California voters passed the Water Quality, Supply, and Infrastructure Improvement Act of 2014 (Proposition 1) in November 2014, officially authorizing $7.5 billion in general obligation bonds for water projects including surface and groundwater storage, ecosystem and watershed protection and restoration, and drinking water protection. Of the funds made available, $200 million is earmarked for the Storm Water Grant Program (SWGP) starting in the 2015/2016 fiscal year. The State Water Resources Control Board (State Water Board) has prepared draft Proposition 1 Storm Water Grant Program Funding Guidelines (Funding Guidelines) and draft Storm Water Resource Plan Guidelines (Plan Guidelines), which were recently circulated for public comment.
The purpose of the draft Funding Guidelines is to create a process for the State Water Board to solicit applications and establish criteria for the evaluation and selection of proposals for grant awards. The Funding Guidelines provide proposed eligibility requirements and application forms for the grant program. Entities that are eligible to apply include public agencies, 501(c)(3) nonprofit organizations, public utilities, federally recognized Indian tribes, State Indian tribes listed on the Native American Heritage Commission’s Tribal Consultation List, and mutual water companies.
Is my project eligible to apply for a grant?
Eligible projects will include both planning and implementation projects. Proposition 1 designates up to 10%, or about $20 million for planning grants. Planning grants will be available for applicants that do not have the Storm Water Resource Plan required by Water Code Section 10562, or those who have a plan that requires revisions in order to meet the requirements of the Plan Guidelines. Planning grants may also include tasks for assessments, monitoring, geotechnical/technical investigations, or studies needed to complete the Storm Water Resource Plan (SWRP).
For implementation projects to be eligible, the project must be listed and prioritized in a SWRP. The SWRP that includes the project must also be including in the local Integrated Regional Water Management (IRWM) Plan. The State Water Board is currently proposing that applicants may simply demonstrate that the required SWRP has been submitted to the IRWM group. Applicants must also demonstrate that projects are multi-benefit and capable of long term benefit for 20 years. Examples of eligible implementation projects include green infrastructure, storm water and dry weather runoff capture/reuse, and storm water treatment train facilities.
Can an existing storm water plan count as a SWRP?
As long as the storm water plan meets the requirements of Water Code Section 10562 and the Plan Guidelines, then an existing plan may be considered functionally equivalent to a SWRP. Plans do not need to be referred to as a “Storm Water Resource Plan”. For example, watershed groups in Los Angeles County have already developed Watershed Management Plans (WMPs) and Enhanced WMPs in order to comply with the requirements of the local MS4 Permit. Many of these plans largely meet the Plan Guidelines and need only to be submitted to the appropriate IRWM group in order to eligible to apply for funding.
Are there any exceptions to the SWRP requirement?
Disadvantaged communities with a population of 20,000 or less that are not a co-permittee for an MS4 Permit issued to a municipality with a population greater than 20,000 will be exempt from developing a SWRP.
What are the match funding requirements for this grant program?
The State Water Board is currently proposing a 50% match requirement for grant funding. However, disadvantaged communities and economically distressed areas may be eligible for reduced match funding requirements. Funding match may include, but is not limited to, federal loans, local and private funding, or donated and volunteer services. Other expenses eligible for funding match include:
How do I apply for a grant?
Adoption of the final Funding Guidelines and Plan Guidelines is expected in December 2015. Release of the Grant Solicitation will follow in early 2016. Due dates and detailed application instructions will be released at that time. Grant applications will need to be submitted online using the State Water Board’s Financial Assistance Application Submittal Tool (FAAST) system.
Written comments received for the draft guidelines are currently being reviewed and revisions may still be made to the guidelines based on this feedback from the public. The Alta team includes seasoned technical grant writers who secure tens of millions of dollars for our clients each year from a variety of funding sources. To learn more, or for help developing a funding strategy, give us a call at 562-495-5777 or email Jacqueline.McMillen@altaenviron.com.