Watersheds Celebrate 50 Years

Today marks the 50th anniversary of the Watershed Protection and Flood Prevention Program that has helped protect lives and property and improve natural resources. Compiled by staff

Published on: Aug 4, 2004

Agriculture Deputy Under Secretary for Natural Resources and Environment Mack Gray today hailed the 50th Anniversary of the Watershed Protection and Flood Prevention Program that has helped protect lives and property and improve natural resources.

"Protecting lives and property and improving our natural resources within our nation’s watersheds is a major priority for the Bush administration," Gray says during an event to celebrate the Anniversary in Newton, Kansas. "Every citizen in this country lives in a watershed. They are nature’s natural boundaries. NRCS has made much progress in reducing damages caused by flooding, sedimentation and erosion in watersheds nationwide."

NRCS Chief Bruce Knight also marked the event and toured the Badger Creek Watershed Project in Central Iowa. Several of the nation’s governors have marked the program’s 50th anniversary with proclamations, including Iowa, Hawaii, Kansas, Oklahoma and Wisconsin.

About $14 billion in federal, state and local funds have been invested in these projects since the program was created in 1954. Through this program, USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) provides technical and financial assistance to project sponsors, such as local conservation districts, counties, cities and tribes, and for watershed projects. Some consist of flood control dams built on tributaries to larger streams or rivers, while others consist of land and water conservation practices.

NRCS has assisted watershed sponsors to construct more than 11,000 flood control dams in 1,500 watersheds in 47 states. These projects are providing an estimated $1.7 billion annually in reduced flooding and erosion damages, recreation, water supplies and wildlife habitat. Most of these dams were originally designed to protect agricultural areas from flooding. As population increased, homes and businesses were built where crops once grew. Now the dams protect people, businesses, and the infrastructure of these communities.

Local communities benefit from more than 1,500 watershed projects nationwide. Economic, social and environmental benefits from this program have exceeded the dollars spent many times. Benefits include cost reductions of maintaining roads and bridges; reductions in erosion, contributing to greater productivity of cropland and grazing lands; and reductions in damages from frequent flooding. Citizens can enjoy increased recreational opportunities from projects where wetlands are enhanced and water-based recreational facilities are constructed.