Southeast Aquatics 2017 Request for Proposals

Full Proposal Due Date:   Tuesday, August 15, 2017 by 11:59 PM Eastern Time


The southeastern United States harbors a diversity of aquatic species unparalleled anywhere else in the nation. However, land-use pressures, habitat fragmentation, impacts to water quality and quantity, and invasive species introductions have negatively impacted many important aquatic species to such an extent that the number of at-risk aquatic species in this region is greater than anywhere else in the United States, rising 125 percent in the past 20 years alone. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) reports that more than 380 species, the majority of them aquatic, are petitioned or candidates for listing under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).

To help protect and enhance habitats for a wide range of aquatic species, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) is soliciting proposals to restore habitats and improve water quality in targeted river basins of the Southeast. The Southeast Aquatics program is a competitive grants program that supports watershed-based restoration that will improve the health of these aquatic systems and secure populations of native freshwater aquatic species, with a particular focus on at-risk aquatic species. By promoting a habitat-based approach, a diversity of species benefit and the risk of future listings under the ESA for at-risk species is reduced. 

The Southeast Aquatics program will award approximately $700,000 in grants in 2017, with individual grant awards ranging between $75,000 and $250,000. Major funding for the Southeast Aquatics program comes from the U.S. Forest Service, USFWS, and other sources.


Geographic focal areas for the Southeast Aquatics program are informed by:

  • The Southeastern Aquatic Biodiversity Conservation Strategy completed in 2016 by the University of Georgia River Basin Center and Tennessee Aquarium Conservation Institute; this science-based, systematic assessment identified watersheds critical to southeast aquatic conservation based on the richness, endemism, and imperilment of freshwater fish, mussel, and crayfish species; 
  • State Wildlife Actions Plans, where watershed spatial priorities are available;
  • Southeast Aquatics Resources Partnership;  and 
  • ​U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service at-risk species occurrences by watershed.

In 2017, proposals to the Southeast Aquatics program will be considered from the following geographies:

1) The Greater Apalachicola Basin in Florida, Georgia, and Alabama 
Priority will be given to projects within the following HUC-8 subwatersheds (see map below), but projects within the greater watershed will be considered:

  • ​​Apalachicola
  • Chipola 
  • Lower Chattahoochee
  • Middle Chattahoochee Walter F. George Rese
  • Lower Flint
  • Middle Flint
  • Upper Flint

​​2. The Cape Fear/Pee Dee River Basins in North Carolina and South Carolina
Priority will be given to projects within the following HUC-8 subwatersheds (see map below), but projects within the greater watershed will be considered: 

  • ​Waccamaw (Pee Dee)
  • Upper Pee Dee (Pee Dee)
  • Lower Pee Dee (Pee Dee)
  • Black (Cape Fear)

Note: Funding for habitat restoration projects benefitting freshwater species in the Cumberland Plateau is available through the Cumberland Plateau Stewardship Fund (2018 RFP to be posted later this year).


In 2017, the Southeast Aquatics program will provide funding to projects within the above-listed geographies that produce measureable outcomes for native freshwater aquatics species of conservation concern, particularly at-risk species and their habitats. Proposals should demonstrate how project activities will advance specific goals and objectives of relevant conservation plans including, but not limited to, state wildlife action plans, regional watershed management plans, fish habitat partnerships and federal species recovery plans.

Competitive proposals will address the threats facing these species by implementing one or more of the following strategies identified below:

  • ​Restore and Enhance Riparian and In-stream Habitat:  Restore wetland, streambank, and instream habitat to support key functions of the watershed and improve native aquatic species populations.
  • Implement Water Quality/Quantity Best Management Practices: Support agricultural practices including, but not limited to, livestock fencing or irrigation retrofits that reduce nutrient and sediment runoff from farms and improves water efficiency.
  • Restore Connectivity: Remove or retrofit stream barriers and stream crossings (culverts, concrete fords) that are barriers to fish passage to improve and re-connect aquatic habitat. Preference will be given to proposals that remove or retrofit high priority barriers or crossings within watersheds where barrier/crossing surveys and/or assessments are being developed or have been completed with an emphasis on lower cost/high gain methods in locations known to fragment habitat for priority species.
  • Manage Invasive Species: Eradicate or control invasive species that fundamentally alter habitat for native aquatic species or compete/hybridize with aquatic species of conservation concern. Proposals related to this activity should describe the context of the effort, i.e., is this a perpetual management issue, or an invasive species issue that is likely to be resolved? If the proposal seeks short-term support for a longer term invasive species removal effort, the proposal should describe the timeline and overall estimated cost of the longer-term effort.
  • Provide Technical Assistance: Provide targeted outreach and technical assistance to increase private landowners engaged in restoration and conservation on their lands to improve aquatic habitat. Where appropriate, leverage funding through the Farm Bill and other programs to renew or enter into new cost-share contracts. Projects should identify imbalances in sign-up and available cost-share, and use grant funding to meet excess demand or to generate new demand, as needed. Proposals must estimate the amount of miles to be restored or enhanced as a result of proposed technical assistance and outreach activities. Preference will be given to projects that increase coordination across agencies and organizations and improve delivery of landowner technical assistance for aquatic habitat improvements.


