NB_300_19_28 - NB 300-19-28 LTP – Wetland Reserve Enhancement Partnership (WREP) Fiscal Year 2019 Project Proposal Request
NB 300-19-28 LTP – Wetland Reserve Enhancement Partnership (WREP) Fiscal Year 2019 Project Proposal Request
National Bulletin: 300-19-28 Date: May 20, 2019
Subject: LTP –  Wetland Reserve Enhancement Partnership (WREP) Fiscal Year 2019 Project Proposal Request


   
 
Purpose.   To provide information about WREP funding opportunity and proposal submittal process for fiscal year (FY) 2019.     
 
Expiration Date.  September 30, 2019  
 
Background. Through WREP, a component of Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP)-Wetland Reserve Easements (WRE), NRCS enters into agreements with eligible partners to target and leverage resources to carry out high-priority wetland protection, restoration, and enhancement activities on eligible lands. With recent severe flooding and other natural disasters in the Midwest and across the country, this is an opportunity for partners to work with impacted farmers and communities to mitigate these resource concerns. WREP allows participants to address issues from persistent high water on WRE eligible lands. Only States and local units of government, Indian Tribes, and non-governmental organizations are eligible to submit a proposal and enter into agreements with NRCS.  WREP partners are required to contribute a financial or technical assistance match and are not exempt from applicable DUNS and SAM requirements.  All individual agreements or contracts funded under the framework of a WREP agreement must meet all WRE eligibility and program requirements and all transactions will be processed through required agreement procedures.    
 
Explanation.  In FY 2019, in addition to a national announcement, State conservationists and area directors (STCs) will be responsible for advertising the opportunity for eligible partners to submit WREP proposals to SM.NRCS.WRE@wdc.usda.gov and the appropriate STC.  The STC will assist partners with final proposal development and will conduct an initial evaluation based on criteria provided in this bulletin and the attached “Announcement of Funding, Proposal Requirements, and Review Criteria.”  Following State review, the STC will submit by June 28, 2019, to the Easement Program Division (EPD), those proposals she/he recommends for funding to the EPD FY19 WREP SharePoint site.  

 

Potential partners may submit WREP proposals for an individual landowner project, a group of landowner projects, watershed, or geographic area.  Individual landowners may not submit WREP proposals through this submission process.  Once NRCS selects a partner’s proposal, interested landowners within the selected project area must complete and submit a WRE application to NRCS for enrollment.  Individual landowner applications will be evaluated and ranked among other applicants in the WREP project area. 

 

FY 2019 WREP Funding Options and Match Requirements

In FY 2019, NRCS will make WREP funds available for either financial assistance (FA) or technical assistance (TA) agreements. Funds may be obligated under the WREP agreement itself or may be obligated under individual enrollment or restoration agreements, depending upon the funding option chosen and the needs of NRCS and the partners.  Therefore, while funds may be obligated as WREP agreements are signed, all funds must be obligated before the end of FY 2020. These agreement options have specific activity and match requirements, as follows:

 

FA Option — NRCS will make up to $38 million in FA funds available for agreements that will either result in new enrollments of eligible land under a permanent easement, a 30-year easement, or a 30-year contract on acreage owned by Indian Tribes or will result in implementation of restoration or management of existing ACEP-WRE enrollments, including enrollments originally enrolled under the Wetlands Reserve Program.  This option provides FA funds only; there will be no TA funds provided to the partner through this option.  FA funds will be provided either directly to the eligible landowner through an appropriate enrollment agreement or restoration agreement for easement plan implementation or will be provided to the partner through a cooperative agreement for actual implementation of restoration or management practices or activities. For FA proposals, partners must provide at least 25 percent of the partnership project costs funded under this option through in-kind, cash contribution, or a combination of both.

