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CLOSED - FOR REFERENCES PURPOSES ONLY

Assessing the Condition of Great Rivers Using Benthic and Planktonic Algal Indicators

This is the initial announcement of this funding opportunity.

Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance (CFDA) Number: 66.511

RFA issued: November 9, 2004
Final date to submit technical questions: November 30, 2004
Proposals due: January 7, 2005
New Closing Date: Extended to February 2, 2005

Point of Contact: Craig L. Johnson
Telephone: 218-529-5016
Telefax: 218-529-5015
E-mail: johnson.craig@epa.gov

REQUEST FOR APPLICATION (RFA) FOR AWARD OF A COOPERATIVE AGREEMENT

OVERVIEW INFORMATION
Executive Summary
FULL TEXT OF ANNOUNCEMENT
I. Funding Opportunity Description
II. Award Information
III. Eligibility Information
IV. Application and Submission Information
V. Application Review Information
VI. Award Administration Information
VII. Agency Contact
VIII. Other Information

Questions and Answers

Points of Contact

Craig L. Johnson, 218-529-5016, johnson.craig@epa.gov

OVERVIEW INFORMATION

Funding Agency: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
Laboratory: National Health and Environmental Effects Research Laboratory
Division: Mid-Continent Ecology Division
Funding Opportunity Title: Assessing the Condition of Great Rivers Using Benthic and Planktonic Algal Indicators

Announcement Type: Initial Announcement
Funding Opportunity Number: EPA/ORD/NHEERL/MED-FY2005-DUL1031
Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance (CFDA) Number: 66.511 OFFICE OF RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT Consolidated Research

Action Dates

RFA issued: November 9, 2004
Final date to submit technical questions: November 30, 2004
Proposals due: January 7, 2005

Executive Summary

In support of the Agency’s Environmental Monitoring and Assessment Program (EMAP) survey of the Great Rivers of the central United States, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is issuing a request for applications (RFA) for the development and interpretation of indicators of the ecological conditions of the Great Rivers based on phytoplankton and periphyton assemblages (and associated measurements) such as chlorophyll and biomass.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), National Health and Environmental Effects Research Laboratory (NHEERL), Mid-Continent Ecology Division (MED), as part of a broad research effort called the Environmental Monitoring and Assessment Program (EMAP), has initiated a survey of the biological condition of the Great Rivers (e.g., the Mississippi, Missouri, and Ohio Rivers) and environmental factors that might be associated with good or poor condition in these rivers. EPA is soliciting research to: (1) develop the monitoring tools (biological indicators, survey designs, estimates of reference condition) necessary to produce unbiased estimates of the ecological condition of the Great Rivers of the central United States; (2) demonstrate those tools in a large-scale assessment; and (3) determine the relative risk to these rivers from a comprehensive list of potential stressors.

EMAP-Great Rivers will utilize a probabilistic sample design, by which sites are chosen to be statistically representative of the population of large floodplain rivers (the Great Rivers) of the central United States. Ecological indicators and environmental variables will be collected from these sites.

The research to be conducted under this cooperative agreement will focus on the assessment of the biological condition of the Great Rivers using phytoplankton and periphyton assemblages (and associated measurements such as chlorophyll and biomass) at sites sampled by EMAP crews during the two year survey (2004-05). Given the integrated nature of the river survey on multiple indicators, the phytoplankton and periphyton research components will proceed as a cooperative effort involving the grantee selected through this competition and scientists from EPA’s National Health and Environmental Effects Research Laboratory, Mid-Continent Ecology Division in Duluth, Minnesota (NHEERL-MED). This cooperative agreement will involve the use of geospatial information.

Anticipated Funding: This will be a five-year (60 month) cooperative agreement, funded incrementally, at a level of $168,000.00 for the first year – Single award.

Eligible Applicants: These programs are available to each State, territory and possession, and Tribal nation of the U.S., including the District of Columbia, for public and private State universities and colleges, hospitals, laboratories, State and local government departments, other public or private non-profit institutions, and in some cases, individuals who have demonstrated unusually high scientific ability. For certain competitive funding opportunities, the Agency may limit eligibility to a particular subset of eligible applicants consistent with the Agency’s competition policy.