To better gauge progress on individual grants and to ensure greater consistency of project data provided by multiple grants, the Southeast Aquatics program has a list of metrics in Easygrants for grantees to choose from for reporting. We ask that applicants select only the most relevant metrics from this list for their project (all possible program metrics are shown in the table below).  If you do not believe an applicable metric has been provided, please contact Suzanne Sessine ( to discuss acceptable alternatives.

​Project Activity Recommended Metric (as listed in Easygrants) Additional Guidance​
​Riparian restoration ​Miles restored ​Enter the number of miles from this project for which habitat quality has been restored to support/increase target species presence. If there are multiple activities happening at different parts of the stream you can break out in the notes the 'distance' of impact for each activity.
​Miles of stream under improved management ​Miles of improved management ​The number of miles of stream under improved management. Examples of eligible strategies include fencing installed to exclude livestock from streams or rivers, removal or retrofit of stream barriers, establishing or enhancing riparian forest, etc.
​Number of private landowners enrolled in cost-share or stewardship programs ​# people with changed behavior ​The number of private landowners who have entered into new program contracts (including, but not limited to Farm Bill, state or other funding programs) that will implement practices to  improve aquatic habitat.
​Fish passage improvements ​Miles of stream opened ​Enter the number of stream miles.
​Fish passage improvements ​# passage barriers rectified ​In the notes section of this metric please indicate what type of barrier is being removed (i.e. culvert, etc.).
​Improved irrigation practices ​CFS of water conserved annually ​Enter the cubic feet per second of water conserved annually.
​Monitoring  ​# streams/sites being monitored ​Enter the number of streams/sites being monitored, and in the notes section indicate what aquatic species are being monitored.


Eligible and Ineligible Entities

  • Eligible applicants include non-profit 501(c) organizations, state government agencies, local governments, municipal governments, Indian tribes and educational institutions.
  • Ineligible applicants include U.S. Federal government agencies, businesses, unincorporated individuals and international organizations. 

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. 


The Southeast Aquatics program will award approximately $700,000 in grants in 2017. Grant awards will range from $75,000 to $250,000, depending on the overall scale of the project. 

Project Period: Anticipated completion time for funded projects typically will be 24 months following finalization of a grant agreement. Projects may be a discrete part of a longer-term project, provided there are definable outcomes for the proposed phase of the overall effort. The project narrative must include a clear timetable or schedule for project completion. Significant project deliverables and outcomes are expected to be achieved in year one.

Project start and end dates should define the period during which all proposed work is accomplished, all requested funds are spent and all matching funds are spent or applied. 

Match Requirement: Projects must have a minimum match of 1:1 non-federal cash or in-kind. Larger match ratios and matching fund contributions from a diversity of partners are encouraged and will be more competitive.   Applicants are encouraged to describe federal partner contributions as well in the proposal narrative, although those contributions may not count toward the minimum match.


All proposals will be screened for relevance, accuracy, completeness and compliance with NFWF and funding source policies. Proposals will then be evaluated based on the extent to which they meet the following criteria.

Program Goals and Priorities – Project contributes to the Program’s overall habitat and species conservation goals as outlined in the “Program Priorities” section above, and has specific, quantifiable performance metrics to evaluate project success. Project addresses one or more of the program priorities.

Technical Merit – Project is technically sound and feasible, and the proposal sets forth a clear, logical and achievable work plan and timeline. Project engages appropriate technical experts throughout project planning, design and implementation to ensure activities are technically-sound and feasible.

Transferability – Project has potential and plan to transfer lessons learned to other communities and/or to be integrated into government programs and policies.

Communication – Project includes a detailed plan to communicate information about the project to appropriate audiences.

Funding Need – Project establishes a clear need for the funds being requested, and demonstrates that activities would not move forward absent funding.

Conservation Plan and Context – The project advances an existing conservation plan or strategy, as outlined in the “Program Priorities” section above. 

Monitoring – Project includes a plan for monitoring progress during and after the proposed project period to track project success, including aquatic species response, and adaptively address new challenges and opportunities as they arise. 

Long-term Sustainability – Project will be maintained to ensure benefits are achieved and sustained over time. This should include how future funding will be secured to implement necessary long-term monitoring and maintenance activities.

Past Success – Applicant has a proven track record of success in implementing conservation practices with specific, measurable results.

Partnership – An appropriate partnership exists to implement the project and the project is supported by a strong local partnership that leverages additional funds and will sustain it after the life of the grant. Identify proposed partners, if known (including potential or contemplated subawards to third party subrecipients of the applicant), the roles they will play in implementing the project, and how this project will build new or enhance existing partnerships.  (Note: a project partner is any local community, non-profit organization, tribe, and/or local, state, and federal government agency that contributes to the project in a substantial way and is closely involved in the completion of the project.)


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.

Procurement – If the applicant chooses to specifically identify proposed Contractor(s) for Services, an award by NFWF to the applicant does not necessarily 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.  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.

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.  Please check NFWF’s Southeast Aquatics webpage for the most current dates and information.

​Full Proposal Due Date
​Tuesday, August 15 2017, 11:59 pm ET
Review Period
​August – October 2017
​Awards Announced
​November 2017


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 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: 

Programmatic priorities and project-related questions:
Suzanne Sessine
Program Director, Southern Coastal Programs

Application process and on-line application assistance:
Lindsay Vacek
Coordinator, Southern Regional Office

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 you are applying to and a description of the issue.


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