COLUMBUS, Ohio — President Joe Biden and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack have announced that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is investing more than $166.5 million in 108 infrastructure projects as part of implementing the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, also known as the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA). USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) is working with local communities in 23 states to invest in new dam and flood prevention projects and in repairs on existing watershed infrastructure, which are all part of USDA’s broader national infrastructure investment.
Through this first round of projects the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law is funding, NRCS prioritized projects in communities heavily impacted by drought and other natural disasters as well as historically underserved and limited resource communities.
“The Biden-Harris Administration is committed to building back better, and this starts with our infrastructure,” Vilsack said. “Protecting our watersheds and saving lives is paramount. These investments in our watershed programs will provide much needed support for communities to build resilience in the face of climate change. We can extend financial assistance to underserved communities that live in constant fear of flooding, help with the effects of severe weather events, and put systems in place that will ensure a climate resilient future to help communities thrive in the years to come.”
Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, signed in November by President Biden, provided $918 million for NRCS watershed programs, which includes the Watershed and Flood Prevention Operations (WFPO) Program, Watershed Rehabilitation Program (REHAB) and Emergency Watershed Protection (EWP) Program. Through NRCS watershed programs, NRCS works with local, eligible sponsors, including state government entities, local municipalities, conservation districts and federally recognized tribal organizations.
REHAB projects in Ohio focus on repairing existing infrastructure, and they include:
- Margaret Creek Structure #6 (Fox Lake): Funds will empower the Margaret Creek Conservancy District to bring the structure into compliance with safety regulations and restore the original flood protection benefits of the structure.
- Margaret Creek Structure #1 (Meeks Lake): Funds will empower the Margaret Creek Conservancy District with funds to raise the embankment of the structure, armor the spillway, and extend the life of the structure by at least another 50 years.
- Upper Hocking Structure #3: Funds will enable NRCS and the Hunter’s Run Conservancy District to study the rehabilitation needs of this aging dam and develop a plan for extending the flood protection benefits provided by the Hunter’s Run watershed.
Meanwhile, the WFPO project in Ohio focuses on new infrastructure. Funds will go to Upper Rush Creek to construct mine drainage treatment structures to improve water quality in the watershed, which is impaired by acidity, metals and other mine drainage contaminants.
IIJA also provided EWP funds and those funds are available for communities to respond to natural disasters. NRCS will continue to assist communities as it receives disaster requests.
A full list of projects is available on NRCS’ Landscape Planning and Watershed Programs webpage.
— USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service