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 Rio Grande Water Transactions Program 2011 Request for Proposals


The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF or Foundation) has received funding from the United States Section of the International Boundary and Waters Commission (USIBWC) in cooperation with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS or Service) to establish a Rio Grande Water Transactions Program (RGWTP or Program). The RGWTP will focus on the 105-mile Canalization Project Reach of the Rio Grande from Percha Dam above Las Cruces, New Mexico to American Dam in El Paso, Texas. The RGWTP will be administered by the Foundation under the authority of USIBWC to operate and maintain the Rio Grande Canalization Project (RGCP). The RGWTP will also enhance the Service’s longer-term efforts to benefit fish, wildlife, and their habitats in the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation’s Rio Grande Project reach (from Elephant Butte Reservoir to Fort Quitman, Texas) through to the Big Bend Reach at Big Bend National Park. 

As specified in the USIBWC’s Record of Decision (ROD) on River Management Alternatives for the RGCP dated June 4, 2009, environmental water to enhance riparian streamside habitat and river-floodplain hydrologic connectivity in the Canalization Reach will be leased or acquired through a cooperative environmental water transaction program with the Elephant Butte Irrigation District (EBID), the El Paso County Water Improvement District No. 1 (EPCWID), the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation (BOR), and willing water rights holders. The purpose of this Request for Proposals (RFP) is to identify an entity qualified to assist the Foundation in efforts to develop and implement the Program, and to use that framework to support the acquisition of water and water rights for wildlife and habitat restoration in the Canalization Project Reach in accordance with the above-referenced authorities. 


Proposals must be submitted on-line by no later than 5:00pm PST on Friday, November 18, 2011.  Proposals submitted after this deadline will not be considered. 


A total of approximately $190,000 in federal funds will be available to the successful applicant on a reimbursable basis over an 18-20 month period of performance.  Funding for the acquisition of water and/or water rights from willing sellers shall be provided separately by USIBWC, subject to all necessary approvals.


The RGWTP will focus on the Canalization Project Reach of the Rio Grande, a 105-mile corridor that runs from Percha Dam (Caballo Reservoir) in Sierra County, New Mexico at River Mile 105.3 to American Dam in El Paso, Texas at River Mile 0 (Figure 1.1). 

Figure 1.1.JPG


Under the USIBWC’s June 2009 ROD, the selected Preferred Alternative for long-term maintenance and operation of the RGCP incorporates recommendations from a Conceptual Restoration Plan[1] which identifies 30 individual sites and more than 550 acres within the Canalization Project Reach as candidates for restoration of riparian and aquatic habitat and of river ecosystem process and function.

Water for restoration at each of these sites (or potentially at alternative sites) will be needed for one or more of three overarching purposes: (1) to offset increased annual depletions associated with increased evapotranspiration (ET) and related factors; (2) to provide for supplemental irrigation; and (3) to enable periodic peak flow releases to enhance river-floodplain hydrologic connectivity.  The combined water budget for items (1) and (2) exceeds 500 AF/year “on site” and could amount to more than 800 AF/year after carriage losses, irrigation efficiencies, and other factors are taken into account.  The water budget for item (3) is estimated to average 9,500 AF per event approximately once every 3-5 years.

To address the need for water for restoration, the ROD calls for USIBWC and partners to establish a voluntary water transactions program with willing water rights holders, to be developed in collaboration with EBID, EPCWID, and BOR. The ROD also anticipates a 10-year implementation timeframe, with water transaction program development and initial water transactions undertaken during the first 5 years along with other pilot-scale efforts. 

The funds provided under this RFP will be used to support development of an appropriate transactional framework and negotiation of agreements with willing sellers over an 18-20 month period to provide water to support enhanced riparian habitats at selected restoration sites throughout the Canalization Project Reach. Ongoing consultations with USFWS and USIBWC will be necessary to coordinate initial water transaction program objectives with identified water needs at priority restoration sites, and to ensure that negotiated acquisition agreements will qualify for separate funding by USIBWC subject to all necessary approvals.


This RFP seeks proposals that demonstrate the abilities and qualifications of interested applicants – whether alone or in partnership with others -- to undertake the work described herein. Supplemental irrigation water and ET offset requirements at several priority sites will be the initial transactional focus, however it is anticipated that important groundwork on periodic peak flow releases can also be laid concurrently.  

All proposals should focus on achieving meaningful, measurable outcomes that advance the objectives outlined below:

  • Develop a work plan, schedule, and budget for an appropriate transactional framework to identify, evaluate, negotiate, propose, and implement voluntary water transactions including all necessary due diligence, approvals, and appropriate outreach to water rights holders, jurisdictional agencies, and the public;
  • Work with USFWS and USIBWC to identify and quantify supplemental irrigation and ET offset water needs at priority restoration sites along with the types or categories of water transactions that could best meet those needs;
  • Work closely and cooperatively with EBID,  EPCWID and BOR to develop policies, guidelines, and assurances necessary to support the RGWTP as well as individual water transactions;
  • Secure agreements to acquire water from willing sellers through voluntary lease, purchase, and/or donation to meet supplemental irrigation and ET offset requirements at priority restoration sites; and
  • Evaluate costs and opportunities related to securing periodic peak flow releases in conjunction with all the above.


