Western Freshwater Restoration Fund 2018 Request for Proposals

Full Proposal Due Date:   Thursday, September 20, 2018 by 8:59 PM PST


The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) is soliciting proposals to support restoration of freshwater to critical rivers, lakes, and estuaries in priority geographies throughout the western United States. Legal water withdrawals and variable runoff patterns have resulted in many western creeks and rivers running low and dry, limiting the productivity of both anadromous and resident fish populations as well as other aquatic species. The goal of the Western Freshwater Restoration Fund is to expand the use of water transactions to increase tributary flows for the benefit of protecting or enhancing fish and wildlife habitat and water quality. The basic attributes of a transaction are a voluntary agreement between two or more parties under which water historically diverted under a water right is left or released to instream flows. The Western Freshwater Restoration Fund will award approximately $850,000 in grants in 2018.


The Western Freshwater Restoration Fund seeks projects to achieve the following program priorities:

  1. ​Expand the use of voluntary water transactions to increase tributary flows for the benefit of protecting or enhancing fish and wildlife habitat and water quality. Water transactions include split-and full-season leases, source switches, reverse auctions, permanent purchases and the acquisition of water produced through irrigation efficiency projects, among other strategies. Permanent transactions will be preferred over those with an annual term.
  2. Strengthen flow monitoring and accounting efforts so that flow augmentation projects targeting aquatic species and critical ecosystems include compliance monitoring for water transaction projects and flow gauging of transferred water instream. Projects that couple in-stream flow restoration with flow monitoring will be given stronger consideration.
  3. Conduct outreach efforts to strengthen and grow freshwater restoration efforts across the NFWF geographic priorities outlined in this Request for Proposals. Efforts may include contributing data related to water transactions to a project database system to help showcase the ecosystem benefits of increased instream flow.


Grants will be awarded in November 2018 to partnership-based projects that significantly advance flow restoration objectives within priority stream reaches in the following watersheds:

  • ​Klamath River Basin
  • Upper Sacramento River
  • Northern California Coastal Watersheds (excluding the Russian River)
  • Central and Southern California Coastal Watersheds
  • Pecos River
  • Rio Grande Headwaters
  • Upper Missouri River Basin (including Henry’s Fork and Teton River)


To better gauge progress on individual grants and to ensure greater consistency of project data provided by multiple grants, the Western Freshwater Restoration Fund has a list of metrics in Easygrants for grantees to choose from for reporting. The complete list is shown in the table below. We ask that applicants select only the most relevant metrics from this list for their project.

Project Activity ​Recommended Metric Additional Guidance
​Conservation easements​ ​Miles under long-term easement ​Enter the number of miles under long-term easement (permanent or >30yr)
​Water acquisitions or leases ​CFS of water added to base flow ​Enter the cubic feet per second of cold water added to base flow
​Improved irrigation practices ​# of points of diversion moved ​Enter the number of of points of diversion moved
​Improved irrigation practices ​CFS of water added in stream ​Enter the cubic feet per second of cold water added to stream
​Improved management practices ​Acres under improved management ​Enter the number of acres under improved management
​Monitoring ​# streams/sites being monitored ​# streams/sites being monitored
​Monitoring ​Miles being monitored ​Enter the number of miles being monitored​


Eligible Entities

  • Eligible applicants include: local, state, federal, and tribal governments and agencies (e.g., townships, cities, boroughs), special districts (e.g., conservation districts, planning districts, utility districts), non-profit 501(c) organizations, schools and universities.

Ineligible Uses of Grant Funds

  • ​NFWF funds and matching contributions may not be used to support political advocacy, fundraising, lobbying, litigation, terrorist activities or Foreign Corrupt Practices Act violations.
  • NFWF funds may not be used to support ongoing efforts to comply with legal requirements, including permit conditions, mitigation and settlement agreements. However, grant funds may be used to support projects that enhance or improve upon existing baseline compliance efforts.
  • Funds from this program cannot support fee title land acquisition projects. However, funds may cover certain transaction costs associated with an acquisition (appraisals, title searches, surveys). Also, funds can be used to put in place conservation easements.


The Western Freshwater Fund will award approximately $850,000 in 2018. Projects with a match of 1:1 or greater are strongly encouraged.


All proposals will be screened for relevance, accuracy, completeness and compliance with NFWF and funding source policies. Additionally, applicants will be asked to complete a Water Transaction Proposal Form to demonstrate that the proposal satisfies as many as possible of the following criteria:

  1. ​Administrative components

  • ​​The water rights to be secured are valid and verifiable.
  • Landowner/irrigation district agreements are signed or the steps to completion are manageable and timely.
  • Agency approval has been received or a plan is in effect to ensure transfer of the water is in accordance with the applicable state agency rules (if applicable).
  • If an acquisition, the water right been appraised or valued with an appropriate methodology.
  1. ​​​​​​Hydrologic components
  • ​​​​​​​The proposal will secure water for in-stream tributary flows at a location where low flows are a limiting factor to fish survival and/or productivity and for the maximum reach of river legally and physically possible.
  • The water right is of significant seniority to be protected in-stream at a time of year when needed to benefit fish and wildlife or is protectable instream from diversion regardless of priority date (e.g., diversion elimination agreement).
  • The quantity to be transferred has been properly estimated and will incrementally restore flow in the targeted reach.
  1. ​​​​Biological components

  • ​​ESA listed species or other depressed native fish, wild fish, or wildlife populations are expected to benefit from the proposal when implemented.
  • Water quality is expected to improve due to increased quantity.

