7 CFR § 624.8 - Assistance.

§ 624.8 Assistance.

(a) Sponsors must submit a formal request to the State Conservationist for assistance within 60 days of the natural disaster occurrence, or 60 days from the date when access to the sites becomes available. Requests must include a statement that the sponsors understand their responsibilities and are willing to pay its cost-shared percentage as well as information pertaining to the natural disaster, including the nature, location, and scope of the problems and the assistance needed.

(b) On receipt of a formal request for EWP assistance, the State Conservationist or designee shall immediately investigate the emergency situation to determine whether EWP is applicable and to prepare an initial cost estimation for submission to the NRCS Chief or designee. The cost estimation will be submitted no later than 60 days from receipt of the formal request from the sponsor. The State Conservationist will take into account the funding priorities identified in paragraph (c) (3) of this section. The State Conservationist will forward the damage survey report, which provides the information pertaining to proposed EWP practice(s) and indicates the amount of funds necessary to undertake the Federal portion, to the NRCS Chief or designee. This information will be submitted no later that 60 days from receipt of the formal request from the sponsor, or no later than 60 days from the date funding is made available to the State Conservationist, whichever is later. NRCS may not commit funds until notified by the Chief, or designee, of the availability of funds.

(c) Before the release of financial assistance, NRCS will enter into a Cooperative Agreement with a sponsor that specifies the responsibilities of the sponsor under this part, including any required operation and maintenance responsibilities. NRCS will not provide funding for activities undertaken by a sponsor prior to the signing of the agreement between NRCS and the sponsor.

(1) NRCS will only provide funding for work that is necessary to reduce applicable threats.

(2) Efforts must be made to avoid or minimize adverse environmental impacts associated with the implementation of emergency measures, to the extent practicable, giving special attention to protecting cultural resources and fish and wildlife habitat.

(3) Funding priorities for recovery measures. NRCS will provide EWP assistance based on the following criteria, which are ranked in the order of importance:

(i) Exigency situations;

(ii) Sites where there is a serious, but not immediate threat to human life;

(iii) Sites where buildings, utilities, or other important infrastructure components are threatened;

(iv) When reviewing paragraphs (c)(3)(i) through (iii) of this section, NRCS will take into account the following resources as they may affect the priority, including, but not limited to:

(A) Sites inhabited by federally listed threatened and endangered species or containing federally designated critical habitat where the species or the critical habitat could be jeopardized, destroyed, or adversely modified without the EWP practice;

(B) Sites that contain or are in the proximity to cultural sites listed on the National Register of Historic Places where the listed resource would be jeopardized if the EWP practice were not installed;

(C) Sites where prime farmland supporting high value crops is threatened;

(D) Sites containing wetlands that would be damaged or destroyed without the EWP practice;

(E) Sites that have a major effect on water quality; and

(F) Sites containing unique habitat, including but not limited to, areas inhabited by State-listed threatened and endangered species, fish and wildlife management areas, or State-identified sensitive habitats; and

(v) Other funding priorities established by the Chief of NRCS.