October 26, 2023
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senators Pete Ricketts (R-NE) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) introduced the Flood Protection and Infrastructure Resilience Act. The bill has three components; it would elevate long-term flood resilience as a priority for the Emergency Watershed Protection (EWP) Program, grant the Secretary of Agriculture discretionary authority to provide an increased federal cost share for EWP grants, and elevate flood protection as a priority in the Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP).
“Too often, red tape has prevented states from rebuilding flood protections after devastating natural disasters,” said Senator Ricketts. “These restrictions also make it difficult to make the smart, cost-effective investments needed to rehabilitate aging watershed projects. This bipartisan bill will improve flood protection and infrastructure resiliency and help communities not just recover from disasters but reduce future damage as well.”
“Severe flooding devastated parts of New York this summer and made it clear that we need to make urgent investments in upgrading our water and flood-related infrastructure,” said Senator Gillibrand. “This bill will help do just that, making sure that communities across our state and country are better prepared for future disasters and can recover faster from flooding. I’m proud to be introducing this bill today and look forward to getting it passed.”
Bill text can be found here.
The bill has the support of the American Flood Coalition, the American Farm Bureau Federation, and the National Corn Growers Association.
“Flooded fields cost farmers and rural communities billions of dollars in losses every year, which is why Congress needs to prioritize flood solutions in the next farm bill,” said Melissa Roberts, President and Executive Director of American Flood Coalition Action. “We applaud Senators Pete Ricketts and Kirsten Gillibrand for their leadership on the Flood Protection and Infrastructure Resilience Act, a proactive solution that will strengthen agricultural communities across the country. This bill will help protect watersheds and downstream communities by empowering farmers to lead on innovative flood solutions and conserve resources for future generations.”
“Farmers are dedicated to caring for the land they’ve been entrusted with, which includes reducing the impact of flooding and improving watersheds,” said Courtney Briggs, Senior Director, Government Affairs, American Farm Bureau Federation. “AFBF appreciates the work of Sen. Ricketts and Sen. Gillibrand on legislation that prioritizes flood prevention and mitigation efforts that protect the hardworking families who are committed to ensuring pantries remain stocked across the country.”
“This legislation will help us take key steps to maintain and upgrade vital levee systems and aid in preventing flooding disasters in our heartland,” said Harold Wolle, President of the National Corn Growers Association. “We appreciate this effort from Sen. Ricketts to protect our growers from these unpredictable and potentially devastating events.”
The Flood Protection and Infrastructure Resilience Act has three main initiatives:
1) Improving EWP’s level of protection above existing water levels at the time of the disaster to not only help communities recover from flood disasters, but also make critical watershed improvements that would reduce repeated damage during future disasters.
2) Granting the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary discretionary authority to provide a variable federal cost share of up to 90% in the Watershed Rehabilitation Program, which provides technical and financial assistance for planning, design, and implementation of projects to rehabilitate aging watershed dams.
3) Amending the USDA Regional Conservation Partnership Program to formally add flood prevention, mitigation, and resiliency to RCPP’s statutory purpose, and enable the program to better assist agricultural producers, communities, and nongovernmental stakeholders in implementing regional and watershed-scale flood solutions.