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Notice

Financial Assistance for Community-based Habitat Restoration Projects

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Information about this document as published in the Federal Register.

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This document has been published in the Federal Register. Use the PDF linked in the document sidebar for the official electronic format.

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AGENCY:

National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Commerce.

ACTION:

Notice of availability of funds.

SUMMARY:

The purpose of this document is to invite the public to submit proposals for available funding to implement grass-roots habitat restoration projects that will benefit living marine resources, including anadromous fish, under the NOAA Community-Based Restoration Program (CRP). This document describes the conditions under which applications (project proposals) will be accepted under the CRP, and describes criteria under which applications will be evaluated for funding consideration. Projects funded through the CRP will be expected to have strong on-the-ground habitat restoration components that provide educational and social benefits for people and their communities in addition to long-term ecological habitat improvements for NOAA trust resources. Proposals selected for funding through this solicitation will be implemented through a project grant, cooperative agreement, or interagency transfer.

DATES:

Applications for funding under the CRP will be accepted upon publication of this document in the Federal Register and must be received by or postmarked by April 15, 2002. Applications received or postmarked after that time will not be considered for funding. Applications submitted via the U.S. Postal Service must have an official postmark; private metered postmarks are not acceptable. Applications delivered by a delivery service after the postmark date will be accepted for review if the applicant can document that the application was provided to the delivery service on or prior to the specified postmark cut-off date. In any event, applications received later than 15 business days following the closing date will not be accepted. No facsimile or electronic mail applications will be accepted.

ADDRESSES:

Send applications to Christopher D. Doley, Director, NOAA Restoration Center, National Marine Fisheries Service, 1315 East West Highway (F/HC3), Silver Spring, MD 20910-3282; ATTN: CRP Project Applications.

See SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION section under Electronic Access for additional information on the CRP and for application form information.

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FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:

Robin J. Bruckner or Alison Ward, (301) 713-0174, or by e-mail at Robin.Bruckner@noaa.gov or Alison.Ward@noaa.gov.

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SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

I. Program Description

The CRP, a financial and technical Federal assistance program, promotes strong partnerships at the national, regional and local level to fund grass-roots, community-based activities that restore living marine resources and their habitats and promote stewardship and a conservation ethic for NOAA trust resources. NOAA trust resources are living marine resources that include commercial and recreational fishery resources (marine fish and shellfish and their habitats); anadromous species (fish, such as salmon and striped bass that spawn in freshwater and then migrate to the sea); endangered and threatened marine species and their habitats; marine mammals, turtles, and their habitats; marshes, mangroves, seagrass beds, coral reefs, and other coastal habitats; and resources associated with National Marine Sanctuaries and National Estuarine Research Reserves.

The CRP’s objective is to bring together citizen groups, public and nonprofit organizations, watershed groups, industry, corporations and businesses, youth conservation corps, students, landowners, and local government, state, and Federal agencies to cooperatively implement habitat restoration projects. Partnerships developed at national, regional and local levels contribute funding, land, technical assistance, workforce support or other in-kind services to promote citizen participation in the improvement of locally-important living marine resources, as well as develop local stewardship and monitoring activities to sustain and evaluate the success of the restoration.

The CRP recognizes the significant role that communities can play in habitat restoration, and acknowledges that habitat restoration is often best implemented through technical and monetary support provided at a community level. Community-based restoration projects supported by the CRP are successful because they have significant local backing, depend upon citizens hands-on involvement, and typically involve NOAA technical assistance or oversight. The role of NOAA in the CRP is to help identify potential restoration projects, strengthen the development and implementation of sound restoration projects within communities, and develop long-term, ongoing national and regional partnerships to support community-based restoration efforts of living marine resource habitats across a wide geographic area. For more information on the CRP, see Electronic Access.

II. Authority

The Secretary of Commerce is authorized under the Fish and Wildlife Coordination Act, 16 U.S.C. 661-666, to provide grants or cooperative agreements for fisheries habitat restoration.

III. Catalogue of Federal Domestic Assistance

The CRP is described in the “Catalogue of Federal Domestic Assistance,” under program number 11.463, Habitat Conservation.

IV. Eligible Applicants

Eligible applicants are institutions of higher education, hospitals, other non-profits, commercial organizations, organizations under the jurisdiction of foreign governments, international organizations, state, local and Indian tribal governments. Due to a significant Start Printed Page 6501increase in funding that became available to the CRP starting in FY 2001, applications from Federal agencies will be considered. Although Federal agencies are eligible to apply under this solicitation, they are strongly encouraged to work with states, non-governmental organizations, national service clubs or youth corps organizations and others that are eligible to apply, rather than seeking project funding directly from the CRP. Proposals selected for funding from non-Federal applicants will be funded through a project grant or cooperative agreement under the terms of this document. Proposals selected for funding from a non-NOAA Federal agency will be funded through an interagency transfer.

