WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today Subcommittee on Conservation, Credit, Rural Development and Research Chairman Frank Lucas chaired a hearing to review the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) watershed programs. USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) administers four watershed programs including the Watershed Surveys and Planning Program, Watershed and Flood Prevention Operations Program, Watershed Rehabilitation Program, and Emergency Watershed Protection Program. These programs are designed to maintain safe drinking water, control erosion, preserve wildlife habitat, and implement flood protection measures.
Since 1948, more than 11,000 flood control dams have been built across the U.S. and many are approaching or have exceeded their intended 50 year life span. Chairman Lucas noted that the government cannot meet the funding demands due to the size and scope of the projects requested by the public.
“The Administration has recently reviewed all watershed programs including agencies outside of USDA to determine redundancies and worked to develop a more efficient model for delivering funding. While I know that the Administration may have good intentions, I also know that the current backlog of requests for funds shows that funding requests will not disappear no matter how efficient the government becomes,” said Chairman Lucas.
Chairman Lucas asked witnesses to discuss whether or not the NRCS was adequately staffed to handle the workload and the current state of projects, as well as earmarks in appropriations. The Subcommittee heard from two panels of witnesses including NRCS Chief Bruce Knight and various conservation and watershed districts representatives.
Mr. Bruce Knight, Chief, Natural Resources Conservation Service, United States Department of Agriculture, Washington, D.C.
Mr. Bill Wilson, President, National Association of Conservation Districts, Kinta, Oklahoma
Mr. Mike Sykes, Chairman, National Watershed Coalition, Romney, West Virginia
Mr. Ed Wytovich, President, Eastern Pennsylvania Coalition for Mine Reclamation, Ashland, Pennsylvania
Mr. Bruce E. Albright, Administrator, Buffalo-Red River Watershed District, Barnesville, Minnesota