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Water: Nutrients Benefits Valuation

Nutrients Benefits Valuation: Frequent Questions

NOTE

The last day for the submittal of questions was Wednesday, April 18, 2007. No additional questions or answers will be posted to this page.

This solicitation is now closed. Award information will be posted here when awards have been made.

Q. Are Councils of governments and Regional Planning Councils eligible to apply?
A. Yes, associations that represent local governments and/or state governments are eligible to apply. (April 16, 2007)
Q. Would a study scope of one large estuary, where information on water quality data is available for a long period of time and where economic valuations were made in the past, meet the intent of the program objectives?
A. With regard to study scope, there is no minimum size requirement. However as a general rule, larger study areas are likely to have greater applicability to other regions. Furthermore, all proposals should include a discussion of how the proposed study area is of sufficient scope that study results would be applicable to an EPA defined nutrient ecoregion, subecoregion, or an area of comparable size.
Selecting an area that has existing water quality data would likely be helpful for conducting the study, but it is not a specific criteria for consideration when EPA is selecting proposals. Proposed study areas do not need to be limited to areas where previous studies have not been performed. However, if there are existing studies for your proposed study area, it would be helpful to include a brief description of these previous studies and their findings and how your proposed study either builds upon these results or is uniquely different. (April 16, 2007)
Q. Would a proposal for developing a nutrient reduction economic benefits assessment methodology and then validating it through surveys conducted in a representative state from two different nutrient ecoregions be too broad?
A. No, it would not be too broad. (April 16, 2007)
Q. Under the Clean Water Act, states designated uses (aquatic life, primary/secondary contact, drinking water, etc) and developed Water Quality Standards (including nutrient standards) to protect those uses. In reviewing the RFP, on page 8 it references anticipated environmental outputs related to aquatic habitat and recreational opportunities. Is there any benefit in the evaluation criteria to including economic valuations/benefits to drinking water in our analysis?
A. This solicitation does place a greater emphasis on non-market benefits, and improved aquatic habitat and recreational benefits are two important categories of non-market benefits. However, there was no intention to limit emphasis to the designated uses of aquatic life or primary/secondary contact in the solicitation. The designated use of drinking water supply is certainly covered under this grant solicitation. Addressing all relevant designated uses in one study area is likely to improve the study's comprehensiveness in addressing the effects of nutrients. (April 16, 2007)
Q. The RFP requests that work focus on U.S. EPA's ecoregions. What level of the regions are considered relevant, I, II, III or IV?
A. The 14 nutrient ecoregions are aggregations of EPA's 84 level III ecoregions, and were used for developing EPA's recommended numeric nutrient criteria. Projects are not required to focus on a nutrient ecoregion to be eligible. However, proposals will be evaluated based on whether or not their project's scope is large enough to address one of the EPA defined nutrient ecoregions, a subecoregion, or an area of comparable scope, as well as the potential for for projects to produce empirical results that can be transferred to other ecoregions and/or refined to use for subecoregions or classes of water bodies by the State. More information on the EPA nutrient ecoregions. (March 29, 2007)
Q. Would a more focused study of the Chesapeake Bay (for example) be competitive or should a competitive study have a larger geographic focus?
A. The Chesapeake Bay watershed, which overlaps with more than one nutrient ecoregion, is sufficiently large to be considered an area of comparable scope. However, a study of the Chesapeake Bay estuary only would have greater applicability to other regions if it also considered nutrient impacts to the estuary's tributary waters as well. (March 29, 2007)
Q. The RFP refers to products that will help on the state level, but U.S. EPA's ecoregions do not follow geo-political boundaries. Where is the more important focus, ecoregion or state?
A. The more important focus is on ecoregion boundaries, although both are important to different aspects of the project. Nutrient ecoregion boundaries are meant to distinguish differences in waterbody sensitivity to changes in nitrogen and phosphorus loadings. These identified differences in waterbody sensitivity are why EPA used the nutrient ecoregions to develop its recommended numeric nutrient criteria, and should be considered when determining the change in environmental services that result from reducing nutrient loads. EPA has encouraged States to use these nutrient ecoregions as a starting point for developing their own criteria and recommends subdividing these ecoregions if doing so would be more protective of State waters. A study focusing on a particular nutrient ecoregion will likely be useful to all of those States who have territory within the ecoregion. While most States are comprised of areas in multiple nutrient ecoregions, many States are dominated by one or two nutrient ecoregions. (March 29, 2007)
Q. The RFP asks for an identification of all major benefits of nutrient reduction, but then seems to focus on recreation benefits. Does a proposal have to address (provide value estimates for) all major benefits of nutrient reduction to be competitive (e.g. drinking water treatment, fishing and recreation, property values, habitat improvement)?
