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CWA Section 604(b) Information for Applicants

This page provides an overview of the available Clean Water Act (CWA), Section 604(b) funds and should be used as a preliminary reference only. Refer to the full Request for Applications below for details on the priorities for this funding, application process, project scoring, and contractual requirements.

Availability of Funds

2014 Request for Applications: Clean Water Act, Section 604(b) (PDF) (243 kB) -- DEC has issued a Request for Applications (RFA) for funds available under section 604(b) of the Clean Water Act.

Funding is available for the following two 604(b) programs:

Baseline Planning Program

  • DEC anticipates that approximately $600,000 will be available annually from 2015-2018.
  • Actual amounts available for grants each year will depend on Congressional appropriations.
  • The minimum amount of local match funds required for this program is 10% of the total approved program cost.
  • DEC prefers program periods of 3 to 4 years.
  • DEC anticipates that approximately 10 applications will be funded for this program.
  • Programs may begin as early as April 1, 2015.
  • Programs must be complete, and all funds expended, by March 31, 2019.

Statewide Planning Coordination Program

  • Up to $25,000 will be available annually from 2015-2018.
  • DEC prefers program periods of 4 years.
  • Only one application will be funded for this program.
  • Programs may begin as early as April 1, 2015.
  • Programs must be complete, and all funds expended, by March 31, 2019.

Submitting an Application

Complete applications must be submitted through the Grants Gateway Grant Opportunity Portal (a direct link is in the "Links Leaving DEC's Website" section of the right-hand column of this page) by 4:00 PM on February 9, 2015.

Grants Gateway Tips - 2014 604(b) Applications (PDF) (493 kB) -- DEC has prepared instructions to help applicants find the 604(b) applications, create applications, enter required program information, and submit their applications through Grants Gateway.

No hand-delivered, faxed, mailed, or e-mailed applications will be accepted.

Questions and Answers

Questions about the 604(b) Water Quality Management Planning programs should be emailed to User.Water@dec.ny.gov by 4:00 PM on January 30, 2015. Questions and answers will be regularly posted on this web page.

Questions about the Grants Gateway should be directed to GrantsReform@budget.ny.gov. Step-by-step tutorials and guides to registration and prequalification are available at the NYS Grants Reform Information for Current and Potential Grantees web page (a direct link is in the "Links Leaving DEC's Website" section of the right-hand column of this page).

Questions and answers are organized by topic (Application, Eligibility, Budget, and Objectives) and listed in order according to the date they were added to this page. The date added and the program(s) the questions apply to are indicated in parentheses preceeding each question.

Application

Q: (1/16 - Both programs) Are there instructional guides and videos to help with applying for grants using the New York State Grants Gateway system?

A: Yes. The NYS Grants Reform Information for Current and Potential Grantees web page (a direct link is in the "Links Leaving DEC's Website" section of the right-hand column of this page) has numerous Quick Links on the left side of the page to help applicants register, prequalify, and apply for grant opportunities. The "Videos" tab at the top of the page links to Grantee Tutorials and Grantee Registration and Prequalification Tutorials.

Q: (1/16 - Both programs) Should the budget forms (including: expenditure summary, personal services, fringe, contractual, travel, equipment, etc.) reflect only the initial one-year period, and the 4-Year Budget Allocation Estimate (upload sheet) include total costs for all 4 years?

A: Yes. The budget information entered in the forms in the Expenditure Budget section of Grants Gateway should reflect only the initial 1-year period. If awarded funding, the budget information entered in the Expenditure Budget section will populate into the Grants Gateway contract module and become the expenditure budget for the initial period of the multi-year contract. The expenditure budget may need to be revised based on the award amount before the contract is executed.

The 4-Year Budget Allocations Estimate (upload sheet) found in the Pre-Submission Uploads section of Grants Gateway should include an estimate of the total costs for all 4 years. The total amount for year 1 on the upload sheet should be equal to the total amount entered in the Expenditure Budget section.

Q: (1/16 - Baseline only) Question #11 in the "Program Specific Questions" section of the Grants Gateway application form only allows 1,000 characters (including spaces) while all the other questions in this section have a limit of 4,000 characters. It is really difficult to answer the question with so few words, especially since the response is worth 15 points in the ranking scheme. Was the 1,000 character limit for this question intentional?

A: The response field for the "Regional/Statewide Needs" question (question 11 in the Program Specific Questions section) was not intentionally limited to 1,000 characters. If additional space is needed to answer this question, applicants should use the Project Summary field in the Work Plan Overview Form of the Baseline Planning Program application in Grants Gateway. If an applicant chooses to continue their response to question 11 in the Project Summary field, they should reference this in the response field for question 11 (i.e., "Continued in the Project Summary response field..."), and clearly identify where their project summary ends and the continuation of their response to question 11 begins in the Project Summary field. The Department review panel will be instructed to evaluate the information entered in both fields when scoring this question.

