General FAQs

Rev. 12/10/2020


Q1:  For grant projects that are approved and funded by the BWSR Board, when can work begin on those grant projects?

A:  Work cannot begin on any BWSR Clean Water Fund grant project until the date when the grant is officially executed by BWSR. The project period starts when the grant agreement is “executed,” meaning all required signatures have been obtained. Work that occurs before this date is not eligible for reimbursement with grant funds and cannot be used as match. A work plan must be completed by the grantee and approved by BWSR staff before the grant agreement can be signed by BWSR. The work plan is incorporated into the grant agreement by reference.

Q2:  In the BWSR grant payment schedule, does the first 50% of the funds need to be spent or encumbered to receive the next 40% payment?

A:  Yes, the first 50% of the funds must be expended before requesting or receiving the next payment.  For information regarding the payment schedule, please see the BWSR Grants Manual:  http://www.bwsr.state.mn.us/grants/manual/#/Grant Reimbursement/43/top 

Q3:  Is there a spending limit for administration cost or technical costs?

A:  No, there are no specific spending limits per grant budget category. However, costs must be reasonable, direct, and necessary. The grant agreement includes a clause that requires grantees to minimize administration costs. Ensure that costs are allocated to the appropriate budget category. 

Q4:  What are the terms of the grant; when do the dollars need to be spent?

A:  The grants are 3-year agreements.  The grant end date is included in the grant agreement.

Q5:  Prevailing wages apply to the use of state funds. What are the grant applicant’s responsibilities for compliance?

A:  Prevailing wage requirements apply to all state funds used for “projects” that meet the definition identified in M.S 177.42 Subd. 2.  As the RFP states, your first source of information for questions about the application of prevailing wage rates should be directed to the Department of Labor and Industry at 651-284-5091, or https://www.dli.mn.gov/business/employment-practices/prevailing-wage-faqs

The following information may help you better understand these requirements.

The responsibilities of a grant recipient are to: (1) be aware of prevailing wage and ensure their project’s cost proposals address this requirement; (2) include prevailing wage information in their bid and contract documents; and (3) receive and maintain the payroll reports that contractors will furnish every two weeks. Prevailing wage does not apply to administrative activities of the grant recipient or construction activities directly conducted by a local government, i.e. if an SWCD uses its own staff to plant trees, prevailing wage would not apply, but if they contracted with Joe’s Planting Service it would.

Q6:  What can be used for in-kind cash value as match?

A:  In-kind cash value has to be directly attributed to the project or activity accomplishments.

Use the following guidance when determining in-kind cash value:

  1. Local staff and administrative costs in excess of the reporting and grant management, project development or technical and engineering component of the CWF grant funds received.
  2. Conservation practice costs may not be increased beyond the actual costs of technical assistance, design, materials, and installation by the application of match. In no case may conservation practice costs exceed 100% of the actual cost of design, materials, and installation. Land value match may only be used to match structural or installed conservation practices and may only be applied where changes from current land use or land cover are implemented such that water resource protection becomes the new primary objective for the land under consideration.

Q7:  Is snow and ice equipment used in efforts to reduce chloride impairments eligible?

A:  Yes, this type of equipment is eligible. 

Q8:  What should the required feasibility study for in-lake management practices contain?

A:  The feasibility study could be the result of a number of studies over several years, but consolidated into a document that can be readily uploaded to eLINK to accompany the submitted work plan. Feasibility studies should assess the effectiveness of an in-lake treatment versus implementing additional watershed treatment practices at this time.  The feasibility study must include:  

  1. Lake and watershed information (at minimum, include lake morphology and depth, summary of water quality information, and the assessment of aquatic invasive species);
  2.  Description of internal load vs. external load reductions;
  3. History of projects completed in the watershed, as well as other in-lake treatments if applicable;
  4. Cost benefit analysis of treatment options; Projected effective life of the proposed treatment

Q9:  Is carp removal to improve water quality an eligible activity?

