USDA to repair dams in 26 states through watershed rehabilitation funding

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PERRY, OK, July 21, 2014 --The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) recently announced that communities across the U.S. will receive a $262-million investment to rehabilitate dams that provide critical infrastructure and protect public health and safety. This funding will provide rehabilitation assistance -- planning, design or construction -- for 150 dams in 26 states.

In addition, 500 dam sites will also be assessed for safety through NRCS' Watershed Rehabilitation Program (for a complete list of the projects, click here). The projects were identified based on recent rehabilitation investments and the potential risks to life and property if a dam failure occurred. Overall, an estimated 250,000 people will benefit as a result of improved flood protection made possible by these rehabilitated dams.

The 2014 Farm Bill, signed into law by President Obama earlier this year, increased the typical annual investment in watershed rehabilitation by almost 21 fold, recognizing the critical role of these structures in flood management, water supply and agricultural productivity. Earlier last week, he discussed the importance of infrastructure to job creation and commerce, noting that "Funding infrastructure projects helps our families, it fuels our economy, and it better positions America for the future."

From the 1940s through the 1970s, local communities using NRCS assistance constructed more than 11,800 dams in 47 states. These watershed management projects provide an estimated $2.2 billion in annual benefits in reduced flooding and erosion damages, and improved recreation, water supplies and wildlife habitat for an estimated 47 million Americans.

For example, Watershed Dam No. 62 in the Upper Black Bear Creek Watershed of Noble County, Okla., will be included in a USDA-funded rehabilitation partnership project. Currently awaiting rehabilitation design, the dam provides protection against flooding to about 550 Oklahomans who live and work downstream.

Additionally, the dam protects seven county roads, one state highway, two U.S. highways, and an interstate highway that, together, support about 16,200 vehicles daily. Among other critical infrastructure, the dam also protects power lines and railroad tracks. The rehabilitation project is expected to provide about $7.5 million in benefits including flood damage reduction, water supply and recreational benefits.

See also:

"Dam Safety Lessons Learned from Colorado's Recent Floods"

"June marks 50th anniversary of two major MT dam failures"

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