 

TA Option — NRCS will make up to $2 million in TA funds available for agreements that will provide technical assistance services to expedite easement acquisition-related services, title package review and assembly, contracting services, restoration, management design or planning, construction stakeout and supervision, and monitoring of existing ACEP-WRE enrollments.  This option provides TA funds only.  TA funds must only be used to further existing enrollments; the funds are not to be used for technical assistance activities that would result in new WRE enrollments.  For TA proposals, partners must provide at least 50 percent of the partnership project costs funded under this option through in-kind, cash contribution, or a combination of both.

 

The FA and TA proposal options may not be combined.  Partners interested in both options must submit a separate proposal for each. The proposal must have a schedule for completion that shows all funds will be obligated before the end of FY2020.  The partnership agreement will identify how funds will be dedicated for project purposes.    

 

Proposals that include additional partner resources above the required match will be given higher consideration in the selection process. Contributions provided by the partners to meet required match or to achieve additional ranking points can be in the form of technical assistance or financial assistance for the protection, restoration, and enhancement activities eligible under the program.  Contributions may also be in the form of assistance with management and monitoring activities.  Partners may also provide incentives to landowners to participate in WREP.  While incentive payments will not be considered towards meeting the match requirement, the availability of such payments may be considered favorably in the ranking.  Incentives may include signup bonuses, practice incentive payments, or similar activities not funded through WRE.

 

Note: Per Section 1707 of the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018, landowner entities that are participants in WRE are exempt from requirements to be registered in DUNS and SAM. However, this exemption does not apply to partners under a WREP partnership agreement and therefore partnering entities must meet applicable DUNS and SAM registration and renewal requirements.

 

Soliciting Proposals

States must make potential partners aware of this WREP opportunity through State technical committee meetings, State web sites, or other appropriate avenues for advertisement.  To assist States in advertising and soliciting proposals for WREP, an “Announcement of Funding, Proposal Requirements, and Review Criteria” (announcement) document is attached to this bulletin.  A national announcement will be made through a press release.  States should also post an announcement to their state page.  Before posting the announcement or providing to partners, States must insert appropriate state contact information for proposals and other relevant State information.  Also attached is a template press release and fact sheet.  Additionally, the national ACEP web site has been updated with links to the FY 2019 WREP announcement, additional information on proposal requirements, and State contact information and the email address for the submittals:  SM.NRCS.WRE@wdc.usda.gov.  States with partners interested in participating in WREP may determine how best to coordinate with those partners in the development of a proposal.  STCs may recommend more than one proposal for funding consideration. State conservationists and area directors are encouraged to conduct outreach to minorities, limited-resource and other historically underserved groups to ensure awareness of this WREP opportunity.

 

Proposal Requirements

The proposal must follow the format and address all criteria outlined in this bulletin and attached announcement.  Specifics on proposal format and content are outlined in the “Proposal Requirements” section of the announcement.   State conservationists and area directors must review submitted proposals to ensure these requirements are met prior to recommending proposals to EPD.  Only complete proposals will be considered received by the agency and eligible for consideration.

 

Proposal Submission and Notification

Partners must submit their complete proposal to SM.NRCS.WRE@wdc.usda.gov and the appropriate State contact by the June 14, 2019, timeline target. Depending upon available funding and agency priorities, NRCS may offer less financial or technical assistance than what was requested in the proposal and may require adjustments to the proposal as a condition of recommendation or approval to meet program or other requirements.  STCs will review the proposals based on the State and national review criteria outlined in this bulletin and the attached announcement.

 

EPD will notify STCs of recommendations submitted to the Chief by July 26, 2019, and the STCs will provide an official letter of notification to selected partners by August 23, 2019. States will then work with selected partners to develop the appropriate agreement with the partner.  Incomplete proposals or those that do not meet the requirements set forth in this bulletin and announcement will not be considered, and States must notify the partner if this occurs.  States must also provide written notification to partners whose proposals are not selected.  Partner proposals may be withdrawn by written notice to the appropriate STC at any time prior to selection. 

