Irrigation Association supports Healthy Watersheds Act, streamlining conservation efforts

The association signed on to a letter addressed to the Senate Agriculture Committee supporting S. 2636, the Healthy Watersheds and Healthy Communities Act.

The Irrigation Association, Fairfax, Virginia, joined agriculture and conservation organizations that are a part of the Western Agriculture Conservation Coalition in sending a letter to the leadership of the Senate Agriculture Committee supporting S.2636, the Healthy Watersheds and Healthy Communities Act. 

According to Nathan Bowen, Irrigation Association vice president of advocacy and public affairs, the legislation would streamline the Natural Resources Conservation Service Watershed and Flood Prevention Operations Program, generally referred to as PL 566. 

“The Healthy Watersheds and Healthy Communities Act would make important improvements to USDA’s Watershed Protection and Flood Prevention Act by prioritizing multi-benefit projects, which would provide additional tools to help modernize irrigation systems and promote wise water management,” says Bowen. “The improvements included in this legislation will provide additional tools to support the long-term sustainability of our nation’s water resources and help agricultural producers meet the productivity demands to ensure global food security.” 

The act was introduced by Senator Michael Bennett, D-Colorado; Senator Deb Fischer, R-Nebraska; and Jeff Merkley, D-Oregon.  

The letter highlights the specific areas of the act where the coalition expresses its strongest support including how the act

  • increases support for projects that provide multiple benefits to the public to maximize use of public dollars, including flood-risk reduction projects, irrigation system modernization projects and watershed health projects. 
  • doubles the allowable federal contribution to projects from $25 to $50 million to increase the likelihood of funding the most meritorious projects. 
  • increases the responsibility of state conservationists for managing the project planning and approval process to improve timeliness of program delivery. 
  • streamlines the watershed planning process. 
  • makes irrigation districts key partners in delivering drought resilience benefits under the program, explicitly eligible for assistance under the law. 

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