Point of Contact: Craig L. Johnson

Telephone: 218-529-5016
Telefax: 218-529-5015
E-mail: johnson.craig@epa.gov

FULL TEXT OF ANNOUNCEMENT

I. Funding Opportunity Description

Title of Assistance Opportunity: Assessing the Condition of Great Rivers Using Benthic and Planktonic Algal Indicators

Background: The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is issuing a request for applications (RFA) in support of its Environmental Monitoring and Assessment Program (EMAP) surveys of the Great Rivers of the United States. Under this program, the EPA’s National Health and Environmental Effects Laboratory (NHEERL), Mid-Continent Ecology Division (MED) has initiated a survey of the biological condition of the Great Rivers (e.g., the Mississippi, Missouri, and Ohio Rivers) and environmental factors that might be associated with good or poor condition in these rivers. EPA is soliciting research to: (1) develop the monitoring tools (biological indicators, stream survey design, estimates of reference condition) necessary to produce unbiased estimates of the ecological condition of the Great Rivers of the central United States; (2) demonstrate those tools in a large-scale assessment; and (3) determine the relative risk to these rivers from a comprehensive list of potential stressors.

EMAP-Great Rivers will utilize a probability design, by which sites are chosen to be statistically representative of the population of large floodplain rivers (the Great Rivers) of the central United States. Ecological indicators and environmental variables will be collected from these sites.

The research to be conducted under this cooperative agreement will focus on the interpretation of the biological condition of the Great Rivers through an analysis of phytoplankton and periphyton assemblages (and associated measurements such as chlorophyll and biomass) at sites sampled by EMAP crews during the five year survey. Given the integrated nature of the river survey on multiple indicators, the phytoplankton and periphyton research components will proceed as a cooperative effort involving the grantee selected through this competition and scientists from EPA’s National Health and Environmental Effects Research Laboratory, Mid-Continent Ecology Division in Duluth, Minnesota (NHEERL-MED). This cooperative agreement will involve the use of geospatial information.

Key Elements:

1) Ecological indicators. A key goal of the EMAP- Great River Ecosystems (GRE) is to give the states and tribes a sufficient level of expertise and experience with ecological indicators so they can begin using them in routine water quality monitoring of the Great Rivers. EMAP has experience with a broad range of indicators (fish, macro invertebrate and periphyton assemblages, physical habitat, and water chemistry) that can be directly applicable or readily adapted to the Great Rivers. These make up the list of core indicators likely to be utilized in the region-wide surveys.

2) Comprehensive assessments. One of the strengths of a probability design is that results from a sample survey can be extrapolated to the entire population of resources being examined, or if sample size permits, to finer scales of resolution. For the EMAP-GRE, sample sizes are adjusted to permit state-level assessments of condition for Great Rivers. This translates to roughly 60 stream sites sampled in each state for each of the three Great Rivers over a 5 year period, providing 9 independent state assessments, 3 Ohio River estimates, and 5 EPA Regional assessments of condition. The design will also permit the combination of results into an overall assessment of Great Rivers of the central United States, or into other assessment units (e.g., ecoregions, River basins, etc.), providing there are a sufficient number of sites in these units. These assessments can be based on response indicators (e.g., fish, macro invertebrate, periphyton indicators or habitat indicators) or stressor indicators (e.g., land use/land cover in watersheds, habitat degradation). One of the most important uses for these state and Regional-level assessments will be to put estimates of condition into a larger spatial context, e.g., do the data suggest that 25% of river miles in a state or reach resemble a regionally calibrated “reference” or best-attainable condition? 10%? 90%? This combination of results from studies of reference condition and comprehensive assessments can form the basis for measuring future environmental progress on a large scale, to determine the success of regulation and restoration efforts.

3) Reference condition. In order to use the information collected about ecological indicators effectively, it will be necessary to compare current ecological status (for each indicator) to some measure of reference condition (using either a historical definition, best-attainable condition, or some other definition). The establishment of reference conditions for the Great Rivers is a high priority, and one of the first steps in the eventual development of biological criteria to complement current state-level criteria for chemical and physical stressors (e.g., nutrients, temperature, etc.). EMAP’s experience in the East and Midwest has been that finding stream sites that can be verified as reference can be very difficult; often sites that local experts regard as reference are in a much more compromised condition than some of those found through the use of an EMAP probability sampling design. For the Great Rivers, a substantial effort, above and beyond that necessary for an assessment of ecological condition, will be made to identify and sample reference sites, and potentially to model reference condition in areas where reference sites no longer exist. Discussions about how to incorporate the identification of reference sites into the EMAP design will continue as we prepare for implementation of the third year of fieldwork in FY2006.

