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The Section 319 grants program is implemented by IDEM’s Office of Watershed Management (OWM). Work plans, grants administration, financial administration, annual reporting, and use of the Grants Reporting and Tracking System (GRTS) are carried out by the OWM, in accordance with U.S. EPA guidance from Region 5.
Work plans: The Section 319 grant program follows a cycle dependent on the development and passage of the federal budget. Although the federal fiscal year begins on October 1st of each year, final allocations of Section 319 funds may not be certain until March or April. Work plans explaining how the funds will be expended by the state will provide details of individual projects. These work plans are submitted to U.S. EPA Region 5 by December 1st of each year. Final proposals are submitted in February. The entire grants award process, from submitting a proposal through contract execution, can take from six to nine months.
Design and oversight of watershed projects: Section 319 projects are normally contracted for two to four years. Projects fall into several categories: watershed planning, implementation of plans, education, and demonstration. The application package submitted by the sponsor contains a budget, schedule, description of the problem, proposed activities for addressing the problem, how the project will be evaluated, and letters of commitment from project partners. Project managers work with the sponsor to refine the application package as needed. This package is used to develop the grant agreement between IDEM and the sponsor.
Projects are assigned to a specific project manager who works closely with the sponsoring group, meeting with them at least quarterly, providing technical assistance or referrals to others as needed, and handling all paperwork submitted for the project. This oversight is concluded when the project’s final report and all claim vouchers have been submitted and the contract has been closed.
Targeting of projects: In order to continue to make measurable improvements in water quality in Indiana, IDEM’s Section 319 NPS Program is focusing funding on the following priority activities:
Proposals for activities that do not meet one of the priorities are unlikely to be funded.
Reporting: Annual reports are submitted to U.S. EPA on October 1st of each year. These reports include a list of open projects and their contract term, pollutant load reduction estimations, geographic location of all projects, administrative and water quality goals, and copies of final reports for projects that have closed since the last annual report. In addition, a summary of all NPS pollution efforts in the state, including efforts by the Indiana Department of Natural Resources and the Natural Resources Conservation Service, is provided. The GRTS is continually maintained for U.S. EPA’s access, including at least the required mandated elements, quarterly progress reports, and final reports for all projects as they are received.
GRTS (Grants Reporting Tracking System): Indiana began utilizing GRTS in 1996. Project managers enter all information for their projects, including quarterly and final reports, as text documents. Quarterly and final reports are either summarized or copied electronically into the GRTS. This database is available nationally so states may view each other’s project information.
Project Quality Assurance/Quality Control (QA/QC) and monitoring component: NPS projects are required to include appropriate monitoring to gauge the effectiveness of the project. In many cases, this involves water quality monitoring. Depending on the goals of the project, the water quality monitoring plan may be detailed and tailored to obtain specific water quality data with which to make decisions. Monitoring plans may also utilize volunteers to test the streams and rivers for educational purposes, detecting possible problems, or determining trends. When environmental data is being collected during the course of a NPS project, a quality assurance project plan (QAPP) must be developed, submitted, and implemented. The QAPP is reviewed by the program’s quality assurance manager to ensure that the data collected will be of known and suitable quality and quantity, and that it meets U.S. EPA requirements and the project’s needs.
Depending upon the type of project and the goals of the project, environmental monitoring may not be appropriate to determine the effectiveness and success of a project. Additional types of monitoring activities include: tracking the number of people attending an event; determining how many acres of land are affected by the project; assessing the results of surveys; and other kinds of monitoring specific to the goals of the project.
The requirements for Section 319 project grants are described below: