SIKESTON -- Area drainage districts are receiving help from the U.S. Department of Agriculture in mopping out ditches filled in by spring flooding.
Following the floods, the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service's state office requested $35 million to help individuals and communities in Missouri recover from damages.
"The funds are available for the NRCS to use," said Darin Gant, district conservationist for the NRCS in Scott and Mississippi counties. "We are currently working with drainage districts to put projects together."
The funding assistance is provided through NRCS' Emergency Watershed Protection Program, according to Harold Deckerd, NRCS assistant state conservationist for water resources.
Priority for these federal EWP funds are being given to levee repair projects followed by drainage ditch clean outs and logjam removals.
Silt in drainage ditches prevents the ditches from carrying as much water, causing rain water that should drain from farm fields, city streets and yards to back up and cause local flooding.
EWP projects require local sponsors who must represent a legal subdivision of state government, the state itself, a local unit of government, a levee or drainage district, or a county commission.
"We are implementing the program here in all the Bootheel counties," Gant said. "We're working with drainage districts in the southeast Missouri area for the removal of the sediment that built up from recent storm events to restore the drainage systems."
In Scott County, the NRCS is working with all four of the drainage district's within the county: the Little River Drainage District, Consolidated Drainage District No. 1, Consolidated Drainage District No. 2 and the Richland Drainage District, according to Gant.
"All of the drainage districts in Scott County requested sediment removal," he said. The projects will excavate sediment from the ditch bottoms.
In Mississippi County, levee repairs have been requested by the Consolidated Drainage District No. 1.
"The other requests we received there have been from Levee and Drainage District No. 3, the St. James Drainage District and the Big Lake Drainage District," Gant said. "We are not doing any stabilization. Other than the one levee repair, they are all sediment removal."
Requests for EWP funds are estimated to total $4,978,000 in Scott County districts and $2,749,000 in Mississippi County.
Jack Lewis, district conservationist for the NRCS in New Madrid County, said requests have also been submitted by the 10 drainage districts in that county.
"I think we've had every drainage district apply -- there's not one that hasn't replied," Lewis said. "It's around $20 million worth of requests. We are going to fund right now 50 percent of the requests. There's the possibility that there will be additional funding for these projects. We have requested additional funding but we don't know whether we will get it or not. We're hopeful."
All of the projects requested in New Madrid County are sediment removal projects, Lewis said.
Local sponsors of the projects are responsible for selecting their contractor and letting the work out.
"We pay 75 percent of the cost and the sponsor pays 25 percent," Gant said. He said the 25-percent local match can be cash, in-kind contributions of labor or equipment, or a combination of the two.
NRCS officials are putting together projects in the order the requests are received, according to Gant.
"They have to be environmentally sound and needed in the watershed before they are eligible," he said. "We will still take requests if anyone has an area that was damaged that is eligible."