Frequently Asked Questions

Section 319(h) Program

What is the Section 319(h) Grant Program?

The Section 319(h) Grant Program is a competitive financial assistance grant program established to help control nonpoint source (NPS) pollution. Under Section 319 of the Clean Water Act, federal funds are allocated to the designated water quality agency in each state, as well as tribes and U.S. territories. These funds are then used to support state NPS management programs. Illinois' Section 319(h) Nonpoint Source Pollution Control Financial Assistance Program (319(h) Grant Program) offers financial assistance for five project categories:

  1. Development of a Watershed Based Plan, Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) or Load Reduction Strategy (LRS)
  2. Implementation of a Watershed Based Plan, TMDL or Load Reduction Strategy (LRS)
  3. Best Management Practice Implementation to control or prevent NPS pollution
  4. NPS Pollution Information and Outreach Activities
  5. Monitoring/Research

How much Section 319(h) Grant Program funding is available in Illinois?

Based on allocations of federal funding in the past years, the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (Illinois EPA) estimates that approximately $3 million will be available in Illinois for Section 319(h) Grant Program funded projects in an average year.

How many Section 319(h) Grant Program applications are funded each year?

Illinois EPA funds approximately 15 projects per year under the Section 319(h) Grant Program. This number is dependent upon the grant funds available, the number of applications received and the amount that is requested by the applicants.

Section 319(h) Grant Program Eligibility

Am I (or my organization) eligible to receive Section 319(h) Grant Program Funds?

Section 319(h) Grant Program funds are available to any entity, or person, that has legal status to accept funds from the State of Illinois. Refer to the NPS Unit's Organization Certifications and Grant Conditions for Clean Water Act Section 319(h) Financial Assistance Agreements (make into a link) for additional details. Applicants must have the authority and ability to implement the proposed project, or propose to subcontract portions of the project to the appropriate entities for implementation.

The following includes, but is not limited to, the types of groups that are eligible for Section 319(h) Grant Program Funds:

  • state and local government
  • watershed organizations
  • citizen and environmental groups
  • land conservancies or trusts
  • public and private profit and not-for profit organizations
  • universities and colleges

What is the limit on how many times you can receive a grant?

There is no limit on how often you may receive a grant. You must submit an application for each proposed project.

Organizations that currently hold an active Section 319(h) grant that will not be completed by the next funding cycle are discouraged from applying for additional program funds until such time that the existing project is complete and closed.

What is eligible for funding under the Section 319(h) Grant Program in Illinois?

It is to your benefit to contact the NPS Unit at (217) 782-3362 to discuss your project's eligibility.

The following list describes some of the activities that are eligible for Section 319(h) Grant Program Funds:

  • Development of a Watershed Based Plan, TMDL or Load Reduction Strategy (LRS)
  • Implementation of a Watershed Based Plan, TMDL or Load Reduction Strategy (LRS)
  • Best Management Practice Implementation to control or prevent NPS pollution
  • NPS Pollution Information and Outreach Activities
  • Monitoring

What is not eligible for funding under the Section 319(h) Grant Program in Illinois?

It is to your benefit to contact the NPS Unit at (217) 782-3362 to discuss your project's eligibility.

Projects that are not principally intended to improve or protect water quality but instead focus primarily on some other objective, such as flood prevention, invasive species control, or water and energy conservation, will not be selected for funding under the Section 319(h) Grant Program. The following list describes some of the activities that are not eligible for Section 319(h) Grant Program Funds:

  • Implementation of any mitigation or permit requirements of federal or state agencies, including activities required or anticipated to be required by NPDES regulations, including Phase 1 and Phase II storm water permit requirements
  • Projects to principally protect wildlife habitat, remove invasive species, control flooding, protect infrastructure or improve recreation
  • Ineligible activities based on current U.S. EPA guidelines for Section 319(h) grants.

Section 319(h) Application

How do I apply for the Section 319(h) Grant Program?