A. There is no intended emphasis on recreational benefits in the solicitation. This solicitation does place a greater emphasis on non-market benefits, and improved aquatic habitat and recreational benefits are two important category of non-market benefits. Proposed studies should attempt to at least identify all nutrient-related effects, and all major benefits of nutrient reduction. However, to be eligible for consideration proposed studies do not need to address all major benefits, but they should address at least one major benefit. (March 29, 2007)
Q. What is meant by studies must provide "information that will help the states"? Are you looking for a study that provides a "model" that states (all or a group?) can use to obtain benefit estimates? Are you looking for a pilot study that provides an example for what can be done by states in other ecoregions? Would a project that estimates a model from one locality for non-market valuation be "helpful" if it requires states to collect data and estimate a local version of the model for their situations?
A. A study could provide a model for a state, group of states, or all states to use; proposers taking this approach should explain the degree to which their model can be used by the States. Obtaining empirical results is one of the selection criteria, and a pilot study would meet that criteria. A model focused on certain ecoregions or states could be helpful to other ecoregions or states, even if it requires the collection of additional data. Whether the proposed study intends to develop a model or case study example, the proposal needs to clearly describe how the end results will be relevant to helping States develop estimates of the monetary benefits, and should also explain how the results might be transferable to other States not included in the study area. (March 29, 2007)
Q. While not stated, it appears the RFP is focused on the use of existing data, not the collection of new data? It also appears that the RFP is asking for a benefit transfer approach (e.g. meta analysis), not a primary valuation method like travel-cost, hedonics or stated preferences Is this true?
A. The solicitation specifically does not suggest a preferred type of data or study approach. Instead, the solicitation intentionally places emphasis the efficacy of study results. The solicitation requires all proposals to articulate how the proposed study results will be relevant to helping States develop estimates of the monetary benefits. The solicitation also places emphasis on the transferability of study results. (March 29, 2007)
Q. Is it acceptable to use existing nutrient loading/water quality data and refine the valuation approach or does the proposal need to include a nutrient loading function that translates to water quality and is then used in the valuation component?
A. It is acceptable to use either existing nutrient loading/ water quality data or a nutrient loading function that translates to water quality. However, the use of a function that models the response of one or more water quality parameters to nutrient loads may improve the transferability of the study results. (March 29, 2007)
Q. What water quality levels does the RFP refer to - health of ecosystems, safe to drink, fish consumption advisories, safe to swim?
A. The solicitation does not limit proposed studies to the use of specific measurements for water quality. Instead the solicitation requires that proposed studies use indicators of water quality that are quantifiable and that are directly related to one or more designated uses assigned to waterbodies being considered for the study. (March 29, 2007)
Q. Does the study of increased costs of drinking water treatment resulting from B-G algae taste/odor, geosimin, and halogen by-products due to eutrophication from excess nutrients input qualify under this grant opportunity?
A. Benefits associated with reducing nutrients to waters with the designated use of drinking water supply are certainly covered under this grant solicitation. Proposers should consider that addressing one designated use may imply that their results are not fully representative of all waters within an ecoregion, and this may hamper the transferability of the results. Addressing multiple designated uses in one study area may improve the comprehensiveness in addressing the effects of nutrients. (March 19, 2007)
Q. Is an organization that is based in a foreign country eligible to submit a proposal?
A. The criteria for eligible applicants does not prohibit foreign-based organizations from consideration. However, all other eligibility requirements, such as not being a for-profit entity, still apply. Furthermore, proposed projects must demonstrate relevance to helping States develop estimates of the monetary benefits associated with nutrient reductions in State waters. Proposals for projects that do not produce results directly relevant for one or more States would not be considered eligible. (March 19, 2007)
Q. Is it possible for a proposal to be funded if it includes the development of sensors that determine the concentration of nutrients in waters?
A. Developing sensors is an allowed activity according to the statutory authority in the Clean Water Act for this grant program (see section I.C of the solicitation). Proposals will be judged, however, according to the criteria listed in section V. (March 07, 2007)
Q. Does EPA want to see a detailed budget breakdown for each of the two project years in addition to the SF424A? Should this detailed budget breakdown specify and justify all budgeted items? Does this detailed budget breakdown count towards the 15 page limit?
A. Yes, EPA requires a section with detailed budget estimates for each work component/task in the project description. The purpose is to supplement the SF 424A with narrative explanations of the budget items, which will help in assessing the reasonableness of the budget and its major work components/tasks. However, you may use your discretion as to the level of detail provided. In general, the larger the cost, the more likely it would need to be specified and justified, though some items are more self-explanatory than others. The narrative section is included in the 15-page limit. However, the SF424 and SF424A forms do not count toward the 15-page limit. (March 07, 2007)
