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The Watershed Protection and Flood Prevention Act, Public Law 83-566, Section 6. August 4, 1954, provides for cooperation with other Federal, State, and local agencies in making investigations and surveys of river basins as a basis for the development of coordinated water resource programs. Reports of the investigations and surveys are prepared to serve as a guide for the development of agricultural, rural, and upstream watershed aspects of water, land, and related resources. They are also used as a basis for coordination with downstream and other phases of water development.

The Soil Conservation Service has leadership for administering river basin surveys, investigations, and planning activities including the development of general principles, criteria, and procedures; determining land resources availability and land uses; appraising physical problems and needs; determining water, land, and related resources potential of upstream watersheds; and coordinating programs with the Water Resources Council and member agencies.

The Forest Service is responsible for forestry aspects of river basin planning, both Federal and non-Federal, and for rangelands administered within National Forests and for the analysis and projection of economic activity related to forest industries.

The Economics and Statistics Service is responsible for basinwide economic aspects of surveys and investigations; developing economic agricultural base information and projections of agricultural production, employment, income, rural population and land use for the economic analysis of agricultural water management needs and potentials; and evaluation of the regional economic impact of water resource plans of agriculture and related sectors of the economy.

Other agencies in the Department participate in reviews and provide inputs where items of concerns to the agency are involved.

The following table shows actual funds obligated under River Basin Surveys and Investigations program in FY 1980 by agency and estimates for FY 1981 and FY 1982 on the basis of available funds.


1/ Includes obligations of $822,455 of 12X1069 River Basin Surveys and Investigations funds from FY 1978 carryover.


Current activities: The Department analyzes and projects the agricultural, forestry, and related economics of the river basin, including the use of land and water, and relationships to the total economy of the basin. The agricultural, rural, and upstream water, land, and related resources problems are studied to determine corrective actions needed and potentials for resource management and development. Evaluations include studies of erosion, floodwater, and sediment damage to rural lands and properties; problems related to and methods to preserve prime and unique farmlands; impaired drainage of agricultural lands; agricultural drought problems and irrigation requirements; opportunities for water conservation, improved instream flows and water quality improvement; water needs for livestock, rural domestic use, recreation, fish, wildlife, forest-based industries, municipalities, and industries.

The inventories and analyses of water, land, and related resources in upstream watersheds include water storage capacity; the effect of land use and management practices on water quality and flow characteristics; and the potential hydrologic effect of agricultural, rural, and upstream watershed management alternatives. Consideration also is given to the effects of potential water resource projects on lands and programs administered by the Department.

In accordance with Title II of the Colorado River Basin Salinity Control Act (Public Law 93-320), USOA carries out detailed salinity investigations under SCS leadership. These investigations are performed in cooperation with the Department of the Interior's Water and Power Resources Services and the Environmental Protection Agency. The objectives of these investigations are to determine (1) the extent that onfarm irrigation is contributing salt to the Colorado River, and (2) the onfarm irrigation system improvement program needed to reduce deep percolation losses in order to reduce salt loading to the River. The initial USOA study report, for the Grand Valley Salinity Control Unit (Colorado), was completed in FY 1978. The USDA report for the Uintah Basin Unit (Utah) was completed in FY 1979. Four additional reports are scheduled to be completed in FY 1980: Lower Gunnison River, Colorado; Big Sandy River, Wyoming; Virgin River, Nevada, Arizona and Utah; and McElmo Creek. Colorado. Two additional salinity control units will be in planning in FY 1981: San Juan River, Colorado and New Mexico; Price-San Rafael Rivers, Utah. In FY 1980, obligations for Colorado River Basin Salinity studies were $480 thousand. The funding level for 1981 is $647 thousand and for 1982 is $269 thousand.

Three types of investigation and surveys are conducted—Water Resources Council Interagency Studies, USDA Cooperative River Basin Surveys, and Joint USDA-Corps of Engineers Studies (PL 87-639).

