Lawmakers Monday introduced the Healthy Watersheds, Healthy Communities Act. Led by Colorado Democrat Michael Bennet, a bipartisan group of Senators introduced the bill that would improve the Natural Resources Conservation Service’s Watershed and Flood Prevention Operations program.
The bipartisan legislation would streamline the planning and administration processes to enable more watershed-wide projects, shift decision-making to local NRCS staff, expand program eligibility, and allow federal funding to count toward state and local match requirements. The bill also prioritizes projects with multiple conservation and public benefits and makes drought resilience an explicit purpose of the program. With more frequent and severe drought and flooding, farmers and ranchers are using the program to mitigate the effects of these natural disasters through watershed improvement projects.
However, the lawmakers say as demand for this program grows, inadequate funding and burdensome red tape keeps applicants from accessing its full benefits.