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Taking a Deep Dive into 319 Grants

Since 1987, federal dollars have been allocated to states under the Clean Water Act to support activities that reduce nonpoint source (NPS) pollution. NPS pollution comes from many diffuse sources and is caused by rainfall or snowmelt picking up natural or human-made pollutants as it runs over and through the ground. It is the leading cause of water quality issues in most states and has harmful effects on drinking water supplies, recreation, fisheries, and wildlife.

These funds, known as Section 319 Grants, are often used to implement approved watershed-based plans that help improve and maintain state water quality standards. While individual states set their programs should align with the following federal funding guidelines. These include:

  • Updating state NPS management programs
  • Groundwater protection activities
  • Protecting unimpaired/high-quality water resources
  • Lake protection and restoration activities
  • Urban runoff activities
  • Abandoned mine reclamation activities
  • Agricultural conservation projects

One important note: pollution control activities mandated under the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination Systems (NPDES) program aren’t eligible for Section 319 funding.

Meeting the Requirements

Eligible states are allocated federal funding from the Section 319 program on an annual basis and manage and disburse these funds according to their approved NPS Management Plan. State-funded projects must meet nine key elements that serve as a roadmap to show a project is eligible for funding under the Clean Water Act provisions established in 1987. These elements are:

  1. Causes and sources of NPS
  2. Estimate of pollutant load restrictions
  3. Solutions to be implemented and critical area of implementation
  4. Project costs and project partners
  5. Public information/education component
  6. Schedule for implementation
  7. Description of project milestones
  8. Criteria for achieving load reductions and/or water quality standards
  9. Monitoring of project criteria

Eligible projects for funding under this program must meet these basic nine elements and be included in an approved nine-element compatible watershed plan. Davey Resource Group can assist you with scoping your project for compatibility with this funding, as well as with the development of new nine-element plans or updating existing nine-element plans to include your project.

Application Tips

Filling out a 319 Grant application can be overwhelming. Here are a few tips to set your application apart from the rest when you’re seeking funding through this opportunity:

  • Note any priority funding highlights, if applicable
  • Use the U.S. EPA’s spreadsheet tool for eliminating pollutant loads (STEPL) to create a basic load reduction model
  • Tie in your project to a total maximum daily load report, if available
  • Include other plan or report alignments, such as source water plans, previous watershed plans, and financial management plans
  • Outline ways to evaluate the project’s success, such as water quality criteria, as-built plan confirmation, and stakeholder feedback
  • Be realistic about timeframes for elements like the public bidding process, permitting, construction, optimal planting times, and in-water work restrictions
  • Some state programs require a local match of project funds, so have local match pledged or allocated prior to submitting the application

Davey Resource Group, Inc. (DRG) can help you fill out your 319 Grant application, from performing any required work to writing the application itself. For more information about the 319 Grant and its application process, watch our recent webinar or contact your local DRG office.