Pennsylvania Most Effective Basins Grants 2021 Request For Proposals

Full Proposal Due Date: Friday, July 30, 2021 by 11:59pm ET


The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF), in partnership with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the federal-state Chesapeake Bay Program partnership, is soliciting proposals to restore water quality and habitats of the Chesapeake Bay and its tributary rivers and streams in Pennsylvania.

NFWF is soliciting proposals under the Pennsylvania Most Effective Basins (PA-MEB) grants program for projects that accelerate implementation of cost-effective agricultural best management practices (“practices”) in selected basins of the Chesapeake Bay watershed of Pennsylvania. The intent of the PA-MEB program is to assist the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania in achieving its 2025 water quality goals for the agricultural sector under the Chesapeake Bay Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) and Pennsylvania’s Phase III Watershed Implementation Plan (WIP). 

NFWF estimates awarding a total of $3-6 million in grants through the PA-MEB program in 2021 contingent on the availability of funding. Major funding comes from the EPA Chesapeake Bay Program Office. 


All projects must occur wholly within selected basins of the Chesapeake Bay watershed in Pennsylvania, identified as the most effective basins for reducing the effects of excess nutrient loading to the Bay. EPA identified these most effective basins based on both cost effectiveness and the capacity of practices implemented in each basin to positively influence dissolved oxygen in the Bay. A map of the most effective basins in Pennsylvania and details on EPA’s methodology for selecting them can be found here.


The primary purpose of the PA-MEB program is to maximize cost-effective reductions of agricultural nitrogen loads through the implementation of eligible agricultural conservation practices in Pennsylvania’s most effective basins, consistent with the Chesapeake Bay Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) and Pennsylvania’s Phase III Watershed Implementation Plan (WIP). In addition, NFWF will prioritize funding for proposals that can yield rapid implementation outcomes (with consideration for design, engineering, and construction needs) and those that provide additional conservation and farm management co-benefits beyond water quality improvement.

Eligible Practices 

EPA and NFWF have identified the following eligible practices for the PA-MEB program, based on the demonstrated ability of these practices to yield relatively low-cost reductions in agricultural nitrogen loading. Notably, these eligible practices include both annual (i.e., “management”) practices that require ongoing implementation to yield creditable load reduction benefits in future years, as well as structural (i.e., “engineered”) practices that, once implemented, generate multiple years of creditable load reductions based on their continued performance on the landscape. 

• Tillage Management

• Retirement of Highly Erodible Land

• Tree Planting

• Cover Crops - Traditional

• Wetland Restoration

• Cover Crops - Commodity

• Prescribed Grazing

• Forest and Grass Buffers

• Manure Incorporation

• Forest and Grass Buffers with Stream Exclusion Fencing

• Manure Injection

• Core Nutrient Management - Nitrogen

• Manure Transport

• Supplemental Nutrient Management - N Rate

• Barnyard Runoff Control

• Supplement Nutrient Management - N Placement

• Loafing Lot Management

• Supplemental Nutrient Management - N Timing

• Alternative Crops

• Soil and Water Conservation Plans


Additional information on each practice, including associated definitions and other common practice names, can be found in Appendix A. Further information on each practice, relevant qualifying conditions, and crediting methods is available through CBP’s “Quick Reference Guide for Best Management Practices” and established protocols approved by CBP’s BMP expert panels

Priority #1 – Cost-Effectiveness for Agricultural Nitrogen Load Reductions

For the purposes of the PA-MEB program, cost-effectiveness for agricultural nitrogen load reduction is defined as the total project funding request divided by the total nitrogen load reduction potential of the proposed practice(s) to be implemented (i.e., $/lb N reduced). Total nitrogen load reduction potential further considers both the estimated annual nitrogen load reduction from the proposed practice(s) to be implemented, calculated in accordance with established methods approved by the Chesapeake Bay Program for crediting under the Chesapeake Bay TMDL, as well as the proposed timeframe for generating creditable load reduction benefits for proposed practice(s) in future years.

In determining proposed timeframe for generating creditable load reductions, NFWF will rely on both the default practice credit durations assigned by EPA and CBP, which specify the length of time specific practices generate creditable load reductions for TMDL purposes, as well as proposed approaches put forward by applicants to sustain implementation and performance of funded practices beyond these standard practice credit durations. 

NFWF encourages applicants to actively seek and propose methods and approaches to sustain load reductions beyond standard practice credit durations. Selected examples include obtaining signed agreements with eligible landowners/operators to sustain implementation of annual practices (e.g., cover crops) for multi-year periods and/or maintain structural practices beyond their standard practice credit duration, or by incorporating new practice implementation and maintenance requirements with new or amended conservation or agricultural land preservation easements. Any proposal seeking to obtain credit for load reductions beyond the standard practice credit must include associated conditions, roles, and responsibilities in the Operations, Maintenance, and Repair Plan attachment to Landowner-Grantee Agreements. 