  1. ​Innovative components

  • ​​The proposal will develop a new transactional strategy or uses an existing innovative method that increases tributary flows.
  • The proposal for securing water demonstrates that it is cost-effective in terms of local and regional markets.

  1. ​Monitoring components

  • ​​​The proposal makes provisions for basic and effective long-term monitoring of water flow, and benefit to fish and wildlife and water quality.
  • The proposal makes provisions for storage and retrieval of monitoring data and metadata (data collection methods).

  1. Watershed context

  • ​​The proposal demonstrates collaborative efforts with other entities.
  • The proposal is based upon an existing watershed assessment or subbasin plan in a specific, targeted watershed or it describes how a strategic analysis of water acquisition priorities will be developed for that watershed.


Budget – Costs are allowable, reasonable and budgeted in accordance with NFWF’s Budget Instructions cost categories. Federally-funded projects must be in compliance with OMB Uniform Guidance as applicable.

Matching Contributions – Matching Contributions consist of cash, contributed goods and services, volunteer hours, and/or property raised and spent for the Project during the Period of Performance. Larger match ratios and matching fund contributions from a diversity of partners are encouraged and will be more competitive during application review.

Procurement – If the applicant chooses to specifically identify proposed Contractor(s) for Services, an award by NFWF to the applicant does not constitute NFWF’s express written authorization for the applicant to procure such specific services noncompetitively. When procuring goods and services, NFWF recipients must follow documented procurement procedures which reflect applicable laws and regulations.

Publicity and Acknowledgement of Support – Award recipients will be required to grant NFWF the right and authority to publicize the project and NFWF’s financial support for the grant in press releases, publications and other public communications. Recipients may also be asked by NFWF to provide high-resolution (minimum 300 dpi) photographs depicting the project.

Receiving Award Funds – Award payments are primarily reimbursable. Projects may request funds for reimbursement at any time after completing a signed agreement with NFWF. A request of an advance of funds must be due to an imminent need of expenditure and must detail how the funds will be used and provide justification and a timeline for expected disbursement of these funds.

Compliance Requirements – Projects selected may be subject to requirements under the National Environmental Policy Act, Endangered Species Act (state and federal), and National Historic Preservation Act. As may be applicable, successful applicants may be required to comply with additional Federal, state or local requirements and obtain all necessary permits and clearances.

Quality Assurance – If a project involves significant monitoring, data collection or data use, grantees will be asked to prepare and submit quality assurance documentation (www.epa.gov/quality). Applicants should budget time and resources to complete this task.

Permits – Successful applicants will be required to provide sufficient documentation that the project expects to receive or has received all necessary permits and clearances to comply with any Federal, state or local requirements. Where projects involve work in the waters of the United States, NFWF strongly encourages applicants to conduct a permit pre-application meeting with the Army Corps of Engineers prior to submitting their proposal. In some cases, if a permit pre-application meeting has not been completed, NFWF may require successful applicants to complete such a meeting prior to grant award.


Dates of activities are subject to change. Please check the Program page of the NFWF website for the most current dates and information.

​​Webinar  |  Reg​ister
​August 9, 2018; 11:00 AM PST
Full Proposal Due Date​
​September 20, 2018; 8:59 PM PST
Review Period
​September-November, 2018
Awards Announced
​December, 2018


All application materials must be submitted online through National Fish and Wildlife Foundation’s Easygrants system.

  1. ​Go to easygrants.nfwf.org​ to register in our Easygrants online system. New users to the system will be prompted to register before starting the application (if you already are a registered user, use your existing login). Enter your applicant information.
  2. Once on your homepage, click the “Apply for Funding” button and select this RFP’s “Funding Opportunity” from the list of options.
  3. Follow the instructions in Easygrants to complete your application. Once an application has been started, it may be saved and returned to at a later time for completion and submission.


A PDF version of this RFP can be downloaded here.

A Tip Sheet is available for quick reference while you are working through your application. This document can be downloaded here.

Additional information to support the application process can be accessed on NFWF’s Applicant Information webpage.

For more information or questions about this RFP, please contact:

Femke Freiberg
Manager, California Water Programs
Email: femke.freiberg@nfwf.org
Phone: 415-243-3104

For more information or questions about the application process, please contact:

Colleen Walters
Coordinator, Western Water Programs
Email: colleen.walters@nfwf.org
Phone: 503-417-8700, ext. 6007

For issues or assistance with our online Easygrants system, please contact:

Easygrants Helpdesk
Email: Easygrants@nfwf.org​
Voicemail: 202-595-2497
Hours: 9:00 am to 5:00 pm ET, Monday-Friday.
Include: your name, proposal ID #, e-mail address, phone number, program you are applying to, and a description of the issue.​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​