Funding Priorities/Focus: Specific technical approaches used to address project objectives shall be designed by the grantee and must be fully described in the proposal. The approach must address specifically how the grantee proposes to interpret river condition based on the phytoplankton and periphyton assemblages and how condition classes might be assigned. The approach should also address how the grantee will evaluate algal- environment relationships and how the effects of human disturbances will be separated from natural gradients. As noted in the introduction, EMAP’s survey of the Great Rivers is a multi-disciplinary and multi-agency activity. It is important, therefore, that the grantee address how the phytoplankton and periphyton research could be integrated with other activities under the EMAP-GRE survey umbrella. Given that part of EMAP’s goals are to provide the states and others with improved tools for monitoring and interpreting the condition of the Great Rivers, the grantee should describe how the research results will be communicated to a user audience. The grantee should propose a flat file structure for data derived from processing phytoplankton and periphyton samples that can be imported easily into EMAP’s SAS-based data management software system in Corvallis, Oregon, for public dissemination.

The primary objectives of the solicited research are:

  1. Develop the monitoring tools (biological indicators, stream survey design, estimates of reference condition) necessary to produce unbiased estimates of the ecological condition of the Great Rivers of the central United States;
  2. Demonstrate those tools in a large-scale assessment; and
  3. Determine the relative risk to these rivers from a comprehensive list of potential stressors.

There are five defined tasks within this RFA:

  1. Classify and count phytoplankton (depth-integrated, 4L samples) and periphyton (composite brush/scrape sample from up to 250 cm 2 of hard substrate) samples collected from the EMAP-GRE survey (approximately 350 phytoplankton and 200 periphyton samples per year);
  2. Submit phytoplankton and periphyton data files containing the results of the enumeration and classification of the phytoplankton and periphyton samples, along with QA/QC data, to the EMAP information management system, in a file structure compatible with that in use by EMAP investigators (SAS files are currently used) for future public dissemination;
  3. Prepare a data report with preliminary findings, including, but not limited to, a) tabular presentation of results by sample sites and/or parameters, b) graphical displays and statistical analyses of the data, and c) analyses of relationships among metrics that could be a basis for evaluating the ecological condition of Great Rivers;
  4. Prepare a summary report describing phytoplankton and periphyton indicator development, evaluation, testing and application to the assessment of ecological conditions in the Great Rivers of the central United States; and
  5. Preparation of a Quality Assurance (QA) Plan. Each assistance application must include a statement of commitment to the preparation of a quality assurance plan. The statement should describe the respondent’s experience in managing quality assurance pursuant to the set of instructions included with the application package. Subsequent to the award of the cooperative agreement, the successful respondent will prepare a quality assurance plan that describes performance objectives of the study, and all the quality control and quality assurance procedures that will be applied to ensure that the performance objectives are achieved. The quality assurance plan will particularly address enumeration and classification of the phytoplankton and periphyton samples provided by EPA. The quality assurance plan will be reviewed by the Quality Assurance Officer at the NHEERL-MED (Duluth) and must be approved prior to start of work.

As part of the cooperative nature of this research, the EPA will:

  1. Select the sampling sites covering the Missouri, Upper Mississippi and Ohio Rivers and provide the grantee with site data containing site identification, latitude/longitude, and other information as will be routinely available for the selected sites;
  2. Measure a set of key indicators at these sites during a summer index season, generally once; a subset of sites will be revisited both within the index window as well as between years;
  3. Collect physical habitat data, and water quality, macro invertebrate, fish, phytoplankton, and periphyton samples (including samples for identification and enumeration, chlorophyll and biomass determinations);
  4. Water chemistry macro invertebrate, chlorophyll and biomass samples will be analyzed through other assistance agreements;
  5. Ship to the grantee approximately 350 preserved, unprocessed phytoplankton and 200 periphyton samples collected at EMAP-GRE sites each year of the survey;
  6. Provide data files containing the results of the routine measurements taken at each stream site to the cooperator for evaluating phytoplankton and periphyton relationships; and files containing the measurement/metric information for the attributes measured, other than phytoplankton and periphyton.

GPRA Goals, Objectives:

The specific Government Performance Results Act (GPRA) Goals, Objectives and Sub-objectives that relate to this RFA include:

Goal 4: Healthy Communities and Ecosystems
Objective 4.5: Enhance Science and Research. Through 2010, provide a sound scientific foundation for EPA’s goal of protecting, sustaining, and restoring the health of people, communities, and ecosystems by conducting leading-edge research and developing a better understanding and characterization of environmental outcomes under Goal 4.
Sub-objective 4.5.1 Apply the Best Available Science. Through 2008, identify and synthesize the best available scientific information, models, methods and analyses to support Agency guidance and policy decisions related to the health of people, communities, and ecosystems.