Applicants may further propose to bundle implementation of multiple practices across multiple operations and/or landowners. However, the total nitrogen load reduction potential will be calculated for each practice individually and summed to obtain a single total nitrogen load reduction potential value for the proposal. Signed Landowner-Grantee Agreements must also be provided for all proposed cooperating landowners/operators.

PA-MEB Program Metrics

One table displaying Total N Reduction Potential (lbs.) as a function of Annual N Load Reduction (lbs.yr) by Proposed timeframe (yrs). The second table shows Cost-Effectiveness for Agricultural N Load Reduction ($/Lb.) as PA-MEB Funding Request ($) divided by Total N Reduction Potential for all proposed practices

To ensure consistency in estimating total load reduction potential across proposals and fairness in evaluating competing proposals, NFWF is requiring all applicants to utilize the FieldDoc platform to document proposed practices for implementation. FieldDoc will then calculate estimated load reduction potential for each practice and for each overall proposal using established methods approved by the Chesapeake Bay Program for crediting under the Chesapeake Bay TMDL. NFWF will entertain Applicants seeking to use other CBP-approved tools or methods to calculate load reduction potential must contact NFWF in advance of proposal submission and obtain prior written approval from NFWF in order for associated proposals to be considered. 

Priority #2 – Readiness to Proceed

Given approaching 2025 goals for the Chesapeake Bay TMDL, NFWF is seeking projects for the PA-MEB program that can move quickly into implementation and delivery of load reduction benefits following award. Accordingly, NFWF will consider the status of necessary planning, design, and permitting required to proceed with implementation. As a result, while technical assistance costs associated with planning, design, and construction of eligible practices are allowable under the PA-MEB program, the most competitive proposals will minimize technical assistance and administrative costs and maximize funding for implementation and associated load reduction outcomes. 

Priority #3 – Conservation and Farm Management Co-Benefits

While the PA-MEB program prioritizes cost-effective agricultural nitrogen load reductions consistent with the Chesapeake Bay TMDL and the water quality goals of the Chesapeake Bay Watershed Agreement, NFWF and program partners are seeking proposals that can also benefit other goals and outcomes of the Watershed Agreement and NFWF’s Chesapeake Bay Business Plan. Additional resources on the multiple benefits of nutrient and sediment best management practices, developed by CBP in support of Phase III WIP planning, can be found here

In addition to co-benefits for regional ecosystem restoration efforts, NFWF is seeking proposals that deliver operational and/or financial benefits for eligible landowners/operators. Applicants will be asked to describe these benefits for proposed cooperating landowners/operators. Selected examples include reducing operating costs, simplifying or streamlining farm management processes, and increasing revenues from agricultural and non-agricultural products and services generated by cooperating landowners/operators


To better gauge progress on individual grants and to ensure greater consistency of project data provided by multiple grants, NFWF has provided a list of metrics in Easygrants for grantees to choose from for reporting. For the PA-MEB program, applicants and awardees will be required to report both project-level metrics via Easygrants and more detailed site and practice-level data via (see below for additional details). 

The following is a complete list of applicable metrics. It is in the applicant’s best interest to be selective of the most relevant metrics that are well-aligned with the proposed project’s objectives and outcomes. If you do not believe an applicable metric has been provided, please contact Nicole Thompson at or (202) 857-0166, to discuss acceptable alternatives.


Applicable Metrics Metric Description/Instructions
CBSF - BMP implementation for nutrient or sediment reduction - Lbs N avoided (annually)* Please use FieldDoc to develop estimates of the total nitrogen load reduction potential your proposed project. Enter FieldDoc-generated pollutant load reduction totals in this field then upload your FieldDoc Project Summary in the "Uploads" section.
CBSF - BMP implementation for nutrient or sediment reduction - Acres with BMPs Enter the total number of acres under agricultural or non-urban BMPs to reduce nutrient or sediment loading. Do not double-count individual acres which have multiple BMPs. 
CBSF - Riparian restoration - Miles restored Enter the number miles of riparian habitat restored through the implementation of forest or grass buffers that are at least 35 feet wide. If you are implementing livestock exclusion, report associated outcomes instead under the "CBSF - BMP implementation for livestock exclusion -- miles of fencing installed" metric.
CBSF - BMP implementation for livestock fencing - Miles of fencing installed Enter the number of miles of livestock exclusion installed. Assume activities include exclusion fencing and a 35-foot forest or grass buffer, unless otherwise noted.
CBSF - Floodplain restoration - Acres restored Enter the number of acres of floodplain restored for nutrient and sediment load reduction, consistent with qualifying conditions and restoration protocols established by the Chesapeake Bay Program.  Also report any associated linear stream restoration outcomes through the "CBSF - Stream restoration – Miles restored" metric.
CBSF - Wetland restoration - Acres restored Enter the number of acres of wetland habitat restored, created, or enhanced.
CBSF - Conservation easements - Acres protected under easement 

Enter the number of acres protected under long-term easement (permanent or >30-yr).