Water Resources Council Level B and Special Studies: These studies are carried out jointly by the concerned Federal Departments and the involved States and are coordinated at the State level. Forty studies have been initiated by the Water Resources Council. As of September 30, 1980, 35 of these surveys have been completed. All of these studies are centrally funded by the Water Resources Council through reimbursable agreements with participating agencies.

USDA Cooperative Surveys with Local, State, and Concerned Federal Agencies: The Department cooperates with local. State, and concerned Federal agencies in the preparation and updating of State water resource plans and special water, land, and related resources studies. The Department helps States coordinate upstream and downstream elements of water, land, and related resources planning activities. Between 1961 and 1980, the Department has participated in 144 cooperative surveys and has completed 91.

Joint USDA - Corps of Engineers Studies (PL-87-639)

Upon request by the Congress, USDA cooperates with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in joint investigations and surveys for solving water and related resource problems for river basins or other specific problem areas. Two such studies have been completed and three are expected to be underway during FY 1982.

Selected examples of recent progress:

Patapsco River Basin, Maryland

The Patapsco River and its major tributaries have long been concern among water resource planning agencies and the private citizens who are periodically threatened by flooding. In 1978 the U.S. Department of Agriculture authorized a study of Patapsco water and related resource problems. This was in response to renewed requests for assistance by the Patapsco River Association and the Patapsco State Park Advisory Committee.

The objective of the study was to determine whether there were physically and economically feasible means for solving the local water problems. The study was completed in 1980.

With the assistance of numerous agencies, the U.S. Department of Agriculture made an in depth study of the Patapsco River's problems, with particular emphasis on flooding. The conclusion was that although flood damages are high during major floods, average annual damage are low since floods do not occur frequently. Based on current conditions, the study indicated that there is no economically feasible structural flood prevention project for the basin.

In view of this, the study went on to explore several other avenues to alleviate the problems. These included specific recommendations by streams and jurisdictions regarding expanded floodplain acquisition, flood warning systems in new areas, use of hydrologic models in the flood warning system, implementation of a basin-wide storm water management program, and selective use of dikes, floodwalls, and flood proofing.

Local governments are taking steps to implement some of the specific recommendations that resulted from the study. Two continuing work groups are exploring means of expanding the flood warning system and implementing a storm water management porgram. The Soil Conservation Service is continuing to provide guidance and interpretations of the study results.

Idaho Irrigation Study, Idaho

Early studies in Idaho indicated water management problems in existing irrigation systems and the need for more detailed studies of individual systems to identify and evaluate opportunities to reduce seepage and other losses, improve irrigation efficiency, and increase productivity. In response to a request from the Idaho Department of Water Resources, the U.S. Department of Agriuclture in 1979 initiated a study of selected irrigation projects and their problems.

Water conservation studies of irrigation systems are being made where farmers recognize their problems and are willing to make changes to reduce water losses, improve crop productivity, and generally improve the use of irrigation water and land. The type and intensity of each study is dependent upon the nature of the specific problem. Each study critically examines the existing system and its problems, prepares alternative solutions to the losses and other problems, and evaluates the economic and environmental costs and benefits of alternative solutions. Plans and proposals are developed in sufficient detail to enable local interests to select a course of action.

Studies of three systems were completed by Septmeber 1980. Definite steps are being taken to implement the different proposals that resulted from each study.

Grand Valley Salinity Control Study, Colorado

This is an example of a USDA River Basin Study that provided the information, a

recommended plan, and the stimulus to result in a full scale implementation


The Grant Valley unit is a 60,000 acre irrigated area in the vicinity of Grand Junction, Colorado. Onfarm irrigation was estimated to contribute 300,000 tons of salt to the Colorado River annully. The proposed program of onfarm and related lateral improvements, when implemented over a 10 year period, will reduce salt loading to the river by 230,000 tons per year. The program will be very cost effective.