Statutory Authority for Award of Assistance: Research will be funded under the statutory authority of the Clean Water Act (P.L.92-500, as amended) Section 104(b)(3). Interested applicants must be eligible to receive Federal assistance under this Act and the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Part 30 - General Regulation for Assistance, Part 31- Uniform Administrative Requirements for Grants and Cooperative Agreements to State and Local Government, Part 34- New Restrictions on Lobbying, and Part 40 - Research and Demonstration Grants. The purpose is to commence research projects relating to the causes, effects, extent, prevention, reduction and elimination of water pollution.

II. Award Information

Amount and Range of Individual Award: Proposal budgets must total $840,000 or less (exclusive of cost-sharing), including all overhead and indirect costs at approved federal government rate.

Number of Awards: EPA expects to announce the one successful recipient during spring 2005.

Funding: The EPA is expected to fund this award over a period of approximately five (5) years. Funding of the first year of the award is expected to be $168,000.

Project Period: June 01, 2005 to May 31, 2010 .

Supplemental Applications: Applications for supplemental awards of existing EPA assistance agreements will not be eligible to compete for this assistance opportunity.

Type of Award: The Agency anticipates the award of a cooperative agreement.

Anticipated Federal Involvement:

EPA and the Project Officer for this assistance agreement anticipate substantial involvement in the implementation of the research as follows:

  • Provide technical input to indicator development and oversight of data analysis;
  • Provide access to related EMAP Great Rivers data and partners;
  • Participate in the development of indicators, the interpretation of results, the assessment of the ecological conditions of the Great Rivers, and the preparation of summary reports and publications.

The selected proposal will receive federal financial assistance from EPA through a Cooperative Agreement. A Cooperative Agreement is a legal instrument for the transfer of funds to an organization for the implementation of an EPA approved workplan, under which substantial involvement is anticipated between the Federal Agency and the recipient organization during the performance of the approved activities. In the case of this project, Assessing the Condition of Great Rivers Using Benthic and Planktonic Algal Indicators, it is anticipated that personnel from EPA-ORD Duluth Offices will work closely with the recipient during the implementation of the approved workplan, including (but not limited to) providing assistance in identifying appropriate environmental information to be included in the assessment; and identifying environmental and ecological conditions, issues or problems that can be addressed during different stages of implementation of the workplan. Also, it is expected that the recipient would work closely with EPA in the organization, development and implementation of outreach activities, including seminars.

III. Eligibility Information

Eligible Applicants: These programs are available to each State, territory and possession, and Tribal nation of the U.S., including the District of Columbia, for public and private State universities and colleges, hospitals, laboratories, State and local government departments, other public or private non-profit institutions, and in some cases, individuals who have demonstrated unusually high scientific ability. For certain competitive funding opportunities, the Agency may limit eligibility to a particular subset of eligible applicants consistent with the Agency’s competition policy.

Cost Sharing Requirements: Institutional cost-share is not required. However, the degree of recipient cost sharing incorporated into the proposal, such as in-kind contributions, including: facilities, equipment, materials, professional services, or volunteer staff provided by non-Federal public agencies, organizations, or individuals, is encouraged.

Other Eligibility Criteria: Eligible nonprofit organizations include any organizations that meet the definition of nonprofit in OMB Circular A-122. However, nonprofit organizations described in Section 501(c)(4) of the Internal Revenue Code that engage in lobbying activities as defined in Section 3 of the Lobbying Disclosure Act of 1995 are not eligible to apply. Universities and educational institutions must be subject to OMB Circular A-21.

Groups of two or more eligible applicants may choose to form a consortium and submit a single application for this assistance agreement. The consortium must identify which eligible organization will be the recipient of the assistance agreement, and which eligible organizations(s) will be sub-awardees of the recipient. Sub awards must be consistent with the definition of that term in 40 CFR 30.2(ff). The recipient must administer the assistance agreement, is accountable to EPA for proper expenditure of the funds, and will be the point of contact for the consortium. As provided in 40 CFR 30.2(gg), sub-recipients are accountable to the recipient for proper use of EPA funding.

Consortiums may not include for-profit organizations that will provide services or products to the successful applicant. For-profit organizations are not eligible for sub awards. Any contracts for services or products funded with EPA financial assistance must be awarded under the competitive procurement procedures of 40 CFR Part 30. The regulations also contain limitations on consultant compensation. Applicants are not required to identify contractors or consultants in the proposal. Moreover, the fact a successful applicant has named a specific contractor or consultant in the proposal EPA approves does not relieve it of its obligations to comply with competitive procurement requirements or consultant compensation limitations.

