NRCS Watershed and Flood Prevention Operations Program – Funding Announced

NRCS Watershed and Flood Prevention Operations Program – Funding Announced – Applications packages due by July 19, 2019

(Excerpt from an email distributed by Ayana Brown, NRCS, Albuquerque, NM):

We (NRCS) remembered that you have expressed interest in flood prevention improvements for your rural community and/or agricultural irrigation customers and we wanted to notify you that our program, the Watershed and Flood Prevention Operations Program has been funded and announced a 2019 application deadline.  NRCS is making available up to $150 million in technical and financial assistance to help eligible conservation partners across the United States The New Mexico NRCS deadline for receipt of application packages, to myself, via email or other electronic medium, is July 19, 2019.

The requirements listed in this email for application to the program are based upon program requirements and included herein to help make your application as competitive as possible, as all applications are ranked and then compared against rankings of projects submitted by many other states across the nation.  If you cannot compile all of this information by the deadline, please still send me what you have and we will decide whether or not to send it on to our national office for consideration by the current deadline.  If it does not appear to contain enough information for full consideration, then we will advise you of the additional details needed and submit the application when they are all added to the package.

An application package would require the following:

  • A completed SF-424
  • if available, the master plan or NEPA document that you have developed for the affected watershed (if you do not have one developed, please state this in your cover letter).
  • Provide a statement of your commitment to acquire with your own funds, all regulatory permits required for construction of the project.
  • Provide a statement of your commitment to complete the project within the timeframe allotted under the agreement (typically 2 – 5 years).
  • Provide a statement, with a citation of state law if applicable, that authorizes the signatory official on the SF-424 application to apply for federal government financial assistance and to commit your organization to the program requirements. (We need to know if there is a state agency that has oversite of your agency.  If there is none, we will need to send your application to the Governor’s Office for concurrence after submission to NRCS.)
  • Provide a statement of your experience and current capability to take appropriate actions to manage such a project and carry out your responsibilities as the sole project sponsor during the development and implementation phase of the project, but also for the life of the project, which must be evaluated and sustained (O&M) for between 50 to 100 years.  Also, if you plan to invite other entities to participate as sponsors on any application, name those organizations and include their letters of agreement/responsibility.
  • Provide a project description which includes:
    • Purpose for the project that reflect one or more of the following purposes:  flood prevention (up to a designated storm frequency), watershed protection, municipal and industrial water supply, water quality management/improvement, agricultural water management (i.e. irrigation, drainage, ground water recharge, water conservation).
    • Need for the project that explains the problems the project plans to resolve (i.e. erosion, sedimentation, water quality improvement that includes a description of water quality concerns/degradation factors.  It helps to quantify project benefits where possible.
    • Demonstrate and explain a direct project benefit of at least 20% or greater, to agriculture and/or rural communities.
    • Definition of size of watershed (remembering there is a 250,000 acre limit before watersheds must be subdivided into different project applications).  This will include the separate statements clearly explaining the drainage area or contributing watershed as well as the benefitting watershed size.
    • Definition of characteristics of watershed including general description of the affected environment (i.e.  soils, rainfall patterns, congressional district, towns/communities in which it lies, river, streams and tributaries contributing and affected, land use within the watershed, state lands affected by or within the project, federal lands affected or within the project, etc.).
    • Definition of amount of floodwater dentition anticipated and capacity of system to move what quantity of water at what rate.
  • Provide a statement describing the population these infrastructure improvements are planned to serve.  If there are any direct benefits to socially disadvantaged or minority communities, state those benefits.  Typically, it is helpful to justify such statements with population data from the US Census Bureau or other similar independent government agency.  If you will be affecting any State, Federal, or Tribal lands define those lands and indicate those government entities support for the project and include documentation from said governments/agencies.
  • Type of technical assistance being requested (i.e. funds for planning, design and construction or just one of these phases)
  • Cost estimates for each phase of the project for which you are applying for NRCS assistance, to be divided as planning/NEPA, design, and construction/installation costs.  These costs should be somewhat detailed and delineate the significant phases/components of the project; as well as whose money is being used to pay for what costs and if you are leveraging funds from other agencies or partners, to be used on the same project.  This is also where it would be appropriate to explain in-kind contributions from your agency employees, equipment and resources.
  • Estimate the cost/benefit ratio of the project and provide a rationale.
  • Estimate project timeline for all phases preceding and including those for which you are requesting funding.
  • Statement of public meetings wherein affected landowners/the affected community have expressed interest in the analyzed alternatives to address the defined purpose and need of the project.

The instructions for the SF-424 can be a little confusing, so I wanted to point out a couple of items up front, as this is specific guidance for application to the Watershed and Flood Prevention Operations Program.

  • Boxes 11 and 12 should state that under the ‘Instructions’ column, they are showing an example, not literally the exact required input.
    • Box 11 should be populated with the CFDA (Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance) number 10.904 and
    • Box 12 should be populated with: Funding Opportunity: “USDA-NRCS-NM-WFPO-001/12-1000-0-1-302”  and Title: “Watershed and Flood Prevention Operations – PL 83-566”.
  • Box 14 should be populated with “Village of ________ or Town of _______, and ________ County, New Mexico”. Change the highlighted number above to a “2, 3, 4, etc.” in the other project applications if you are submitting more than one application.

There are a few additional items that are critical to address:

  1. Schedule a date/time to meet and go to each of the sites for which you plan to submit a program application, before we can verify your eligibility for the program.
  2. Do you have a biologist, ecologist, forester or NEPA specialist on staff?  The form NRCS-CPA-52 will need to be included with the application.  Our local field office staff or State Biologist will need to review this form for completion and accuracy, for inclusion in your application.  If you do not have a biologist or other similarly focused NEPA specialist on staff, we can schedule to provide assistance from our staff, please let me know.

Depending upon the structure of the agreement entered into between NRCS and the Local Sponsor Organization (Sponsors) program funds will either be expended up front by NRCS or reimbursed to the Sponsors for completed and paid work.

The email ends with a statement that questions or requests for a field visit can be directed to Ayana Brown, Assistant State Conservation Engineer, USDA-NRCS, Albuquerque, NM. To reduce SPAM and hacking attempts the contact information is not included in this post. Please use an online search for current contact details.