The Department of Commerce/National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (DOC/NOAA) is strongly committed to broadening the participation of Historically Black Colleges and Universities, Hispanic Serving Institutions, and Tribal Colleges and Universities in its educational and research programs. The DOC/NOAA vision, mission, and goals are to achieve full participation by Minority Serving Institutions (MSI) in order to advance the development of human potential, to strengthen the nation’s capacity to provide high-quality education, and to increase opportunities for MSIs to participate in, and benefit from, Federal financial assistance programs. DOC/NOAA encourages proposals for habitat restoration projects involving MSIs according to the criteria in this document.

V. Eligible Restoration Activities

NOAA is interested in funding projects that will result in on-the-ground restoration of habitat to benefit living marine resources, including anadromous fish species. Restoration is defined here as activities that contribute to the return of degraded or altered marine, estuarine, coastal and freshwater anadromous fish habitats to a close approximation of their condition prior to disturbance. Restoration may include, but is not limited to, improvement of coastal wetland tidal exchange or reestablishment of historic hydrology; dam or berm removal; improvement or reestablishment of fish passageway; natural or artificial reef/substrate/habitat creation; establishment of riparian buffer zones and improvement of freshwater habitat features that support anadromous fishes; planting of native coastal wetland and submerged aquatic vegetation; and enhancement of feeding, spawning and growth areas essential to marine or anadromous fish. NOAA recognizes that accomplishing restoration is a multi-faceted effort involving project design, engineering services, permitting, construction, oversight and monitoring.

In general, proposed projects should clearly demonstrate anticipated benefits to habitats, such as salt marshes, seagrass beds, coral reefs, mangrove forests, and riparian habitat near rivers, streams and creeks used or formerly used by anadromous fish. Priorities for habitat restoration activities include: areas identified by NOAA Fisheries as essential fish habitat (EFH) and areas within EFH identified as Habitat Areas of Particular Concern; areas identified as critical habitat for federally or state listed marine and anadromous species; areas identified as important habitat for marine mammals and turtles; watersheds or such other areas under conservation management as special management areas under state coastal management programs; and other important commercial or recreational marine fish habitat, including degraded areas that historically were important habitat for living marine resources.

To protect the Federal investment, projects on private lands need to provide assurance that the project will be maintained for its intended purpose for the life of the project. Projects on permanently protected lands may be given priority consideration.

Projects must involve significant community support through an educational and/or volunteer component tied to the restoration activities. Implementation of on-the-ground habitat restoration projects must involve community outreach and monitoring to assess project success, and may involve limited pre-implementation activities, such as engineering and design and short-term baseline studies. Proposals emphasizing a singular restoration component, such as only outreach or program coordination are discouraged, as are applications that propose to expand an organization’s day-to-day activities, or that primarily seek support for administration, salaries, overhead and travel. The CRP anticipates the availability of funds for high quality, quantitative monitoring projects to advance the science and technology of coastal and marine habitat restoration. Proposals emphasizing science-based monitoring of existing or simultaneously proposed CRP projects are encouraged.

Although NOAA recognizes that water quality issues may impact habitat restoration efforts, this initiative is intended to fund physical habitat restoration projects rather than direct water quality improvement measures, such as wastewater treatment plant upgrades or combined sewer outfall improvements. Similarly, the following restoration projects will not be eligible for funding: (1) Activities that constitute legally required mitigation for the adverse effects of an activity regulated or otherwise governed by state or Federal law; (2) activities that constitute restoration for natural resource damages under Federal or state law, and (3) activities that are required by a separate consent decree, court order, statute or regulation. Funds from the CRP may be sought to enhance restoration activities beyond the scope legally required by these activities. As a matter of CRP policy, funding land purchase agreements and conservation easements will be a low priority.

VI. Funding Availability

This solicitation announces that funding of up to $2,000,000 will be available for community-based habitat restoration projects in FY 2002. The NOAA Restoration Center anticipates that typical project awards will range from $50,000 to $200,000; NOAA will not accept proposals for under $20,000 or proposals for over $250,000 under this solicitation. There is no guarantee that sufficient funds will be available to make awards for all proposals. The number of awards to be made as a result of this solicitation will depend on the number of eligible applications received, the amount of funds requested for initiating restoration projects by the applicants, the merit and ranking of the proposals, and the amount of funds made available to the CRP by Congress. The exact amount of funds that may be awarded will be determined in pre-award negotiations between the applicant and NOAA representatives. Publication of this document does not obligate NOAA to award any specific project or obligate all or any parts of any available funds.

