§319 Program Guidelines
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) issued revised guidelines to states, territories, and the District of Columbia (hereinafter referred to as states) for the award of §319 grants under the Clean Water Act (CWA) for the implementation of nonpoint source (NPS) programs. These guidelines are requirements that apply to recipients of grants made with funds appropriated by Congress under §319 of the CWA. States and USEPA regions will implement these guidelines beginning in fiscal year 2014 and in subsequent years. The new guidelines replace the NPS Program and Grants Guidelines for States and Territories that have been in effect since 2004 grant (hereinafter referred to as the 2004 guidelines). These guidelines provide updated program direction, an increased emphasis on watershed project implementation in watersheds with impaired1 waters, and increased accountability measures. These guidelines also emphasize the importance of states updating their NPS management programs to ensure that §319 funds are targeted to the highest priority activities.
The 2004 guidelines set-aside $100 million of the total appropriation to be used mostly for implementation of nine-element watershed based plans (WBPs) that address NPS impairments in watersheds that contain impaired waters. The 2004 guidelines referred to this $100 million set aside as incremental funds. The §319 appropriation decreased to $165 million in fiscal year 2012 and the $100 million incremental set aside no longer represents a reasonable balance in the allocation of NPS management funds, given the wide variety of important uses to which states put these funds to control NPS pollution. The new guidelines recognize annual variability in appropriations for the §319 program, and require a revised set aside of at least 50 percent of a state’s allocation for watershed projects to provide an appropriate balance between implementation of WBPs and other important planning, assessment, management, and statewide §319 programs and projects. This 50 percent set aside is referred to as watershed project funds. The remaining funds are referred to as nonpoint program funds. In addition to the revised watershed project set aside, other significant changes in these revised guidelines include:
- The 2004 guidelines allowed states to use a portion (up to 20%) of their incremental funds for the purposes of developing WBPs and total maximum daily loads (TMDLs). In an effort to increase the focus of §319 funding on watershed project implementation, the revised guidelines remove this allowance and require planning activities to be funded with nonpoint program funds.
- The guidelines continue to place a strong emphasis on taking a watershed based approach to restore NPS-impaired waters. States will focus watershed project funds primarily on these efforts. Following consultation with USEPA, a limited amount of watershed project funds may also be used for projects to protect unimpaired/high quality waters when protection is cited as a priority in the state’s updated NPS management program. Procedural requirements from the 2004 guidelines for protection projects have been removed.
- The guidelines include a renewed focus on updating state NPS management programs on a five year basis, with the expectation that 50% of NPS management program plans will be updated by September 2013, and all management programs will be up-to-date by September 2014.
- To facilitate program efficiency and watershed implementation, the guidelines include specific requirements for supplemental information to be submitted with TMDLs developed using §319 funds.
- The guidelines provide an increased emphasis on coordination with USDA Farm Bill programs as a way to leverage water quality investments.
- The 20% base funds cap on the use of §319 funds for statewide NPS monitoring and assessment from the 2004 guidelines has been removed in recognition of the importance of these activities for measuring success and in targeting watershed restoration and protection efforts.
- For states that go well beyond an expected level of non-federal funds leveraging, the revised guidelines provide an incentive to use the Clean Water State Revolving Fund (CWSRF) and other state or local funding for NPS watershed projects by providing additional flexibility with §319 funds when states provide funding for watershed projects equal to their total §319 allocation.
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