CBSF - Land, wetland restoration - Number of trees planted Enter the number of trees planted for all non-urban projects/practices.



Eligible Applicants for the PA-MEB program are limited to conservation districts, technical service providers certified by the Pennsylvania office of the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, countywide action planning coordinators identified through the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection’s Phase III WIP planning process. Non-profit 501(c) organizations and local and municipal governments are also eligible, but must demonstrate partnership and coordination with appropriate conservation districts, technical service providers, and/or countywide action planning coordinators by providing associated letters of support. 

For-profit applicants: Please note that this is a request for grant proposals, not a procurement of goods and services; see the Budget section below for specific cost considerations.

Eligible Landowners/Operators are limited to individuals and entities with ownership or management control of an agricultural operation, as defined by applicable Pennsylvania statutes, and located within identified most effective basins. Applicants must also complete signed Landowner-Grantee Agreements for all proposed landowners/operators prior to executing grant contracts with NFWF (see Appendix B). In addition, landowners/operators must be able to document compliance with all applicable agricultural erosion and sediment control, manure, and/or nutrient management plan requirements prior to project completion. 

Questions about applicant and landowner/operator eligibility should be directed to NFWF prior to application.

Ineligible Uses of Grant Funds 


  • Equipment: Applicants are encouraged to rent equipment where possible and cost-effective or use matching funds to make those purchases.  NFWF acknowledges, however, that some projects may only be completed using NFWF funds to procure equipment. If this applies to your project, please contact the NFWF program staff listed in this RFP (p. 8, Application Assistance) to discuss options.
  • Federal funds and matching contributions may not be used to procure or obtain equipment, services, or systems (including entering or renewing a contract) that uses telecommunications equipment or services produced by Huawei Technologies Company or ZTE Corporation (or any subsidiary or affiliate of such entities) as a substantial or essential component, or as critical technology of any system. Refer to Public Law 115-232, section 889 for additional information. 
  • 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. For the purposes of the PA-MEB program, this condition means that operations under enforcement action by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, State Conservation Commission, or U.S. EPA are ineligible for program funding. Proposed activities on all other operations, consistent with program priorities and eligibility, are generally considered allowable under this provision.


NFWF will award $3-6 million in grants through the PA-MEB program in 2021 through grants of up to $250,000 per proposal. Multiple proposals may be submitted that benefit a single landowner/operator, but each proposal will be evaluated independently. Given program priorities for rapid implementation outcomes, NFWF generally expects awarded projects to be completed within 18 months.

There is no match requirement for the PA-MEB program. However, proposals that can effectively leverage multiple funding sources to support implementation will be viewed favorably. Applicants will be encouraged, but not required, to document leveraged federal, state, local, or private funding supporting implementation of proposed practices. 


All proposals will be screened for relevance, accuracy, completeness, and compliance with NFWF and funding source policies. Each proposal will then be evaluated based on the extent to which it meets the following criteria for the PA-MEB program. Bolded criteria are considered the primary evaluation criteria for the program. 

Conservation Outcomes

  • Total Agricultural Nitrogen Load Reduction Potential: Proposal contributes meaningful agricultural nitrogen load reduction outcomes in support of the Chesapeake Bay TMDL, Pennsylvania’s Phase III WIP and, as applicable, associated Countywide Action Plans. 
  • Conservation and Farm Management Co-Benefits: Proposed implementation actions yield clear and meaningful co-benefits for regional ecosystem conservation and restoration goals and farm management outcomes.  


  • Cost-Effectiveness for Agricultural Nitrogen Load Reduction: Proposals that demonstrate the greatest cost-effectiveness for agricultural nitrogen load reductions (i.e., $/lb. N reduced) will generally be the most competitive proposals. 
  • The quality and level of detail in the budget notes and budget narrative provide a clear and detailed understanding of the proposed funding request. 
  • Proposed costs are reasonable based on the work plan, local or regional costs for similar activities, and commensurate with project outcomes.
  • If proposed work is partnership based, a clear indication of funding for project partners, stakeholders, and community members, is evident.
  • Proposed funding request is well leveraged by the partners and other contributors through cash-, in-kind, and other match. 
  • The federal government has determined that a de minimis 10% indirect rate is an acceptable minimum for organizations without a NICRA.  As such, NFWF reserves the right to scrutinize ALL proposals with indirect rates above 10% for cost-effectiveness.  