The Section 319 Request for Proposals, application, and application instructions are currently being revised. Please revisit this site soon to see the updates or contact the Nonpoint Source Unit staff at (217) 782-3362 if you have any questions regarding the program or application.

Who reviews the applications?

The applications are reviewed by the Illinois EPA - Nonpoint Source (NPS) Unit with input from other state and federal agencies and Illinois EPA Regional office staff.

When are Section 319(h) Grant Program applications due to Illinois EPA?

Applications must be received prior to 5:00 p.m. (CST) on August 1st to be considered for funding. If August 1st falls on a Saturday or Sunday, the deadline moves up to 5:00 p.m. (CST) on the Friday before August 1st.

Where do I go for help with the Section 319(h) Grant Program Application?

For assistance with the Section 319(h) Grant Program application please contact the Illinois EPA - Nonpoint Source (NPS) Unit at:

Illinois Environmental Protection Agency
Bureau of Water, Nonpoint Source Unit
P.O. Box 19276
Springfield, Illinois 62794-9276
Phone (217) 782-3362

Funding

What is the maximum or minimum Section 319(h) Grant Program amount for which I can apply?

There is no defined maximum and minimum grant amount for the Illinois EPA Section 319(h) Grant Program. However, recent grants have ranged between $50,000 and $1,200,000. Total project costs (including match) have ranged from $80,000 to $2,000,000.

Is there a local match requirement for Section 319(h) Grant Program funds?

Yes, the Section 319(h) Grant Program will typically fund 60 percent of the total project cost. The remaining 40 percent is the responsibility of the recipient and constitutes the local match.

What is the cost-share rate for a Section 319(h) Grant Program funded project?

The Section 319(h) Grant Program cost share rate is sixty (60) percent federal and forty (40) percent local match.

For example, a NPS pollution control project with a $100,000 total project cost would receive $60,000 in Section 319(h) funds from the Illinois EPA and the recipient would be required to provide $40,000 in local match.

What can I use for match for a Section 319(h) Program Grant?

The local match may include money spent or in-kind services utilized to complete the approved project tasks but cannot be federal funds or funds used to match another federal program. Local match can be provided by the recipient, sub-contractor, or project partners (including state programs, private foundations, land owners, etc.) Greater than 40 percent local match is allowed.

What is in-kind service?

In-kind service is labor provided by the grant recipient or one of its partners. The labor must help accomplish a project task. Paid staff or volunteer time is eligible as match with the proper documentation.

What is the acceptable value of volunteer time for the Section 319(h) grant program?

When using volunteer labor for match, the volunteer's actual hourly rate can be used if they are performing work on the project that is the same as their profession. For example, an engineer who normally gets $80/hour can identify that as the rate for volunteer time if he is preparing design specifications but not if he is planting seed or stuffing envelopes.

Otherwise, refer to the Illinois Department of Labor county prevailing wage rates for determining the value of volunteer labor. See the Value of Volunteer Time web page on the Independent Sector web site.

What happens if my proposed budget changes once the project starts?

If you go over budget, the additional costs are your responsibility. You may submit a request to amend the financial assistance agreement to reflect an increase in the budget but there is no guarantee or obligation on the Illinois EPA's part to approve an increase in the funding level.

Are the Section 319(h) Grant Program funds federal or state money?

Although the program is administered by the Illinois EPA, the funds are federal in origin. The funding source of the Section 319(h) Grant Program is the federal Clean Water Act.

Monitoring

What is a QAPP and do I need a one?

If your project includes any kind of monitoring, you will need a Quality Assurance Project Plan (QAPP) approved by Illinois EPA prior to the implementation of the monitoring activities. Find out more about QAPPs by reading Guidance for Developing Quality Systems for Environmental Programs on the USEPA Web site.

Timeline

What is the normal project period for a Section 319(h) Grant Program funded project?