VII. Matching Requirements

The overall focus of the CRP is to provide seed money to individual projects that leverage funds and other contributions from a broad public and private sector to implement locally important habitat restoration to benefit living marine resources. To this end, applicants are encouraged to demonstrate a minimum 1:1 non-Federal match for CRP funds requested to complete the proposed project. NOAA strongly encourages applicants to leverage as much investment as possible; applicants with less than 1:1 match will not be disqualified.

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For non-Federal applicants, the match can come from a variety of public and private sources and can include in-kind goods and services; cash match is highly encouraged. Federal funds may not be considered matching funds. Applicants are permitted to combine contributions from additional non-Federal partners in order to meet the 1:1 match expected. Applicants whose proposals are selected for funding will be bound by the percentage of cost sharing reflected in the award document signed by the NOAA Grants Officer.

VIII. Award Period

Generally, the CRP will make awards only to those projects where requested funding will be used to complete proposed restoration activities, with the exception of post-construction monitoring, within a period of 18 months from the approved start date of the project. If an application is selected for funding, NMFS has no obligation to provide any additional prospective funding in connection with that award in subsequent years. Any subsequent proposal to continue work on an existing project must be submitted to the competitive process for consideration and will not receive preferential treatment. Renewal of an award to increase funding or to extend the period of performance is at the total discretion of NOAA.

IX. Electronic Access

Information on the CRP, including examples of community-based habitat restoration projects that have been funded to date, can be found on the world wide web at http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/​habitat/​restoration/​community/​index.html.

The standard NOAA application forms and instructions for applicants are accessible through this web site, or they can be obtained from the NOAA Restoration Center (see ADDRESSES). Applicants are encouraged to contact the NOAA Restoration Center to request an application package that contains instructions for submitting NOAA standard grants applications and supplementary instructions specific to the NOAA Community-Based Restoration Program.

X. Application Process

To submit a proposal, a complete NOAA standard grants application package should be filed in accordance with the guidelines in this document. Each application should include all specified sections as follows: Cover sheet-an applicant must use Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Standard Form 424 as the cover sheet for each project; budget detail (SF 424A and budget justification narrative); grant assurances SF424B and CD-511, and SF-LLL and CD-346 if applicable; and narrative project description (statement of work). Budgets should include a detailed breakdown by category of cost (object class) separated into Federal and non-Federal shares as they relate to specific aspects of the project, with appropriate justification for both the Federal and non-Federal shares.

In general, applications should clearly demonstrate the broad-based benefits expected to specific habitats, and how these benefits will be achieved through the proposed restoration activities. The narrative project description should be no more than 10 double-spaced pages long, in 12-point font, and should give a clear presentation of the proposed work. It should identify the problems the project will address and describe short- and long-term objectives and goals, the methods for carrying out and monitoring the project, and the project’s relevance to enhancing habitat to benefit living marine resources. The project narrative should describe the organizational structure of the applicant group, detail its qualifications, and identify proposed project staff; participants (project partners) other than the applicant, and their contributions should be identified. Applicants should indicate if the project has been submitted for funding consideration elsewhere, whether the funds requested are Federal or non-Federal, and what amount has been requested or secured from other sources. The need for assistance should be demonstrated, and the narrative should provide assurance that all necessary environmental permits and consultations will be secured prior to the use of Federal funds for construction. Applicants should not assume prior knowledge on the part of NOAA as to the relative merits of the project described in the application.

Applications should not be bound in any manner and should be printed on one side only. All incomplete applications will be returned to the applicant. Three copies (including one signed original) of each application are required and must be submitted to the NOAA Restoration Center (see ADDRESSES). Applicants may opt to submit additional copies (seven are needed for reviewing purposes) if it does not cause a financial hardship. Applications for multiple projects submitted by the same applicant must be submitted in separate envelopes.

XI. Indirect Costs

The budget may include an amount for indirect costs if the applicant has an established indirect cost rate with the Federal government. Indirect costs are essentially overhead costs for basic operational functions (e.g., lights, rent, water, insurance) that are incurred for common or joint objectives and therefore cannot be identified specifically within a particular project. For this solicitation, the Federal share of the indirect costs must not exceed the lesser of either the indirect costs the applicant would be entitled to if the negotiated Federal indirect cost rate were used or 25 percent of the direct costs proposed. For those situations in which the use of the applicant’s indirect cost rate would result in indirect costs greater than 25 percent of the Federal direct costs, the difference may be counted as part of the non-Federal share. A copy of the current, approved negotiated indirect cost agreement with the Federal Government should be included with the application. If the applicant does not have a current negotiated rate and plans to seek reimbursement for indirect costs, documentation necessary to establish a rate must be submitted within 90 days of receiving an award.