Q. What should I do if I'm having trouble registering with Grants.gov page?
A. First, try the toll-free number for Grants.gov given in the solicitation, (800) 518-4726. You may be experiencing compatibility issues between certain browsers (e.g., Firefox) and Grants.gov. (Feb 22, 2007)
Q. If the total amount of funding available is $500K, and this is expected to fund one or two proposals, does this means that there will not be a grant awarded in each state, but one or two for the entire United States?
A. Yes. (Feb 22, 2007)
Q. Are there any links to prior awards available?
A. This is the first solicitation on this specific topic. You may find it helpful to review information on grants awarded through other grant programs at EPA. However, every solicitation is different, and success under one program is no guarantee of success under another. Successful applications are generally those most responsive to the solicitation under which they are funded. See information on research grants awarded through the Science to Achieve Results (STAR) program in EPA's Office of Research and Development, or more limited information for EPA grants in general by using the grants information query. (Feb 22, 2007)
Q. What happens if I submit an application late?
A. If submitted by courier, it will be returned to you without being reviewed.
Q. Are there any other things that could cause my application to be rejected?
A. Virtually all mistakes that disqualify applications can be avoided by reading the RFA, accompanying instructions, and carefully following directions. Give yourself enough lead-time before the closing date so you can review all the forms and ensure everything is in the correct place.
Q. What if I make a mistake on a form? Can I correct it, or will it cause the application to be rejected?
A. There are many types of mistakes and some will result in your application being rejected; others will have no effect on the review process or your chance of being funded. If you identify a significant mistake before the closing date, contact the person identified in the RFP. If you have time to resubmit your application within the deadline, you might want to send in a revised, complete application with a clear notation that it is to replace the version with the error. After the deadline for the RFP closes, you will not be able to correct any errors.
Q. What happens if my proposal is longer than the specified page limit?
A. We will only consider the pages up to and including the last allowable page.
Q. Do you reveal the names of the reviewers?
A. To ensure that reviewers are able to express their opinions, and are not compromised in any way, we do not make their identities public.
Q. When will I be notified about the status of my application? How can I find out if my application is successful?
A. An e-mail will be sent to the Principal Investigator (with a copy to the Administrative Contact) to acknowledge receipt of the application and to transmit other important information. We will then notify you, either when your application has been rejected or when it is approved for funding. Until the entire review process is complete, if you call us to determine the status of your application, the only response you will receive is: "Your application is still under review." You will be contacted if your application has been selected for an award.
Q. What happens when EPA decides to fund my application?
A. Once your application is selected for an award, your project officer will contact you with further instructions. We may be able to fund only a portion of your proposal, and would let you know what portion at that time. We also will ask for various certifications from your institution asserting that it and you will adhere to the requirements of a number of relevant federal laws, such as nondiscrimination, lobbying restrictions, human subjects approval, animal welfare, and financial management, and possibly a quality assurance plan. Then we prepare a "package" recommending funding that is sent, along with all the required forms and documents, to the EPA Grants Administration Division (GAD). GAD performs an administrative review of the funding documents and approves the grant package. When this process is complete, GAD sends an award letter to your institution, with a copy to your project officer, who will contact you, typically by telephone. When you receive this letter, it means your grant is officially funded.
Q. Who receives the grant, the researcher or the institution?
A. The institution. Note that if the researcher changes institutions and wants to "take" the grant with him or her, he/she must get the agreement of the institution he/she is leaving, and the cooperation of the institution to which he/she is going. The new institution must also be eligible to receive a grant from EPA.
Q. Is there any advice you can give me on how to get an application funded?
A. In the interest of fairness, project officers cannot give individual advice to potential applicants. EPA tries to provide all the information that is needed in the RFP itself so that you can make an accurate determination on how responsive your research is to the RFP requirements.
Q. What are my chances of getting a grant?
A. This will depend on the number and quality of proposals received.
Q. Can I find out which applications were funded?
A. After the applications have been funded, the abstracts will be posted. We will post this information within 30 days of award.
Q. Anything else I should know?
A. The value of preparation cannot be overstated. Give yourself a lot of lead-time to put together a study team and then prepare and carefully review the application, making sure it is responsive to the solicitation.

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