Clean Water Act: Section 319 Grant Program
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Federal programs can provide significant funding for local green infrastructure programs. Federal funding can come in the form of competitive grants or formula programs.See footnote 1 that local governments are already likely to be receiving. Grant funding may provide a local government with the resources to implement green infrastructure projects. However, federal grants can be highly competitive, may require lengthy application, are limited in size and scope, and often are awarded on a one-time basis. Many federal grants require a funding match from state or local sources for some percentage of the awarded funds. Some funding sources also prohibit the use of grant funding for operations and maintenance expenses. Local governments that use grant funding for green infrastructure installation should take these factors into account and recognize the importance of identifying additional funding streams to support on-going expenditures.See footnote 2
Local governments can expand opportunities for federal funding by designing green infrastructure projects in ways that maximize particular co-benefits. For example, designing bioswales with native plants may provide eligibility for wildlife conservation or pollinator grant funding (e.g., State Wildlife Grant Programs, funded by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service).See footnote 3 Similarly, green infrastructure can be included in local programs that already receive or apply for federal funding, such as transportation projects or disaster recovery plans.
This toolkit covers several types of federal funds in more detail below: 1) water quality; 2) economic and community development; 3) disaster recovery; and 4) transportation. Within each substantive area, some federal funding strategies are competitive grant programs and some are regularly given, formula grant programs.
Green infrastructure projects may be funded by federal programs that support efforts to reduce water pollution and manage stormwater. Programs include the US Environmental Protection Agency’s Section 319 Nonpoint Source ProgramSee footnote 4 and the Urban Waters Small Grants Program (UWSG). Under Section 319 (of the Clean Water Act), EPA provides grant funding to states to reduce pollution from stormwater runoff and other sources; EPA recognizes the “importance of green infrastructure … in managing stormwater” has made clear that funds can be used for green infrastructure projects.See footnote 5 EPA’s UWSG Program focuses on improving the quality of urban waters and stimulating neighborhood revitalization in underserved communities, and can be used specifically for innovative or new green infrastructure practices.
Community development money can be used to fund green infrastructure because these projects can create jobs, increase economic activity, and increase property values. Urban tree planting can increase economic activity in a commercial district.See footnote 6 Additionally, green infrastructure can increase property values by mitigating flooding, improving neighborhood aesthetics, and providing other co-benefits.See footnote 7 As a result, green infrastructure can be funded using Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program funding (formula funding), administered by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).
Local governments eligible for disaster recovery and relief funding following a presidentially declared disaster may be able to use this federal funding to pay for green infrastructure projects. Many local governments have included green infrastructure in disaster recovery and rebuilding plans to mitigate flood risk and manage stormwater. The FEMA Hazard Mitigation Grant Program (HMGP) provides post-disaster federal aid to states to mitigate the risks of future disasters and can fund flood mitigation projects, including acquisition and relocation of flood-prone properties and soil stabilization projects like the installation of vegetative buffer strips.See footnote 8 The Community Development Block Grant – Disaster Recovery (CDBG-DR) program also provides federal aid to states post-disaster, and funds can be used for a variety of community development activities that benefit low- and moderate-income individuals, reduce blight, or address an urgent community need. In rehabilitating housing and constructing public amenities, cities may be able to incorporate green infrastructure techniques (like street trees and permeable pavements) in street design.
Green infrastructure projects are often eligible for transportation funding because they improve transportation networks by efficiently and cost-effectively mitigating street and alley flooding.See footnote 9 The U.S. Department of Transportation’s (DOT’s) Transportation Alternatives Program (TAP) provides funding for “transportation alternatives,” including “off-road trail facilities for pedestrians, bicyclists, and other non-motorized forms of transportation.” TAP funding could be used to pay for green infrastructure components of trails and sidewalks such as permeable pavements.See footnote 10 The Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality (CMAQ) program allocates federal funding for infrastructure projects that reduce congestion and improve air quality.See footnote 11 Bicycle transportation and pedestrian walkways are eligible uses of the money, and can be designed to include green infrastructure features, such as permeable surfaces for trails, and bioswales and bioretention for areas adjacent to trail surfaces. The Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) program funds investments in road, rail, transit and port projects. TIGER grants have been awarded to projects that included green infrastructure components.See footnote 12
1. In this toolkit, we define grant funding as those sources of funding that are given at the discretion of the agency disbursing the funds, for example the EPA’s Urban Waters Small Grants program. We define formula funding as those sources of funding that are awarded to states or local governments by a preset formula each year, for example HUD’s Community Development Block Grant program. Back to contentBack to content
2. EPA “Green Infrastructure Opportunities that Arise During Municipal Operations” (January 2015) at 9. Back to contentBack to content
3. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration Program, available at View Source. | Back to contentBack to content
4. Nonpoint source pollution is pollution caused by rainfall running over the ground, particularly impervious surfaces, and carrying pollutants including trash, oil and grease, and fertilizers into nearby waterways. U.S. EPA, What is Nonpoint Source? View Source | Back to contentBack to content
5. U.S. EPA, Nonpoint Source Program and Grants Guidelines for States and Territories, 25 (2013), View Source. | Back to contentBack to content
6. Wolf, K.L. 2013. The Urban Forest. Communities & Banking. View Source. | Back to contentBack to content
7. A 2004 study by Susan Wachter from The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania quantified benefits of neighborhood greening efforts. Specific findings include that the improvement of adjacent lots can increase property value by up to 30 percent and that a green streetscape will boost a home’s property value by $23,000. See Economy League of Greater Philadelphia, Implementing Green Infrastructure: Developing a Winning Strategy to Fund Philadelphia’s Ambitious Visions (2009) at 6. Back to contentBack to content
8. FEMA, “Hazard Mitigation Assistance Guidance: Hazard Mitigation Grant Program, Pre-Disaster Mitigation Program, and Flood Mitigation Assistance Program” (February 2015) at 36. Back to contentBack to content
9. The Chicago Department of Transportation (CDOT)’s Green Alleys Handbook estimates that green alley design could return up to 80% of rainwater back into the ground, reducing localized flooding. Chicago experiences frequent rainwater flooding in its alleyways, which were traditionally paved in impermeable asphalt or concrete and not typically connected to the combined sewer system. Green Alley Handbook at 11. Back to contentBack to content
10. 23 U.S.C. 101(a)(29) Back to contentBack to content
11. 23 U.S.C. 217 Back to contentBack to content
12. U.S. Department of Transportation, Tiger I Grants, available at View Source. | Back to contentBack to content
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