Implementation began in fiscal year 1979 and is through ongoing USDA programs which provide cost sharing assistance, technical assistance, research and demonstration, information and education, and loan assistance. Participation by individual farmers is voluntary and interest is high. This activity is considered to be a good example of targeting limited resources to an identified problem area and using the voluntary approach to treat a natural resource problem.


Flood Plain Management Studies Current Activities: The Soil Conservation Service assists local governments in revising and implementing their flood plain management programs by carrying out cooperative flood plain management studies, in accordance with Federal Level Recommendation 3 of a Unified National Program for Flood Plain Management, Water Resources Council, Sept. 1979 and in compliance with Executive Order 11988, dated May 24, 1977. Local governments request flood plain management studies from the State agency, which determines the priority for study. Each study is carried out in accordance with a Plan of Work developed by the local government and the SCS. Studies may include flood hazard determination, assessing natural and beneficial values, local flood plain management options, floodway determinations, and interpretation of technical data to assist communities in their flood plain management decisions.

The information generated serves as the basis for recommendations to conservation district cooperators and local planners and officials regarding proposed land use changes, assisting local governments with their flood plain management programs, and determining the flooding hazard of proposed housing and building sites for other agencies, such as the Farmers Home Administration. The information developed in flood plain management studies is also utilized in a variety of USDA ongoing programs. The study findings are used in watershed planning and preplanning, river basin studies and investigations, the reevaluation of flood plains below completed watershed projects, and determining suitability of proposed resource conservation and development measures.

A total of 270 flood hazard studies have been initiated to date; covering some 5,400 stream miles, and over 600 jurisdications; 217 studies have been completed

Selected example of recent progress:

Flood Plain Management Studies-State of Rhode Island, SCS has completed 6 studies and has two others underway. These studies involve a total of 45 stream miles and some 10 separate jursidictions. After completing a study, SCS provides assistance and interpretation to help the local jurisdictions incorporate the study findings into their local flood plain management program. SCS has been successful in delineating flood plains and flood problems, making recommendations on minimizing future flood losses and having the recommendations accepted by the State and local governments.

Flood Insurance Studies Current Activities. SCS performs reimbursable flood insurance studies for the Federal Insurance Administration of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (formerly part of HUD) under Section 1360c of the National Flood Insurance Act of 1968 (Public Law 90-448). Flood insurance studies provide the technical information to enable communities to adopt flood plain management regulations to meet the requirements of the National Flood Insurance Program

SCS has not initiated any new flood insurance studies in fiscal years 1980 and 1981 and none will be started in FY 1982. By the end of fiscal year 1982, all flood insurance studies should be completed. SCS has initiated a total of 443 detailed flood insurance studies in 45 States; 325 have been completed.


Interagency coordination and program formulation in water and related land resources are achieved at the Federal level through the Water Resources Council. The Secretary of Agriculture is a member of the Council. The Assistant Secretary for Natural Resources and the Environment and his Deputy serve as alternates to the Secretary. All relevant USDA agencies provide input to the water policy and program related issues through the USDA Water Resource Committee chaired by the Assistant Secretary. The Council maintains a number of task forces and ad hoc work groups on which the Department is represented.

At the field level, coordination of regional and river basin planning is achieved through River Basin Commissions, Interagency Committees, or ad hoc coordinating committees. The Soil Conservation Service provides the Department member and USDA staff work for each of these groups. For two of the Interagency Committees, the USDA member periodically serves as chairman and provides an executive secretary.

At the National level, Coordination and Program formulation activities are for developing water resource policy, data collection, standards for analysis, procedures for planning and overall program guidance. In addition to these continuing activities, in FY 1981 USDA is participating with the Water Resources Council in developing uniform analytical procedures for evaluation of Federal Water projects and uniform regional planning procedures. Also, work is continuing on a nationally consistent data base for use in river basin studies and other USDA programs.

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