White House, USDA announce watershed infrastructure projects
On April 21, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, White House Infrastructure Coordinator Mitch Landrieu and Rep. Sanford Bishop (GA-2) visited Albany to announce the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) will invest $420 million in 132 infrastructure projects in 31 states, including rehabilitating dams, flood prevention, and watershed restoration projects. The funding is part of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law that build on a $166 million investment announced earlier this year.
Vilsack and Landrieu made the announcement as part of the Building a Better America Rural Infrastructure Tour. There, NRCS is helping improve the flow of Radium Springs. Radium Springs does not flow consistently and is highly dependent on underground water. Funds from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL) will be used to implement strategies that blend efficient irrigation methods with better resource management to ensure consistent flow to support agriculture, provide wildlife habitat, improve water quantity and quality, and improve the recreational value within the existing public park. More than $69 million will go toward eight projects that will provide relief for flood related watershed concerns.
The infrastructure announcement includes funding through two programs: the Watershed and Flood Prevention Operations (WFPO) Program provides technical and financial assistance for new watershed infrastructure, and the Watershed Rehabilitation Program (REHAB) upgrades existing USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) dams.
The Albany project is funded through WFPO.
Examples of REHAB projects include the Settingdown Creek Dams 54 & 56 in Forsyth County, where two earthen dam structures serve Forsyth County as part of the Coosa River Watershed and were built in 1954 to provide flood control to the surrounding community. The area has seen substantial urban growth within the drainage area and breach zones, making both dams uncompliant with federal or state safety laws. Funds are needed to extend the service life of the dams and bring them to current NRCS design safety criteria and performance standards.
In total, NRCS received $918 million of BIL funding to allocate through its watershed programs. In addition to WFPO and REHAB, this includes funds for Emergency Watershed Program (EWP) to help communities recover from natural disasters. NRCS will continue to assist communities as it receives disaster requests.