XII. Project Selection Process

Applications will be screened by CRP staff to determine if they are eligible, complete and in accordance with instructions detailed in the standard NOAA Grants Application Package. Eligible restoration proposals will undergo a technical review, ranking, and selection process. As appropriate during this process, the NOAA Restoration Center will solicit individual technical evaluations of each project proposed and may request evaluations from other NOAA offices, the NOAA Grants Management Division, the U.S. Department of Commerce, the Regional Fishery Management Councils, other Federal and state agencies, such as state coastal management agencies and state fish and wildlife agencies, and private and public sector restoration experts who have knowledge of a specific applicant, program or its subject matter. Proposals also will be reviewed by NOAA regional and headquarters staff to determine how well applications meet the stated aims of the CRP, and how well the proposal meets the goals of the NOAA RC.

Applications for habitat restoration projects will be evaluated by individual technical reviewers, including those mentioned in the above paragraph, according to the criteria and weights described in this solicitation. The proposals will be rated, and reviewer comments and composite project ranks will be presented to the Director of the Start Printed Page 6503NOAA Restoration Center (Director). The Director, in consultation with CRP staff, will consider the evaluations and may take into account the following: (a) Diversity of geographic location and habitat types to be restored; (b) diversity of applicants; (c) degree of duplication of proposed activities with other projects that are currently in effect or approved for funding by NOAA and other Federal agencies; (d) factors that may not be known by technical reviewers that would affect achievement of the CRP’s objectives as described in this announcement and the CRP Guidelines (65 FR 16890, March 30, 2000); and (e) the availability of funds. Hence, awards may not necessarily be made to the highest scored proposals. The Director, in consultation with CRP staff, will select the proposals to be recommended to the Grants Management Division for funding and determine the amount of funds available for each approved proposal. Unsuccessful applicants will be notified in writing that their proposal was not among those selected for funding, and unsuccessful applications will be kept on file until the close of the current fiscal year then destroyed.

Successful applicants may be asked to modify objectives, work plans, or budgets prior to final approval of an award. The exact amount of funds to be awarded, the final scope of activities, the project duration, and specific NOAA cooperative involvement with the activities of each project will be determined in pre-award negotiations among the applicant, the NOAA Grants Office, and the NOAA CRP staff. Projects should not be initiated in expectation of Federal funding until a notice of award document is received from the NOAA Grants Office.

Successful applicants generally will be selected approximately 60 days after the close of this solicitation. The earliest date for receipt of awards will be approximately 120 days after the close of this solicitation, when all NOAA/applicant negotiations of cooperative activities have been completed. Applicants should consider this selection and processing time in developing requested start dates for proposed restoration activities.

XIII. Evaluation Criteria

Reviewers will assign scores to proposals ranging from 0 to 60 points based on the following four evaluation criteria and respective weights.

(1) Potential of the Project to Benefit Living Marine Resources (15 points)

Proposals will be evaluated on the extent of proposed habitat restoration activities and the type(s) of habitat(s) that will be restored. In particular, NOAA will evaluate proposals based on the amount and type of habitat proposed for restoration and the potential of the applicant to restore, protect, conserve, and enhance habitats and ecosystems vital to self-sustaining populations of living marine resources under NOAA Fisheries stewardship; whether the habitat(s) to be restored will benefit commercial, recreational, threatened or endangered species; whether the proposal addresses a priority habitat, restoration need, special consideration, or is part of a watershed or community stewardship plan; whether the effects of restoration are expected to persist; and whether the proposed project will complement or encourage other local restoration activities. Proposals for science-based monitoring of existing or simultaneously proposed CRP projects will be evaluated on the extent to which the potential results advance restoration methods, techniques and project implementation.

(2) Technical Merit and Adequacy of Project Implementation Plan (15 points)

Proposals will be evaluated on the technical feasibility of the project from both biological and engineering perspectives, and on the qualifications and past experience of the project leaders and/or partners in designing, implementing and effectively managing and overseeing projects. Communities and/or organizations developing their first locally-driven restoration project may not be able to document past experience and, therefore, will be evaluated on the basis of their potential to effectively manage and oversee all project phases and on the availability of NOAA or other technical expertise to guide the project to a successful completion.

