Natural Resources Conservation Service funds 48 projects in 20 states
The Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) announced $150 million in funding for 48 new projects through the Watershed Protection and Flood Prevention Program. Oklahoma is among the 20 states that will receive funding. NRCS works with local groups to help prevent floods, protect watersheds, improve agricultural water management and enhance wildlife habitat through this program.
NRCS plans to invest in the 48 projects in the following states—Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Georgia, Hawaii, Iowa, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Northern Mariana Islands, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Oregon, Rhode Island, Utah and West Virginia.
Of particular interest to Oklahomans is a new dam in the Lower Bayou Watershed in Love County identified as Dam Number 12, which is located west of U.S. Highway 76 in the upper reaches of the watershed. This dam will provide an estimated $400,000 in average annual flood damage reduction benefits. The Love County Conservation District is the local sponsor of this project and is responsible for obtaining land rights as well as operation and maintenance of the dam. This marks the first NRCS assisted flood control dam built in Oklahoma since 2011.
“The construction of this flood control is exciting news for all Oklahomans,” said Trey Lam of the Oklahoma Conservation Commission. “The local, state and federal Conservation Partnership in Oklahoma continues as strong as ever. The Small Watershed Program provides a fantastic tool to improve water quality through a systems approach. I hope this is the first of many new flood control construction projects coming to Oklahoma.”
Due to frequent and recurring floods in the area, the Arbuckle and Love County Conservation Districts requested assistance.
“Watersheds are critical to the safety of our neighbors and the wellbeing of our environment,” said Congressman Tom Cole. “I am pleased that the Lower Bayou Watershed has received funds to continue providing water resources for the community and protecting it from flooding. A new dam will benefit and serve Love County well.”
NRCS assistance includes developing a watershed project, construction of flood control dams and installation of conservation practices. NRCS serves as the primary technical adviser to project sponsors because of its engineering and environmental expertise and ability to deliver science-based technology and knowledge about the watershed’s natural resources and ecosystem.
Protecting lives and property and improving natural resources within the state’s watersheds is critical, NRCS State Conservationist Gary O’Neill said. “Watersheds are nature’s natural boundaries. NRCS has made much progress in reducing damages caused by flooding, sedimentation and erosion in watersheds nationwide because of our proactive approach to program implementation once we obtain congressional funding.”
Oklahoma leads the nation in protecting citizens and property from the devastation of flooding in 61 counties with 2,107 flood control dams. There are a total of 331 dams planned in Oklahoma that have not yet been built. It has been estimated that Lower Bayou 12 would have provided over $1 million in flood damage reduction benefits if it had been in place during the 2015 storms.
“History has shown us that smart, proactive investment in small watershed and flood prevention projects yield immense benefits for landowners, communities and taxpayers,” O’Neill said. “These dams have reduced flooding of businesses, homes, roads and agricultural lands. They have provided dependable water supplies for agricultural, residential and industrial use.”