“We provide planning, oversee the project and sign off on completed work,” added Deckerd. “NRCS also provides up to 75 percent of the cost, in most cases. The remaining cost-share is the responsibility of the sponsoring agency, as is the actual contracting of work to be done.”
The sponsor’s 25 percent share of costs may be in the form of cash or in-kind services. Sponsors also must provide easements and any necessary permits to do the needed repair work.
EWP projects are not limited to any set of prescribed measures. NRCS does a case-by-case evaluation of work needed, which may include removing sediment and debris from stream channels, road culverts and bridges; reshaping and protecting eroding stream banks; repairing levees and other structures; and reseeding damaged areas. EWP funds generally cannot be used to correct problems that existed before the disaster occurred, and cannot be used to perform work on projects undertaken by another federal agency.
If you believe your area has suffered damage that qualifies under the EWP program, you need to contact your county government or the supervisor of your general improvement district and ask them to sponsor the repair work.
Local NRCS offices have information explaining the eligibility requirements for EWP programs.