Proposals also will be evaluated on the adequacy of the implementation plan and the applicant’s ability to: deliver the restoration objective stated in the proposal; demonstrate that the restoration activity will result in tangible benefits and will be sustainable and long-lasting; provide for long-term management of the restored resource, including adequate monitoring and a method for evaluating project success; and provide assurance that implementation of the project will meet all Federal and state environmental laws by obtaining or proceeding to obtain applicable permits and consultations. Projects on permanently protected lands may be given priority consideration.

(3) Community Commitment and Partnership Development (15 points)

Proposals will be evaluated on activities proposed to involve citizens and broaden their participation in habitat restoration or science-based monitoring and the depth and breadth of community support, as reflected by the diversity and strength of project partners. Community participation may include: (a) hands-on training, restoration and monitoring activities undertaken by volunteers; (b) sponsorship by local entities, either through in-kind goods and services (earth-moving services, technical expertise, conservation easements) or cash contributions; (c) public education and outreach; (d) support from state and local governments; and (e) ability to achieve long-term stewardship for restored resources and to generate a community conservation ethic.

(4) Cost-effectiveness and Budget Justification (15 points)

Proposals will be evaluated on the percentage of funds that will be dedicated to all phases of project implementation including physical, on-the-ground restoration and/or science-based monitoring, compared to the percentage that is for administration, salaries, overhead and travel. Applications proposing to use restoration funds to expand an organization’s day-to-day activities are unlikely to obtain a high score under this criterion. To encourage on-the-ground restoration, funding for salaries must be used to support staff directly involved in accomplishing the restoration work. Proposals also will be evaluated on the need for funding and the overall leverage of NOAA funds anticipated, including the amount of cash match; the potential for, or demonstrated NOAA involvement in, the project; the ability to which the proposed project is likely to catalyze future restoration and protection of living marine resources; and the ability of the applicant to demonstrate that a significant benefit will be generated for a reasonable cost. NOAA will expect cost-sharing to leverage funding and to further encourage partnerships among government, industry, and academia.

XIV. Allowable Costs

Funds awarded cannot necessarily pay for all the costs that the recipient might incur in the course of carrying out the project. Generally, costs that are allowable include salaries, equipment, supplies, and training, as long as these are “necessary and reasonable.” Allowable costs are determined by Start Printed Page 6504reference to the OMB Circulars A-122, “Cost Principles for Non-profit Organizations”; A-21, “Cost Principles for Education Institutions”; A-87, “Cost Principles for State, Local and Indian Tribal Governments”; and Federal Acquisition Regulation, codified at 48 Code of Federal Regulations, subpart 31.2 “Contracts with Commercial Organizations.”

XV. Other Requirements

The Department of Commerce Pre-Award Notification Requirements for Grants and Cooperative Agreements contained in the Federal Register notice of October 1, 2001 (66 FR 49917), will be applicable to this solicitation. However, please note that the Department of Commerce will not implement the requirements of Executive Order 13202 (66 FR 49921), pursuant to guidance issued by the Office of Management and Budget in light of a court opinion which found that the Executive Order was not legally authorized. See Building and Construction Trades Department v. Allbaugh, 172 F. Supp. 2d 138 (D.D.C. 2001). This decision is currently on appeal. When the case has been finally resolved, the Department will provide further information on implementation of Executive Order 13202.

Applications under this program are subject to the provisions of Executive Order 12372, “Intergovernmental Review of Federal Programs.”

Classification

Prior notice and an opportunity for public comment are not required by the Administrative Procedure Act or by any other law for this document concerning grants, benefits, and contracts. Accordingly, a regulatory flexibility analysis is not required by the Regulatory Flexibility Act.

The CRP will determine National Environmental Policy Act compliance on a project by project basis.

This action has been determined to be not significant for purposes of Executive Order 12866.

The use of the standard NOAA grants application package referred to in this notice involves collection-of-information requirements subject to the Paperwork Reduction Act. The use of Standard Forms 424, 424A, 424B, and SF-LLL have been approved by OMB under the respective control numbers 0348-0043, 0348-0044, 0348-0040, and 0348-0046.

Notwithstanding any other provision of law, no person is required to respond to, nor shall any person be subject to a penalty for failure to comply with, a collection of information subject to the Paperwork Reduction Act, unless that collection displays a currently valid OMB control number.

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Dated: February 6, 2002.

John Oliver,

Acting Assistant Administrator for Fisheries, National Marine Fisheries Service.

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[FR Doc. 02-3376 Filed 2-11-02; 8:45 am]

BILLING CODE 3510-22-S