Eligibility

Q: (1/16 - Both programs) Is my organization eligible?

A: Only regional public comprehensive planning organizations in New York State, and/or interstate planning organizations working in New York State are eligible for 604(b) funding from DEC. A list of organizations that are known to be eligible to apply for 604(b) funding from DEC can be found in the Eligible Applicants section on DEC's Water Quality Management Planning Projects web page.

Additionally, all not-for-profit organizations must be registered and prequalified in New York State's Grants Gateway (a direct link is in the "Links Leaving DEC's Website" section of the right-hand column of this page) by the due date (4:00 PM on February 9, 2015) to be considered eligible.

Budget

Q: (1/16 - Baseline only) Should the budget forms (including: expenditure summary, personal services, fringe, contractual, travel, equipment, etc.) reflect only the initial one-year period, and the 4-Year Budget Allocation Estimate (upload sheet) include total costs for all 4 years?

A: Yes. The budget information entered in the forms in the Expenditure Budget section of Grants Gateway should reflect only the initial 1-year period. If awarded funding, the budget information entered in the Expenditure Budget section will populate into the Grants Gateway contract module and become the expenditure budget for the initial period of the multi-year contract. The expenditure budget may need to be revised based on the award amount before the contract is executed.

The 4-Year Budget Allocations Estimate (upload sheet) found in the Pre-Submission Uploads section of the Baseline Planning Program application in Grants Gateway should include an estimate of the total costs for all 4 years. The total amount for year 1 on the upload sheet should be equal to the total amount entered in the Expenditure Budget section.

Q: (1/16 - Baseline only) How do I calculate the required match amount for the Baseline Planning Program? And what is the maximum amount of funding I can request?

A: The minimum local share, or match funds, required for the Baseline Planning Program is 10% of the total approved program cost. To calculate the required match, multiply the total program cost by 0.1. For a program that costs a total of $100,000, the required match would be $10,000 ($100,000 x 0.1 = $10,000), and the amount of funding requested would be $90,000.

Applicants may request up to $100,000 per year for the Baseline Planning Program, and up to $25,000 per year for the Statewide Planning Coordination Program. Since the minimum local share, or match funds, required for the Baseline Planning Program is 10% of the total approved program cost, the match amount would have to be at least $11,111.11 if $100,000 is requested for the Baseline Planning Program (the total project cost would equal $111,111.11).

Q: (1/16 - Both programs) The budget for the previous application for 604(b) funding included a line for indirect costs. I don't see a place to enter indirect costs in the expenditure budget of the application in Grants Gateway. Was this an oversight, or are Indirect Costs no longer eligible for funding?

A: While the Grants Gateway budget does not provide a specific place to enter indirect costs, these types of costs may be eligible for 604(b) funding, provided they are justifiable.

If including indirect costs in your budget, enter them in the "Other Expenses Detail" form, and include the indirect cost rate and a list of the costs the indirect cost rate was applied to in the "Other Expenses Detail Narrative" form. If your organization has a negotiated federal indirect cost rate, you should also include details about which federal agency the rate is negotiated with (the "cognizant audit agency"). If your organization does not have a negotiated federal indirect cost rate, also include a description of how the indirect cost rate was calculated in the "Other Expenses Detail Narrative" form.

Q: (1/16 - Both programs) What kind of equipment can I use 604(b) funding for? Can I use it to purchase a computer?

A: Applicants may propose that 604(b) funding be used to purchase any equipment that may be used to more efficiently and cost-effectively accomplish eligible work plan tasks. However, as detailed in the State of New York Master Contract for Grants, any equipment paid for with 604(b) funding may not be used for any activity other than those provided for under the 604(b) contract, except with the State's prior written permission. If equipment is going to be used for purposes other than for the tasks proposed in the 604(b) water quality management planning work plan, the budget should only include the share of the equipment being used for 604(b) work. In other words, if equipment will be used half for 604(b) work and half for some other program, then the 604(b) budget should only include half of the equipment cost.

Additionally, any equipment item that costs more than $5,000 will need to be approved by EPA prior to execution of the contract since 604(b) grants are federally funded.

DEC acknowledges that computers are necessary equipment to cost-effectively accomplish a significant portion of water quality management planning tasks; therefore, 604(b) funding may be used to pay for a share of the purchase price of a computer proportionate to the amount it will be used to implement a 604(b) water quality management planning work plan.

Objectives

Q: (1/16 - Baseline only) How should I choose which optional objectives to prioritize? Should I focus equally on all of them and divide my budget equally among them?

A: Applicants should prioritize their applications based on their understanding of the water quality problems and needs in their region while considering the qualifications of their organization's staff. Focusing on the greatest needs of the region and your organization's strengths will also help lead to a more cost-effective program.