The normal project period for a Section 319(h) Grant Program funded project is 24 months. Upon request, at the time of application, Illinois EPA will consider a longer or shorter schedule if the need is documented and appropriate.

If my project is approved for Section 319(h) Grant Program funds when can I expect to execute the contract and begin my project?

In recent years, grant funds have become available in the late spring or summer following the August 1st deadline. However, Section 319(h) Grant Program funds will not become available to the applicant, or its subcontractor(s), until a financial assistance agreement is developed by the Illinois EPA, signed by both the grant recipient and the Illinois EPA, and filed with the Illinois State Comptroller.

The Section 319(h) Grant Program is a reimbursement program. The grant recipient must provide documentation of eligible incurred costs (including required match) to Illinois EPA before the State of Illinois will reimburse the recipient for those expenditures.

Miscellaneous

What are the minimum elements of a watershed-based plan?

According to Appendix C of U.S. EPA's Nonpoint Source Program and Grants Guidelines for States and Territories (April 12, 2013) the minimum elements are:

  1. Identification of causes of impairment and pollutant sources or groups of similar sources that need to be controlled to achieve needed load reductions, and any other goals identified in the watershed plan. Sources that need to be controlled should be identified at the significant subcategory level along with estimates of the extent to which they are present in the watershed.
  2. An estimate of the load reductions expected from management measures.
  3. A description of the nonpoint source management measures that will need to be implemented to achieve local reductions in element b, and a description of the critical areas in which those measures will be needed to implement this plan.
  4. Estimate of the amounts of technical and financial assistance needed, associated costs, and/or the sources and authorities that will be relied upon to implement this plan.
  5. An information and education component used to enhance public understanding of the plan and encourage their early and continued participation in selecting, designing, and implementing the nonpoint source management measures that will be implemented.
  6. Schedule for implementing the nonpoint source management measures identified in this plan that is reasonably expeditious.
  7. A description of interim measurable milestones for determining whether nonpoint source management measures or other control actions are being implemented.
  8. A set of criteria that can be used to determine whether loading reductions are being achieved over time and substantial progress is being made toward attaining water quality standards.
  9. A monitoring component to evaluate the effectiveness of the implementation efforts over time, measured against the criteria established under element h.

What are the reporting requirements for a Section 319(h) Grant Program project?

The Section 319(h) Grant Program requires the following reporting for each project:

  • Quarterly reports due on the 15th of January, April, July, and October throughout the Agreement period
  • Annual reports for expenditures to Minority Business Enterprises and Women's Business Enterprises
  • Final project report

In addition, any Recipient annually receiving $500,000.00 or more in federal funds must comply with the Single Audit Act in accordance with Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Circular A-133. The Recipient must submit to the Illinois EPA no less frequently than every two years, an independent audit report covering the award prepared in accordance with the provisions of OMB Circular A-133.

Do I need an O & M plan? (and what is it?)

All projects that include implementation of best management practices (BMP) are required to develop an Operation and Maintenance Plan (O & M) for the BMPs. This includes BMPs installed with match funds or Section 319(h) Grant Program funds.

The Recipient, or its approved designee, is responsible for the development and implementation of an O & M Plan for all BMPs installed during the project period. Plans are for a minimum of ten (10) years, unless otherwise agreed to by Illinois EPA.

Who do I contact to get more information on best management practices (BMP)?

Contact the Illinois EPA - Nonpoint Source (NPS) Unit at:

Illinois Environmental Protection Agency
Bureau of Water, Nonpoint Source Unit
P.O. Box 19276
Springfield, Illinois 62794-9276
Phone (217) 782-3362

Do I need a completed Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) to be considered for this grant?

No. But nonpoint source pollution control projects that are identified within an approved TMDL Implementation Plan or Watershed Based Plan and address the identified water quality impairments will receive higher consideration than projects submitted without the support of such a plan.