A:  Carp removal is an in-lake management activity.   The items identified in Q8 are required for all in-lake management practices) In addition, carp management must include the following information:       

  1. Methods to estimate adult and juvenile carp populations;
  2. Description of the interconnectedness of waterbodies (lakes, ponds, streams, wetlands, etc.);
  3. Identification of nursery areas;
  4. Methods to track carp movement;
  5. Proposed actions to limit recruitment and movement
  6. Proposed actions to reduce adult carp populations.

Q10:  Are non-structural BMPs, such as reduced tillage, eligible for funding?

A:  Non-structural BMPs including those related to changes in tillage practices are eligible. All practices must meet the minimum effective life requirements identified in the appropriate technical standard.  SWCDs may use an existing approved Non-structural Land Management Policy to guide the use of watershed based implementation funds.

Q11:  Are MINNFARM pollution estimates based on the pollution problem at the existing feedlot today or the reduction of pollution after the fix has been implemented?

A:  For the purposes of measurability, BWSR needs to know the MINNFARM pollution data (index and loading numbers) from the existing feedlot that is currently a pollution problem. For funded projects, the pollution reduction achieved from implementing the fix must be entered into eLINK during the work plan and reporting phases of the grant.

Q12:  For underground manure storage structures, are the slats that are placed on top of the storage structure eligible for funding?

A:  No. Slats are considered a part of the barn or production facility, and are not considered part of the manure storage structure, and are not eligible for funding.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   

Q13:  Can SSTS systems be replaced on commercial property?  commercial property?

A:  No.  Imminent Threats to Public Health Systems (ITPHS) or SSTS that are not protective of ground water must be located on residential property.

Q14:  Are flood control projects eligible for funding?

A:  The primary purpose of activities funded through this pilot program is to implement projects and programs that protect, enhance, and restore surface and ground water quality. Projects that provide multiple benefits beyond water quality are eligible and encouraged.

Q15:  How are WBIF dollars allocated?

A:  WBIF dollars were allocated statewide using a formula of 90% private (non-federal, non-state, non-tribal) lands and 10% public waters (lakes, streams, wetlands, ditches). Note that watershed areas outside the 7-County Twin Cities Metro Area also included a $250,000 minimum before the formula was used.

Q16:  Does BWSR require project assurances for WBIF activities and if so, what is required?

A:  Yes, BWSR requires assurances including Operation and Maintenance Plans that ensure the installed practices and projects meet the purposes of the grant program, will remain in place for the lifespan expected, and will provide the water quality benefits for which they were designed.  Factors such as grant program requirements, partners, landownership, type of practices, and cost influence what type of and when certain assurances are required or used. For more information, please refer to the WBIF Policy and Project and Practice Assurance section of BWSR’s Grants Administration Manual. While all structural practices require assurances, it is important to note that streambank stabilization, stream restoration, and in-lake management projects (e.g. alum treatment and roughfish management) will require BWSR review of project and/or financial assurance agreements.

Q17:  When does a feasibility study have to be completed if an entity proposes to implement an in-lake management project (e.g. alum treatment, roughfish management) with WBIF funds?

A:  A feasibility study must be completed, reviewed and approved by BWSR staff prior to submitting a budget request for in-lake implementation activities. The feasibility study must include the items required by the WBIF Policy.

Q18:  Can a BWSR-funded study and project both be completed in one grant period?

A:  BWSR recommends completing a study in one grant period and implementing the project in a different grant period. In some cases, it may be  acceptable to do both depending on the information needed for  the study and the scope of the project with the exception of in-lake management activities.

 

Seven-County Twin Cities Metropolitan Area (TCMA) FAQs*

*Note that the General FAQs above also apply to WBIF used in the TCMA, but the following FAQs relate only to Metro WBIF dollars.

Q19:  If a Metro WMO or WD has a watershed management plan that is expired, is the local government able to receive WBIF funding?

A:  No. Plans need to be current in order to enter into a grant agreement with BWSR.

Q20:  How are Metro WMO and WD watershed management plans and Metropolitan groundwater plans defined as “current”?