Q: (1/16 - Baseline only) I have heard that some federal funding opportunities may be dependent on having a watershed based plan. Should my organization dedicate even more of the budget than the required 30% to the mandatory objective and focus on providing technical assistance to develop watershed plans?

A: EPA currently requires that the "9 Key Elements" identified in the EPA Handbook for Developing Watershed Plans to Restore and Protect Our Waters be addressed in watershed plans in order to be eligible for federal 319 funding to mitigate nonpoint source pollution. DEC also considers whether a watershed-based plan exists and if a proposed project would help implement it when evaluating applications for many of its water quality grant programs. Applicants should prioritize their applications and identify budget amounts based on their understanding of the water quality problems and needs in their region while considering the qualifications of their organization's staff.

Q: (1/16 - Baseline only) Where can I find more information about EPA's "9 element plans"?

A: More information about EPA's "9 element plans" may be found in chapter 2 of EPA's Handbook for Developing Watershed Plans to Restore and Protect Our Waters (a direct link is in the "Links Leaving DEC's Website" section of the right-hand column of this page). Section 2.6 of the handbook is titled "Nine Minimum Elements to Be Included in a Watershed Plan for Impaired Waters Funded Using Incremental Section 319 Funds."

Q: (1/16 - Baseline only) On page 8 of the RFA, it is stated that Baseline Planning Program tasks must support CWQCCs or regional watershed groups and that priority must be given to CWQCCs over watershed groups where CWQCCs exist. Looking at New York State Soil & Water Conservation Committee's list of County Water Quality Coordinating Committee contacts, it appears that only NYC does not have an established CWQCC. If this is accurate, am I correct in saying that applicants must support CWQCCs everywhere in the State except NYC? Or have I misunderstood the RFA?

A: The New York State Soil and Water Conservation Committee Contacts web page (a direct link is in the "Links Leaving DEC's Website" section of the right-hand column of this page) currently lists a contact person for each county in NY except Cayuga County and New York City; however, this does not necessarily mean the CWQCC is active. In counties where CWQCCs exist but are inactive, awardees should prioritize work to help them become active. If an applicant has already unsuccessfully made an effort to help a CWQCC become active, they should document their efforts in their application and propose work to support planning efforts of watershed groups in the region instead.

Q: (1/16 - Baseline only) For the water quality assessment support objective, can we do more than the sample tasks that are listed in the RFA? Can we do our own assessment on a waterbody?

A: DEC conducts routine monitoring of the waters of the state and evaluates monitoring results and other water quality information to assess the state's water quality. Applicants may apply to do work that supports DEC's water quality assessments. DEC relies on all available sources of information for these assessments, including information from other local, state, and federal agencies, and public input.

It would not be cost-effective to duplicate water quality assessment work that is already done or underway, or to conduct assessments that are inconsistent with DEC's methodologies. However, applicants may apply to collect assessment data and information for waterbodies that are listed as "UnAssessed" in DEC's Waterbody Inventory/Priority Waterbodies List (WI/PWL). Applicants may also apply to review and comment on existing WI/PWL assessments to provide updated information, particularly recent, ongoing, or planned management actions to address identified water quality problems or threats. See DEC's Waterbody Inventory/Priority Waterbodies List web page for WI/PWL Fact Sheets and other assessment information, grouped by the 17 major drainage basins in New York State.

Updates of water quality assessment information for individual WI/PWL waterbodies are announced monthly through Making Waves, the Division of Water's email listserv. You can subscribe to Making Waves and other DEC email lists by visiting DEC's email update web page.

For more information on DEC's routine monitoring program, including a statewide monitoring and assessment schedule, refer to DEC's Routine Statewide Monitoring Program web page.

Q: (1/21 - Baseline only) Is there any more information available on the stormwater recordkeeping template? And what kind of tasks are needed to assist with the rollout of the template?

A: DEC is in the process of developing a stormwater management program (SWMP) template that will streamline recordkeeping and reporting by providing a consistent and coherent structure for an MS4 SWMP plan. The template will provide clarity on the expected recordkeeping and reporting necessary to demonstrate compliance with the permit requirements. The template will be an application-based program that provides the ability to organize the data records and elements that must be maintained. It will be user-friendly and will not require the purchase of specialized software.

DEC expects to begin rollout of the template in 2016 with the draft renewal of the MS4 general permit. Sample tasks associated with the rollout may include: attending a DEC training session to become familiar with the template and learn how to use it; hosting training sessions to present the tool to MS4 operators and demonstrate how it is used; answering questions on the MS4 permit requirements and recordkeeping; and/or working directly with MS4 operators to gather and organize the records and begin using the template.

DEC Contact Information

CWA, Section 604(b) Program

Susan Van Patten, 518-402-8179