Applicants should visit the Illinois EPA's TMDL page for additional information about Illinois EPA's TMDL Program and consult with the Illinois EPA Planning Unit by phone at (217) 782-3362 before submitting a TMDL development project.

Do I have to allow public access to my private property (or that of a sub-grantee) if match or Section 319(h) Grant Program funds have been used for BMP implementation on it?

No, the receipt of Section 319(h) Grant Program funds does not entitle the general public access to your property. Landowners do need to allow Grant Recipients (or their representative) access to the property for best management practice (BMP) site inspections. A reasonable attempt will be made to notify the landowner about the visit prior to any site inspection.

How do I calculate pollutant load reductions?

Use a tool such as the US EPA Pollutant Load Reduction Worksheet or NRCS RUSLE equation. For agricultural projects, contact your local NRCS Field Office for assistance. For Urban projects, contact your local regional planning commission or Illinois EPA NPS Unit for assistance.

Glossary

Best Management Practice (BMP)

Best Management Practices (BMPs) are structural, vegetative, or managerial activities and/or practices that reduce or prevent detachment, transport, and delivery of NPS pollutants to surface or groundwater.

Hydrological Unit Code (HUC) and how can I find out the HUC designation for my watershed

The Hydrological Unit Code (HUC) was created by the United States Geological Survey (USGS) and consists of two to eight digits based on the four levels of classification in the hydrologic unit system. The hydrologic units are arranged within each other, from the smallest (cataloging units) to the largest (regions). To determine which HUC your waterbody would be associated with, visit the Resource Management Mapping Service (RMMS) or the USGS website or view the Illinois EPA's Major Watersheds of Illinois document.

Hydrologic-modification

Hydrologic modification may be defined as activities that alter the geometry and/or physical characteristics of a body of water such as a stream, river, wetland, or lake. Modification activities include dredge and fill, wetland drainage, stream bank and lakeshore alteration, dam construction, stream channelization, flow regulation, bridge construction, and removal of riparian or lakeside vegetation. These hydrologic modifications tend to affect the biological, chemical and physical properties of ground and surface waters and adjacent habitats.

Nonpoint Source Pollution

Nonpoint source (NPS) pollution, unlike pollution from industrial and sewage treatment plants, comes from many diffuse sources. NPS pollution is caused by rainfall or snowmelt moving over and through the ground. As the runoff moves, it picks up and carries away natural and human-made pollutants, finally depositing them into lakes, rivers, wetlands and even our underground sources of drinking water. It has been determined that over 60 percent of the (national) documented water pollution problem can be traced to nonpoint sources. (Source – U.S. EPA – Region 5)

Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL)

Mandated by Section 303(d) of the Clean Water Act, TMDL is short for Total Maximum Daily Load. It determines the greatest amount of a given pollutant that a water body can receive without violating water quality standards and designated uses.

Watershed

A watershed is the area that drains to a given water body.

Watershed Based Plan

A watershed based plan is a document designed to protect and improve water quality by controlling nonpoint source pollution and related water quality problems. Such plans provide an integrated, holistic process to effectively and efficiently protect, enhance and restore the physical, chemical and biological integrity of water resources within a defined hydrologic area (watershed). Watershed based plans present assessment and management information for a geographically defined watershed, including the analyses, actions, participants, and resources related to development and implementation of the plan. Watershed based plans should be consistent with the nine minimum elements of watershed based plan as defined by USEPA watershed based plan guidance, the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning's Guidance for Developing Watershed Action Plans in Illinois, total maximum daily load (TMDL) implementation plan requirements, and current watershed planning principles.

For additional information on watershed based planning, please see A Handbook for Developing Watershed Plans to Restore and Protect Our Waters, U.S. EPA, EPA 841-B-08-002 March 2008, or Guidance for Developing Watershed Action Plans in Illinois, Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning, 2007. Other resources for watershed planning are available on the Watershed Central Web site including the Watershed Central Wiki and Plan Builder tool.