A:  These plans are not current if it is more than 10 years beyond the BWSR plan approval date unless the plan states a lesser period of time.

Q21:  What is the deadline for having an approved Metro WMO or WD watershed management plan or Metropolitan groundwater plan (if it is in the process of a plan update) or an amendment to a plan?

A:  It is in the best interest of each local government to have an approved plan prior to the start of the metro convene meetings. However, it is up to each Metro WIP if it wishes to entertain projects identified in a draft plan or plan amendment awaiting approval. However, a plan must be approved and locally adopted prior to the submittal of the budget request to BWSR. Note that if a work plan is not approved by BWSR by March 30, 2021, the funds will no longer be available to the WIP and the funds would be redistributed through the WBIF Program.

Q22:  Can you verify what is meant by at least two municipalities must participate in the convene process?

A:  BWSR’s interpretation of the WBIF Policy is that two municipalities will participate as decision-making representatives in metro convene meetings for each Metro WIP. These two representatives will be self-selected by the municipalities in each metro watershed allocation area. If additional municipalities wish to attend the convene meetings they can but they will not be part of the decision-making process.

Q23:  Are cities and townships within the TCMA eligible for this funding?

A:  Cities and townships with approved local water plans under MINN. STAT. 103B.235 are eligible to receive funds. Note that eligible activities (as defined by WBIF Policy) must be identified in the implementation section of a state approved, locally adopted comprehensive watershed management plan developed under MINN. STAT. §103B.801, watershed management plan required under §103B.231, metropolitan groundwater plan authorized under §103B.255, or metro soil and water conservation district annual work plan authorized under §103C.331.

Q24:  Projects identified in current Metropolitan Groundwater Plans are considered eligible. How will these projects be compared to surface water projects?

A:  Prioritization between groundwater and surface water activities will be decided by each Metro Watershed Implementation Partnership (WIP). Funding is intended to be holistic and flexible so priorities and projects for each can be included in the budget request if the partners agree on prioritizing both.

Q25:  Some watersheds (e.g. Cannon River Watershed) span areas within the TCMA and non-metro areas. Can WBIF funding from a metro allocation area be spent outside the TCMA?

A:  Yes, metro allocation area dollars may be spent outside of the TCMA as long as those activities are identified in a comprehensive watershed management plan developed under MINN. STAT. §103B.801 and there is agreement amongst the Metro WIP to spend all or a portion of this funding in this manner through the metro convene process. Note that participants in Metro WIPs are defined by WBIF Policy.

Eligible activities (as defined by WBIF Policy) must be identified in the implementation section of a state approved, locally adopted comprehensive watershed management plan developed under MINN. STAT. §103B.801, watershed management plan required under §103B.231, metropolitan groundwater plan authorized under §103B.255, or metro soil and water conservation district annual work plan authorized under §103C.331.

Q26:  Should the budget request for WBIF be submitted to BWSR by the Metro WIP or each local government proposed to receive funding?

A:  A budget request should be submitted by each local government that will hold a grant agreement with BWSR.

Q27:  What happens if local governments in a Metro WIP decide to enter into separate grant agreements with BWSR and one local government is not able to use the funds granted to them?

A:  It depends. If the grantee has an additional project(s) that is similar in nature (e.g. comparable pollution reductions to the same water resource), the work plan could be revised and the grant agreement could be amended. However, this may also depend if the WIP decided to reconvene the partnership in this scenario. If a local government has no similar projects, then the funds would need to be returned to BWSR and the funds would be redistributed through the WBIF Program. Please contact BWSR staff and refer to the Grant Agreement Amendments and Work Plan Revisions section of BWSR’s Grants Administration Manual.

 

Acronyms:

BWSR – Board of Water and Soil Resources

TCMA – 7-County Twin Cities Metropolitan Area

WBIF – Watershed-based Implementation Funding

WD – Watershed District

WMO – Watershed Management Organization

WIP – Watershed Implementation Partnership