  • Readiness: Considering the status of necessary planning, design, and permitting and proposed implementation timeline, projects demonstrate a readiness to rapidly proceed to practice implementation.
  • Proposal provides specific goals that correlate with a clear, logical and achievable work plan, milestones, and timeline.
  • Proposed project team has the core competencies necessary to implement the proposed activities and achieve the proposed outcomes as well as the commitment to engage technical experts necessary to ensure activities are scientifically and technically sound and feasible. 
  • Proposal demonstrates an understanding of necessary permitting and environmental compliance requirements and the ability to obtain necessary approvals consistent with the proposed work plan and timeline. 
  • Applicant organization has demonstrated an ability to manage and implement similar projects on time and within budget.


Nutrient and Sediment Load Reductions As noted above, NFWF is requiring all applicants to utilize the FieldDoc platform to document proposed practices for implementation. When setting up proposed projects in FieldDoc, please be sure to list your application’s 5-digit Easygrants number in the FieldDoc project title.
Upon grant award, NFWF will require all projects submitted under this solicitation to utilize FieldDoc for tracking and reporting of applicable water quality improvement activities during the course of their grant project. For technical support on FieldDoc utilization during the proposal development process, please contact the Commons at . Further help documentation can be found on our website

Practice Specifications Unless otherwise noted, all conservation and restoration practices implemented through the PA-MEB program must conform to established and recognized standards and practices specifications (e.g., NRCS practice standards, state stormwater manuals and retrofit guidance, approved Chesapeake Bay Program BMP Expert Panel reports). Applicants must note where proposed practices will deviate from established standards and provide reasonable justification for why an alternative is necessary. 

Monitoring – NFWF may implement independent monitoring efforts in the future to measure the environmental outcomes from projects funded under this solicitation. Award recipients may be asked to facilitate granting of access to project sites for NFWF or its designees for future environmental monitoring purposes. 

Budget – Costs are allowable, reasonable and budgeted in accordance with NFWF’s Budget Instructions cost categories.  This funding opportunity will award grants of federal financial assistance funds; applicants must be able to comply with the OMB Uniform Guidance (2 CFR 200).  While for-profit entities are eligible applicants, charges to a potential award may include actual costs only; recipients may not apply loaded rates or realize profit from an award of federal financial assistance funds.

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 will 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. Documentation of compliance with these regulations must be approved prior to initiating activities that disturb or alter habitat or other features of the project site(s).  Applicants should budget time and resources to obtain the needed approvals. 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 monitoring, data collection or data use, grantees will be asked to prepare and submit quality assurance documentation (  Examples of data collection or use which requires a Quality Assurance Project Plan (QAPP):

  • New data collection.

  • Existing data use (a new use for data collected for a different purpose, whether by the same or different groups).

  • Data collection and analysis associated with development or design of plans and projects e.g. fish passage, watershed or water quality/habitat restoration project plans etc. 

  • Water or other environmental monitoring.

  • Model development or use etc.

No data collection or use may begin until a QAPP is approved and on file. Applicants should budget time and resources to complete this task. Plan to submit QAPPs several months in advance of data collection and analysis to allow for any needed comments and revisions to be made before final QAPP approval. If funded by the PA-MEB program, general assistance will be available to projects to help with scoping and review of the draft QAPPs in advance of submission for approval. Please contact if you have any questions about whether your project would require a QAPP.

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.

Federal Funding – The availability of federal funds estimated in this solicitation is contingent upon the federal appropriations process. Funding decisions will be made based on level of funding and timing of when it is received by NFWF.


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

Applicant Webinar (Registration) Wednesday, June 30th, 10am ET
FieldDoc Webinar (Registration) Wednesday,July 7th, 11am ET
Proposal Due Date Friday, July 30th, 11:59pm ET
Proposal Review Period August
Awards Announced September (anticipated)

All application materials must be submitted online through NFWF’s Easygrants system.

  1. Go to 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 Tip Sheet is available for quick reference while you are working through your application. This document can be downloaded at  Additional information to support the application process can be accessed on the NFWF website’s “Applicant Information” page ( Please disable the pop-up blocker on your internet browser prior to beginning the application process.

For more information or questions about this RFP, please contact Jake Reilly (, Stephanie Heidbreder ( or Nicole Thompson ( via e-mail or by phone at (202) 857-0166.

NFWF also offers on-demand, field-based project and partnership development support through field liaisons, providing broad geographic coverage across the Bay region for agricultural conservation, urban stormwater management, wetland and watershed science, and habitat experience and expertise relevant to Bay restoration goals. Applicants may also contact these field liaisons using the information below to discuss potential projects:

Field Liaison Contact Email Phone Sector Expertise
Kristen Saacke Blunk (814) 360-9766 • All Sectors
Kristen Hughes Evans (804) 544-3457 • Agricultural Conservation
Liz Feinberg (610) 212-2345 • All Sectors
Katie Ombalski (814) 574-7281

• Agricultural Conservation
• Habitat Restoration

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

Easygrants Helpdesk

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 to which you are applying, and a description of the issue.