Washington, D.C. - Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack recently announced $73 million to be invested this year to rehabilitate and assess dams across the nation to ensure this critical infrastructure is protecting Americans from harm, securing public health and expanding water supplies in drought affected areas. About 150 projects and assessments in 23 states will be funded.
"Millions of people depend on watersheds and dams for protection from floods and to provide safe drinking water. With a changing and shifting climate, dams are also vital to holding stores of water for use during drought," Secretary Vilsack said. "By investing in this critical infrastructure, we are helping to ensure a safe, resilient environment for agricultural producers and residents of rural America."
USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) Assistant Chief Kirk Hanlin highlighted this round of watershed rehabilitation funding on Thursday near Alpine, Utah, where work is planned on Tibble Fork Dam to increase the water supply and improve flood damage protection for surrounding communities. This project is one of 19 in Utah that will receive nearly $30 million in overall funding.
Last year, NRCS made changes to the watershed rehabilitation program to allow for projects that also help increase water supply. Half of this year's dam assessments, including 15 in drought-stricken California, will assess the feasibility of using watershed rehabilitation funds to mitigate drought.
"USDA continues to look for new ways to mitigate the impacts of drought across the West, and this change to the Watershed Rehabilitation Program allows us to use existing infrastructure to address water quantity issues," Hanlin said.
This investment follows the Obama Administration's call last year for federal agencies to increase investments in infrastructure to accelerate economic growth, create jobs and improve the competitiveness of the American economy.
There are nearly 12,000 dams across the United States. In addition to nearly 50 rehabilitation projects, NRCS is conducting 100 dam assessments in 13 states through the Watershed Rehabilitation Program.
2015 projects include: 1. Tibble Fork Dam, Utah: Tibble Fork Dam is located in the American Fork-Dry Creek Watershed within US Forest Service lands of Utah County, Utah. The dam provides protection against flooding within American Fork Canyon, and the communities of Cedar Hills, American Fork, Highland and Pleasant Grove. The rehabilitation project is expected to provide average annual benefits of $535,000 including water supply, recreation and flood protection.
2. Trinity River-East Fork above Lavon, Texas: Located in Collin County, this dam provides protection against flooding to an estimated 1,630 Texans who live and work downstream. Additionally, it protects six city streets and one U.S. Highway that together support over 39,000 vehicles daily. Among other critical infrastructure, the dam also protects power lines, water lines and fiber optic cables. The rehabilitation project is expected to annually provide about $1.5 million flood damage reduction benefits.
3. Delaney Multipurpose Complex Dam, Mass.: The Delaney Multipurpose Complex consists of two dams, the Delaney Dam and the East Bolton Dam. Originally built in 1971, the Delaney Complex does not meet current dam safety criteria. Dam failure would result in damages to 272 buildings, nine roads, two bridges, other public infrastructure, public utilities and potential loss of life. The dam currently provides $382,130 in annual flood protection benefits to the downstream communities including recreational opportunities, water supply for irrigation, groundwater recharge and base flow for downstream wastewater assimilation.
The states and numbers of projects: Ala. (11), Calif. (15), Colo. (2), Ga. (4), Kan. (1), Ky. (1), La. (1), Mass. (1), Minn. (7), Miss. (2), Neb. (8), Nev. (1), N.C. (8), Ohio (3), Okla. (18), Ore. (4), Pa. (12), S.C. (4), Texas (26), Utah (19), Va. (3), W.Va. (1) and Wyo. (1)
Watershed projects across the nation provide an estimated $2.2 billion in annual benefits in reduced flooding and erosion damages, as well as improved recreation, water supplies and wildlife habitat for an estimated 47 million Americans.