 

State Review and Submission of Proposals

STCs must evaluate submitted proposals to address all of the following:

  1. Potential duplication of efforts with other projects or existing programs

  2. Adherence to, and consistency with, program regulation, including requirements related to land and landowner eligibility and other program requirements

  3. Expected benefits for project implementation in their State

  4. Other issues or concerns of which the STC is aware that should be considered

  5. General recommendation for denial or approval of the project

 

If a project is multistate in scope, the State in which the majority of the project area is located will be the lead State responsible for reviewing the proposal and submitting recommendations to EPD.  The lead State will ensure that the other affected States have been fully informed of the proposals and provided an opportunity for input. 

 

National Review and Selection of Proposals

Once STCs have conducted their reviews, all recommended proposals with any updates must be electronically submitted to EPD via the EPD FY19 WREP SharePoint. The Easement Programs Division will obtain input from a multidisciplinary team and evaluate the submitted proposals using a competitive process.  Evaluation categories include project duration, timeframe for implementation, resource concerns, targeting and outreach efforts, program costs, potential partner experience and partner arrangement (partnership details), project readiness, and eligible lands in project boundaries of Working Lands for Wildlife, the National Water Quality Initiative, State priority areas, and Mississippi River Basin Healthy Watersheds Initiative. The Working Lands for Wildlife project boundaries include the eight nationally identified target species (e.g., greater sage-grouse, New England cottontail, monarch butterfly, etc.) as well as the 11 State-identified projects.    The deputy chief for programs will forward the State recommendations and national ranking results and recommendations to the Chief or designee for review and final selection.

 

Partnership Agreement

Upon proposal selection, NRCS will enter into an agreement with a partner.  States with selected proposals will be provided additional guidance on developing agreements with partners.  At a minimum, the agreement will address all of the following:

  1. The role of the partner

  2. The role of NRCS

  3. The format and frequency of reports that are required as a condition of the agreement

  4. The plan of work and budget to identify other funding sources (if applicable) for financial or technical assistance

  5. The specified project schedule and timeframe

  6. Whether the agreement will serve as an obligating document or whether funds will be obligated under a separate agreement with the partner, third party, or through an enrollment agreement with the landowner.

  7. The use of 30-year contracts for acreage owned by Indian Tribes only, 30-year easements with private landowners or Indian Tribes (including native corporations), or permanent easements with private landowners or Indian Tribes (including native corporations)

  8. Other requirements deemed necessary by NRCS to achieve purposes of the ACEP-WRE.

 

Eligibility Requirements

All projects funded through WREP must meet all ACEP-WRE eligibility and program requirements and all transactions will be processed through normal contracting and agreement procedures.  STCs will ensure that wetland restoration and enhancement actions will be designed to maximize wildlife habitat benefits and wetland values and functions, in accordance with the ACEP-WRE regulation, 7 CFR Part 1468, and NRCS standards and specifications.  Additionally, the successful restoration of land and the resultant wetland values must take into consideration the cost of such restoration, as required by 7 CFR Part 1468.  Proposals must conform to the ACEP-WRE guidelines for restoration and management of lands subject to an ACEP-WRE easement.  New easement enrollments must be obligated by the end of FY 2020.

 

Deadlines

Eligible partners must submit their proposal by June 14, 2019.  STCs requesting WREP funds will submit project proposals to the EPD FY19 WREP SharePoint site by June 28, 2019, States will be notified when selections are made.    

 
Contact.  For further information, contact Jeff Williams, National Easement Program specialist, at (202) 720-6268, Jeff.Williams3@usda.gov.   
 
 

 /s/

 JIMMY BRAMBLETT
Deputy Chief for Programs
 
 

Attachment A – WREP Evaluation Sheet

Attachment B – FY 2019 Timeline Targets for WREP: Entering into New Agreements and Obligations

Attachment C – Partnership Agreement Template – WREP

Attachment D – FY 2019 WREP Announcement of Funding, Proposal Requirements, and Review Criteria     

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