Flooding across Minnesota has been bad this year, but not nearly as bad as it might have been without the Natural Resources Conservation Service Watershed Protection and Flood Prevention Program. Flood-ravaged Minnesota was spared nearly $8 million more in damages, thanks to 51 NRCS-Sponsor dams, reservoirs, and other flood control structures installed through the NRCS program. NRCS designs and helps fund the projects. Then, state, local, or tribal governments, referred to as sponsors, take ownership and maintain the projects.
In the hardest-hit county in the U.S., seven NRCS-Sponsor water control structures prevented nearly $2.4 million more in damages resulting from one day’s 5.5-inch rain. Olmsted County, Minnesota, ranked No. 1 in the country for a 24-hour period rainfall — and for benefits realized from those structures, according to the June 28 Watershed Benefits Model Report.
Congressional Districts 1 and 7 combined have seen $7.3 million in savings so far. The remainder of savings occurred in Congressional Districts 2 and 6.
NRCS watershed projects are the result of cooperation among federal, state and local government units’ efforts to prevent erosion and damage from floodwaters and sediment.
Dams comprise more than 1,270 of the 2,100 projects throughout the U.S. These dams, holding water from a watershed no larger than 250,000 acres, are small compared to the well-known dams of the U.S Army Corps of Engineers dams, but make a big difference in rural America. Since 1947, the Watershed Protection and Flood Prevention Program has helped communities address critical needs on flood control, water management, watershed protection and development.
Besides flood reduction, the watershed projects reduce more than 92 million tons of soil erosion per year and enhance more than 9 million acres of upland wildlife habitat. Most years, on average, more than 600,000 homes, 46,500 businesses, 3,600 public facilities, plus 61,700 bridges benefit from the projects. (National_Watershed_Benefits Fact Sheet, November, 2017.pdf) This year, even more benefits than normal were realized in Minnesota.
Watershed projects must have public sponsorship, be no more than 250,000 acres, and aid agriculture or rural communities by at least 20 percent of their total projected benefit.
Project sponsors are critical for the projects. Sponsors can request funding to carry out an existing NRCS authorized plan; assistance can include design and construction, and sponsors can request the Chief of NRCS to authorize a plan developed with USDA Watershed Operations funding.
For more information on the Watershed Protection and Flood Prevention Program visit https://www.nrcs.usda.gov/wps/portal/nrcs/main/national/programs/landscape/wfpo/.