The EPA has selected the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, based in Washington, D.C., to administer the Small Watershed Grants Program in the Chesapeake Bay region.

The popular program, now in its second year, provides financial assistance and support to local governments and watershed groups undertaking a variety of watershed improvement projects.

“Rivers and streams are the lifeblood of the Chesapeake Bay and of thousands of communities in our region,” said Sen. Paul Sarbanes, D-MD, who worked to secure $750,000 for the program in each of the past two years.

“Under the stewardship of the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, these grants will enable local governments and citizen organizations in our region to undertake a variety of projects, including tree plantings and river cleanups to protect their waters and, ultimately, improve our quality of life and the health of the Bay,” Sarbanes said.

The Fish and Wildlife Foundation replaces the Center for Chesapeake Communities and the Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay as the group responsible for reviewing grant requests and overseeing the program.

The Center for Chesapeake Communities, which handled grants going to local governments, withdrew from the program after the EPA Region III’s Inspector General raised questions about its handling of other grant money.

At that point, the Bay Program issued a “Request for Proposals” from nonprofit organizations interested in reviewing applications and administering the programs.

The foundation was the successful applicant to administer the program after the EPA issued a request for proposals on June 15, 1999. It will begin reviewing grant proposals this fall.

Originally, applications for this year’s program had been due May 15, with funds awarded around July 1.

Because of the change in administration and the funding delay, organizations that submitted proposals earlier this year will be contacted about the status of their applications. The foundation is expected to accept new proposals as well.

Eligible entities for small assistance awards include nonprofit organizations, interstate agencies, educational institutions, citizen organizations and local governments. Awards typically range from $5,000 to $35,000 per project. Final grant awards are likely to be made in January.

For information about applying for a grant, check out the Bay Program’s web site: www.chesapeakebay.net