Digest of Federal Resource Laws of Interest to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Watershed Protection and Flood Prevention Act

Watershed Protection and Flood Prevention Act (16 U.S.C. 1001-1009, Chapter 18; P.L. 566, August 4, 1954; 68 Stat. 666). As amended by:

Chapter 1018, August 7, 1956; 70 Stat. 1088; P.L. 85-624, August 12, 1958; 72 Stat. 567; P.L. 85-865, September 2, 1958; 72 Stat. 1605; P.L. 86-468, May 13, 1960; 74 Stat. 131; P.L. 86-545, June 29, 1960; 74 Stat. 254; P.L. 87-170, August 30, 1961; 75 Stat. 408; P.L. 87-639, September 5, 1962; 76 Stat. 438; P.L. 87-703, September 27, 1962; 76 Stat. 608; P.L. 89-337, November 8, 1965; 79 Stat. 1300; P.L. 90-361, June 27, 1968; 82 Stat. 250; P.L. 92-419, August 30, 1972; 86 Stat. 667; P.L. 95-113, September 29, 1977; 91 Stat. 1022; P.L. 97-98, December 22, 1981; 95 Stat. 1332; P.L. 99-662, November 17, 1986; 100 Stat. 4196;

Under this Act, the Soil Conservation Service at the Department of Agriculture provides planning assistance and construction funding for projects constructed by local sponsors, often in the form of flood control districts. Restrictions on projects include: the size of the watershed must be 250,000 acres or less; no single structure may provide more than 12,500 acre-feet of flood water retention; no single structure may provide more than 25,000 acre-feet of total capacity; and projects with costs greater than $5 million or with structures with total capacities greater than 25,000 acre-feet must be approved by Congress.

The original 1954 statute sought cooperation between the Federal Government and States and localities to prevent flood damages. The Secretary of Agriculture was authorized to construct flood protection measures below a certain acre-foot limit. Such initiatives were to be cost-shared and localities were required to contribute rights-of-way. The law also required that the Secretary of the Interior be consulted regarding plans which affect reclamation, irrigation or public lands under the Secretary of the Interior. Related views were to be submitted with project plans to the Congress.

Amendments enacted in 1956 imposed acre-foot ceilings on projects authorized to be undertaken by the Secretary of Agriculture without Congressional approval. Projects for which the Federal contribution was estimated to exceed $250,000 or which exceeded 2500 acre-feet were to be submitted to the Secretary of the Interior for review if they involved reclamation or irrigation lands, or public lands or wildlife under the Secretary's jurisdiction. The views of the Department of the Interior were required to accompany the report to Congress and regulations to coordinate activities of the Departments of Agriculture and Interior were mandated. In addition, loans to localities were authorized and the provisions of the Act were extended to apply to Hawaii, Alaska, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands.

Amendments to the Fish and Wildlife Coordination Act in 1958 (P.L. 85-624) also amended this statute to require the Secretary of Agriculture to notify the Secretary of the Interior regarding projects in order that the Secretary of the Interior could prepare a fish and wildlife report to be incorporated in project plans. "Full consideration" was to be given to such reports by the Secretary of Agriculture; however, the Secretary of Agriculture retained the discretion to adopt fish and wildlife recommendations which are "technically and economically feasible." Costs for related surveys and reports are to be borne by the Secretary of the Interior. Amendments adopted later that year (P.L. 85-865) added fish and wildlife development as an aspect of flood control projects to be constructed.

Public Law 86-468, enacted in 1960, provided additional authority to the Secretary of Agriculture to make loans, and P.L. 86-532 further clarified the responsibility of localities to provide easements and rights-of-way for projects. Related joint surveys between the Secretary of Agriculture and the Secretary of the Army were authorized by P.L. 87-639 in 1962.

Additional amendments enacted in 1962 (P.L. 87-703) stipulated project cost-sharing for lands, easements and rights-of-way in instances for which localities agree to operate and maintain a reservoir or other area for fish and wildlife or recreational development. Similar to previous legislation, the views of the Secretary of the Interior were to be solicited and submitted to Congress for projects which include irrigation, reclamation, public lands or wildlife under the jurisdiction of the Secretary of the Interior.

Public Law 89-337 increased the acre-foot size capacity for projects authorized to be constructed by the Secretary of Agriculture. Technical amendments were enacted in 1968 (P.L. 90-361).

Major amendments were enacted in 1972 (P.L. 92-419). Conservation of water and preservation of the environment were added as general purposes for authorized projects. (Project purposes include: 1) flood prevention, 2) the conservation, utilization, development, and disposal of water, and 3) the conservation and proper utilization of land.) Ten-year agreements with local landowners for changes in cropping systems and land use were authorized to conserve waters, wildlife and recreation. In addition, this law reiterated provisions for notification of the Secretary of the Interior when public lands or wildlife would be affected and for incorporation of the Secretary's views in reports transmitted to Congress.

The cost ceiling for authorized projects was increased to $1 million in 1977 (P.L. 95-113) and to $5 million in 1981 (P.L. 97-98). The 1981 amendments added Indian tribes as an eligible entity and limited Federal cost sharing to 50/50 for land, easements or rights-of-way acquired by the local organization for mitigation of fish and wildlife habitat losses. This public law also stipulated that any related land acquisition would not be limited to the "confines of the watershed project boundaries."

The 1986 Water Resources Development Act (P.L. 99-662) also amended the Watershed Protection and Flood Prevention Act to stipulate that projects submitted to Congress for authorization after July 1, 1987, must contain benefits to agriculture that account for at least 20 percent of the total project benefits.

P.L. 101-624, approved November 28,1990, (104 Stat. 3616) added language to allow for completion of water quality improvement projects under this Act. It also added cost share assistance language making loans available for acquisition of perpetual wetland/floodplain easements for flood management and storage purposes, for the purposes of water quality/quantity improvement, and to provide fish & wildlife habitat. The cost share was set at 50 percent.

P.L. 104-127, approved April 4, 1996, (110 Stat. 1151) changed language regarding the terms of loans to local organizations and state/local governments for carrying out projects under this Act. Also, this amendment set a cap on the amount of any loan for a single project at $10M.

Return to Resource Laws