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Southeast AgNet: USDA Program Helps Florida Recover from Hurricane Irma

GAINESVILLE, Fla.—Hurricane Irma tore through Florida in September of 2017 causing widespread damage to buildings, water infrastructure and major erosion.

USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service  (NRCS) has approved $99.3 million for 37 projects in 23 counties to help state and local governments recover through the Emergency Watershed Protection Program (EWP). Workers have been removing sediment, trees and debris from waterways and stabilizing banks on channels where flooding threatened homes, businesses, roads and utilities. Seventeen projects are finished, seven will be completed next month and the remainder will be done by November. 

The EWP program can help relieve imminent hazards to life and property caused by floods, fires, wind­storms and hurricanes. Aid may include financial and technical assistance to remove debris from streams, protect destabilized stream banks and establish cover on critically eroding lands, repair conservation practices and purchase flood plain easements.

The public and private landowners are eligible for assistance, but must be represented by a project sponsor, such as a city, county, conservation district or a Native American tribe or tribal organization. NRCS provides technical assistance and pays up to 75 percent of the construction.

Local sources contribute the remaining portion in the form of cash or in-kind services. The process begins when the sponsor requests assistance from a local NRCS office.  Staff visit the site and determine eligibility based on environmental impacts and economic analysis, then request funding from the NRCS national office. If Congress appropriates funds, the sponsor enters into a cooperative agreement to complete the work.

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