The Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay, in partnership with the Chesapeake Bay Program, has announced a new grants program for 1998 that is designed to deliver funds directly to watershed-based citizen organizations and local governments for environmental restoration and protection projects.

The new, Small Watershed Grants Program will award grants ranging from $2,000 to $40,000. Applicants may apply for funding for a wide range of projects from protecting fish habitat to restoring forest buffers to creating low-impact recreation sites.

"This exciting new program will pump dollars into communities for on-the-ground restoration projects to protect and restore our waterways," said Fran Flanigan, executive director for the Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay. "Every project, while directly benefiting the community, also will move us closer to restoring the Bay and its rivers."

Applications are now available and proposals are due April 1. Any nonprofit group organized for the purpose of watershed protection, recreation, community improvement or similar purposes, or any local government located in the Bay watershed in Maryland, Virginia, Pennsylvania and the District of Columbia is eligible for funding.

Interested organizations in the New York, West Virginia and Delaware portions of the watershed are encouraged to partner with an organization in the other Bay jurisdictions.

For details or a Small Watersheds Grants application packet, call the Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay at 410-377-6270, or access the Chesapeake Bay Program web site at: www.chesapeakebay.net/bayprogram

The Small Watersheds Grants Program continues the ongoing Bay Program effort to "move upstream" into the Bay's tributaries. Preferences will be given to on-the-ground projects that support Bay Program restoration goals such as reducing nutrient and toxic pollution, protecting habitat, restoring fisheries and promoting sustainable patterns of development. Funding for this 1998 program was made possible through the EPA and the Chesapeake Bay Program.

Grants will be administered by the Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay, a regional nonprofit organization. The Alliance will work in conjunction with the Bay Program's Local Government Advisory Committee.