USDA commits $73 million to dam rehabilitation, assessment program

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The U.S. Department of Agriculture has announced it will invest US$73 million to the rehabilitation and assessment of dams across the country to improve infrastructure safety and water supply consistency.

"Millions of people depend on watersheds and dams for protection from floods and to provide safe drinking water," USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack said. "With a changing and shifting climate, dams are also vital to holding stores of water for use during drought.

"By investing in this critical infrastructure, we are helping to ensure a safe, resilient environment for agricultural producers and residents of rural America."

The investment follows President Barack Obama's 2014 call for federal agencies to increase funding for infrastructure rehabilitation and development, which aims to spur economic growth and job creation.

USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) said it will also use the funding to support changes made in 2014 to the Watershed Rehabilitation Program. With many western states currently experiencing historical dry spells, USDA said half of this year's dam assessments will be used to study the feasibility of using watershed rehabilitation funds to mitigate drought through use of existing infrastructure.

The funding will help pay for nearly 50 rehabilitation projects and 100 NRCS dam assessments spread across 13 states. A full list of projects being assessed as part of the NRCS Watershed Rehabilitation Program can be found via the agency's website here.

America's watershed projects provide an estimated $2.2 billion in annual benefits fromr educed flooding and erosion damages, according to USDA, as well as recreation, water supply and wildlife habitat for an estimated 47 million people.

For more dam safety news, visit here.

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