November 19, 2020

Congressman Neguse, Congressman Graves Lead Bipartisan Call for Supplemental Emergency Watershed Protection Resources in the Wake of Detrimental Wildfire Season

Washington D.C.—Today, Congressman Joe Neguse and Congressman Garret Graves sent a bipartisan letter to the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies requesting supplemental funding for the USDA’s Emergency Watershed Protection (EWP) Program to ensure adequate resources for communities recovering from wildfires, hurricanes and other natural disasters. Additionally, given that states and municipalities are coping with the economic impacts of COVID-19 and may struggle to afford the local match that the federal government typically requires for EWP projects, the letter encourages the Committee to provide direction that would allow the USDA to cover up to 100% of EWP project costs, where appropriate.  

“As we witness historic and record-breaking wildfires across Colorado, our communities need all the support they can get to protect our forests, contain these blazes and stop further damage to homes, watersheds and critical infrastructure,” said Congressman Joe Neguse. “Today, along with my colleague Congressman Graves, I am requesting supplemental funding for the USDA’s Emergency Watershed Protection Program to ensure our communities have the resources they need to recover from these wildfires, mitigate damage and protect water quality, and to ensure cash-strapped municipalities are not required to match these funds as they deal with the economic impacts of the pandemic.” 

“After Louisiana’s record floods and hurricanes, the EWP stepped in like a first responder to clear hazards and minimize further risk. Just like FEMA’s Disaster Relief Fund must remain sufficiently capitalized to help communities during and after disasters, the EWP must also be ready to jump in at a moment’s notice to provide critical emergency services. It is an indispensable tool in the disaster tool kit,” said Congressman Graves.

Congress created USDA’s Emergency Watershed Protection (EWP) Program in 1973 to help communities protect their watersheds after a natural disaster. EWP is funded on an ad hoc basis, but as of August 25, the USDA had less than $43 million left to spend on EWP projects. Without supplemental funding, it will be challenging for the USDA to partner effectively with counties, towns, and private property owners as they recover from natural disasters.

Read the letter here.