Highest ranking will be given to applications that:

  • Show that staff, partners, and/or consultants have worked in the RGCP reach previously and are familiar with the 2009 ROD, the Conceptual Restoration Plan, and related documents and processes;
  • Demonstrate expertise in working with local landowners as well as a variety of jurisdictional agencies such as USIBWC, USFWS, EBID, EPCWID, BOR, the New Mexico Interstate Stream Commission, New Mexico State Parks and local governments;
  • Explain the organization’s and/or team’s experience with real property transactions, environmental water transfers, and restoration project design and implementation along with public and stakeholder outreach, collaboration, and negotiation of single- and multi-party agreements;
  • Illustrate a history of successful fundraising for and involvement with similar projects or programs;
  • Involve qualified experts in their design and anticipated execution;
  • Build new or enhance existing partnerships (list all partners involved). Applicants are encouraged to leverage diverse organization strengths and resources through partnerships and collaborations; and
  • Describe any ancillary benefits that may result from the project (e.g., serves as a model for others to replicate; shares methodologies developed with other practitioners; helps to resolve conflict and uncertainty related to natural resources management).


RFP deliverables shall include a total of three (3) reports and up to five (5) negotiated transaction agreements.  Reports shall include two interim progress reports – one covering the first 6 months, and one covering the first 12 months – and a final Program report.  In addition, up to five (5) option, purchase, and/or term lease agreements shall be developed in consultation with NFWF and USIBWC, negotiated with willing sellers, and presented to USIBWC for approval and funding.  The final Program report shall document all significant progress achieved both in developing the Program and in negotiating and implementing voluntary transaction agreements, along with recommendations for continuing efforts where needed. 


Applicants should be located in the Rio Grande watershed, preferably within the RGCP reach of the River.  Applicants are, however, encouraged to include partners and/or sub-consultants from other areas as necessary to provide both expertise and capacity beyond what NFWF can offer under a limited program administration budget.


No grant funds or matching funds may be used for: litigation expenses or lobbying activities; equipment purchases not primarily related to the direct completion of the project; videos; improvement of natural resources for commercial or private profit; required mitigation; and required Habitat Conservation Plan activities.


Matching funds and/or in-kind contributions of goods and services are encouraged; and higher match ratios will increase the competitiveness of the proposal. All potential sources, and amounts of match, including Federal funds, should be listed in the proposal. 

To be eligible, matching contributions must be:

  • Raised and dedicated specifically towards the project;
  • Voluntary in nature (mitigation, restitution, or other permit or court-ordered settlements are ineligible); and
  • Match contributed up to one year prior to the proposal deadline may be included.

Additional guidance regarding eligible sources of match is provided on the NFWF website.


Applicants should view the guidance provided here to understand the Foundation’s policy on indirect costs in both the project budget and as matching contributions.


Only electronic proposals submitted through NFWF’s on-line application system will be considered. All applications must be received by 5:00pm PST on Friday, November 18, 2011 via NFWF's online application interface, EasyGrants. To start an application, please click on the following link: http://www.nfwf.org/easygrants. New users to the system will be prompted to register before starting their application. After clicking on "Start a new application," select the Rio Grande Water Transactions Program funding opportunity. Once you have started the application, you can save it and then return at a later point to complete it, up until the application deadline. Please be sure to disable the pop-up blocker and enable cookies on your internet browser prior to beginning the application process.

Applicants will be notified of grant decisions by no later than December 16, 2011.  A contract and work plan will be negotiated with the selected applicant as soon as possible thereafter, with an anticipated start date on or before January 20, 2012.  The final Phase 1 report must be completed (submitted to NFWF) by no later than August 30, 2013.

Required Information -- Grant requests must include the following information in the appropriate sections of the grant application

  • All proposals should describe a plan for project implementation, including a proposed project budget, timeline, partnerships, and if possible how the project will be sustained over the long term. 
  • If the Foundation has funded one of your projects in the past, please list the NFWF project numbers and project titles.
  • If the funding request is for one phase of a larger project, please put in context the phase relative to the larger project by stating the goals, outcomes, and timelines for both the phase and the larger project (and the extent to which the funding request will help achieve the overall project goals).
  • All proposals should be limited to 10 pages or less, however there is no limit on the number of associated tables, figures, or attachments. 

NFWF reserves the right to award or not award a grant to any applicant, and NFWF may withdraw this Request for Proposals at any time without notice. Once submitted, application materials become the sole property of NFWF and will not be returned.


Please direct any questions to Kacy Markowitz, Coordinator, Western Water Programs, Western Partnership Office, kacy.markowitz@nfwf.org.

[1] Conceptual Restoration Plan and Cumulative Effects Analysis, Rio Grande – Caballo Dam to American Dam, New Mexico and Texas.  U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Mussetter Engineering, Inc., and Riada Engineering Inc., March 2009. See FINAL CONCEPTUAL RESTORATION PLAN link at http://www.ibwc.gov/Organization/Environmental/canalization_eis.html.