The Environmental Quality Incentives Program is the largest provider of agricultural conservation financial assistance for lands actively involved in agricultural production. The program is voluntary in nature and provides financial and technical assistance to agricultural producers for the planning and implementation of natural resource conservation practices. Assistance is also available to help agricultural producers meet federal, state, and local environmental regulations. The program targets activities on both agricultural land and non-industrial private forests and can impact floodplain management through conservation activities designed to control erosion, create buffers surrounding riparian areas, and restore wetlands, despite not having an explicit program statute or regulation that directly addresses floodplain management. The program provides technical and financial assistance through contracts, up to 10 years in length, following submission of an EQIP plan that identifies the conservation benefits of proposed practices. If the EQIP contract is approved the program will cover up to 75 percent of planning and implementation costs and up to 100 percent of income foregone to implement conservation practices.
The Emergency Watershed Protection Program, established and funded through Congress, is an emergency response program that provides technical and financial assistance to address watershed impairments in the wake of natural disasters.Assistance provided through the program, including debris removal, erosion control, levee repair, and floodplain easement purchase, is not dependent upon federal disaster declarations. A local government must sponsor projects conducted through the EWP save for floodplain easement purchases, which can be carried out by individuals. Easements are available for properties that have been impacted in the prior year or have flooded at least two times within the previous decade, with the goal of restoring, protecting, maintaining, and enhancing floodplain functions in the purchase area. Federal funds may cover up to 75 percent of EWP project construction costs, and limited-resource areas are potentially eligible for up to 90 percent federal cost coverage. Projects are evaluated based on reduced threats to life and property and must be socially, economically, and environmentally responsible.
The Watershed Rehabilitation Program works to rehabilitate dams that are approaching the end of their design lives, have failed to meet safety standards, or put life and property at risk. The scope of rehabilitation projects can include dam decommissioning and removal in addition to repair or strengthening of existing structures. After a potential dam rehabilitation project is identified, local sponsors can request financial assistance from the program. Projects are then selected based on potential risks to life and property upon dam failure as well as the extent of other recent rehabilitation investments. The program provides financial assistance for planning, design, and construction of complete projects once a project has been selected. Participation in the program requires local project sponsors to enter into an agreement with NRCS that defines the responsibilities of federal and nonfederal partners during the rehabilitation project. NRCS will then develop a watershed plan to identify environmental impacts, costs, benefits, and planned conservation practices.
The Watershed Program is authorized by the Watershed Protection and Flood Prevention Act, which allows for federal cooperation with states and local agencies for conservation purposes. The program works to both prevent damage from erosion and flood waters and enhance conservation and utilization of water resources. The program provides technical and financial assistance to local sponsors for the preparation and implementation of watershed project plans in support of program goals. Projects can cover a broad range of issues including flood prevention, watershed protection, public recreation, fish and wildlife conservation, agricultural water management, municipal and industrial water supply, water quality management, and watershed structure rehabilitation. Local sponsors can request watershed project plan authorization and assistance from Watershed Operations, while large projects require Congressional approval. Upon approval, technical and financial assistance is made available for project implementation activities specified in watershed project plans. Cost-share requirements are dependent upon the specific project purpose, generally involving a 50/50 federal/non-federal division of costs with certain projects such as flood prevention eligible for higher federal contributions.
The Agricultural Conservation Easement Program consolidates three past NRCS programs: the Wetlands Reserve Program, Grasslands Reserve Program, and Farm and Ranch Lands Protection Program. The program continues the mission of the three prior programs by providing technical and financial assistance to help conserve wetlands and agricultural lands and restore the natural beneficial functions of such lands. The program consists of two types of conservation easements: Agricultural Land Easements and Wetlands Reserve Easements. Agricultural easements are designed to protect the agricultural and conservation values of working lands, either by keeping land in agricultural production or preserving grassland or rangeland areas. Agricultural land is eligible for assistance that represents up to 50 percent of the fair market value while grassland with demonstrated environmental value is eligible for assistance totaling up to 75 percent of fair market value.
ACEP wetland easements have a more direct nexus to coastal flood risk management. Private landowners can receive program assistance for both purchase and restoration of wetlands. For permanent easements, the program will pay the full value of the land and cover 75 to 100 percent of restoration costs. 30-year easements are eligible for assistance in the range of 50 to 75 percent of land value and 50 to 75 percent of restoration costs. Term easements, a commitment up to the maximum time allowed under state law, are eligible for the same level of assistance as 30-year easements. Currently farmed or converted wetlands that allow for cost-effective restoration are eligible for the program. Land is enrolled in the program through purchase agreements between NRCS and local partners, which include rights for NRCS to develop and implement restoration easement plans to enhance beneficial ecological functions.
The Disaster Loan Program within the SBA provides loans to businesses, homeowners, private non-profit organizations, and renters following Presidential disaster declarations. Program loans can be used to repair or replace real estate, personal property, and business assets, and can also be put towards improvements that reduce future risk from similar disasters. The program limits funds for mitigation against future risk to 20 percent of the value of the total physical loss on the property. For loans related to recovery from flood damage, the applicant must have been in compliance with any flood insurance purchase requirements to receive assistance. Homeowners are eligible for up to $200,000 for repair or replacement of a primary residence and up to $40,000 to repair or replace damaged personal property. Businesses are eligible for up to $2 million of assistance for physical damages or economic injury.