Applications will be reviewed for eligibility during the Administrative Review (see Section V). Initial proposals from ineligible applicants will be returned without further review. EPA reserves the right to reject all proposals or applications and make no awards.

IV. Application and Submission Information

Address to Request Application Package: U.S. EPA, NHEERL\MED, 6201 Congdon Boulevard, Duluth, Minnesota 55804.
Information: Craig L. Johnson, (218) 529-5016. Email address: johnson.craig@epa.gov.

Application information is also available from the Federal Government’s funding opportunities website, http://www.fedgrants.govexit EPA and the following EPA sites:

EPA Grants and Debarment home page

EPA Grants and Debarment Grant Application Forms

EPA ORD Grant Opportunities

EPA ORD NCER STAR How to apply

EPA ORD NCER Funding Opportunities

This document, and any subsequent amendments, constitutes the entire Request for Assistance proposal site.

Content and Form of Application Submission:
At a minimum, the proposal shall consist of the following items:

1. A cover sheet that identifies the RFA title and identification number, name and address of applicant, point of contact, telephone number, e-mail address for the applicant, applicant's DUNS number (see Section VIII), and the date of the submission.

2. The proposals must contain two standard federal forms, a workplan with budget, and appendices, as described below. Please follow instructions and do not submit additional items. If the restrictions are not followed, the application will be removed during administrative review.

Application for Federal Assistance (SF-424) and Budget Information (SF-424A): The SF-424 and SF-424A must be submitted as part of your pre-proposal. Selected applicants will be asked to submit additional federal forms needed to process their proposal. EPA will make copies of your pre-proposal for use by assistance reviewers. Funds will be provided for Fiscal Year (FY) 2005, with a final report submitted by November 30, 2010.

Workplan and appendices: A workplan describes your proposed research project, and your appendices establish your timeline, your qualifications, and your partnerships with other organizations, where applicable.

In developing the technical proposal, the applicant should focus on the evaluation criteria set forth in Section V and structure the proposal to address each of the criteria in the order listed.

The page limitation of the technical proposal is 12 double-sided pages (24 pages total) with a minimum font size of 12. This page limitation must include all text, tables, figures, references, attachments, and appendices. In addition, 2-page curriculum vitae should be included for the principal investigator and any other key personnel identified in the proposal.

3. A budget estimate for the project that is broken down into direct labor, fringe benefits, equipment, travel, other direct costs and overhead with summaries for each year and the total for the entire project. Indicate any proposed cost sharing (not required). Proposal budgets must total $840,000 or less (exclusive of cost-sharing), including all overhead and indirect costs, at approved federal government rates. Recipient must budget funds for one trip per year to coordinate research efforts with other EMAP Great Rivers researchers.

4. A Quality Assurance Project Plan that outlines the steps that will be taken to adequately address QA throughout the term of this study. Note: QA requirements will be determined through consultation with the EPA QA Manager.

The original and 3 copies (double-sided) must be submitted.

Submission Date, Time, and Location: To be considered timely, proposals must be received by 4:00 pm local time on January 7, 2005. from the U.S. Postal Service or other commercial delivery service provided to the contact below. Proposals shall be submitted to:

U.S. EPA, NHEERL\MED
6201 Congdon Boulevard
Duluth, Minnesota 55804.

For additional information contact: Craig L. Johnson, (218) 529-5016.
Email address: johnson.craig@epa.gov.

Initial proposals received after the deadline will not be considered and will be returned to the submitter. Applicants who submit proposals by hand should request a receipt from the security guard at the main entrance of the EPA facility.

Intergovernmental Review: This assistance opportunity is subject to Executive Order 12372, "Intergovernmental Review of Federal Programs." Applicants should contact their state's Single Point of Contact (SPOC) to find out how to comply with the state's process. The names and addresses of the SPOC's are listed in the Office of Management and Budget's home page at: http://www.whitehouse.gov/omb/grants/spoc.html. exit EPA

Funding Restrictions: Funding of the first year of the award is expected to be $168,000.

Amendments: Amendments will be posted on this website as the original announcement and the due date for proposals will be extended if deemed appropriate.

Other Submission Requirements: None.

V. Application Review Information

Criteria: The criteria used to evaluate proposals include:

Administrative Review: All proposals will be subject to an administrative review to ensure that they conform to the requirements of this RFA. EPA will reject any applications that fail to conform to the requirements of this RFA.

Relevance Review: Proposals that are found administratively acceptable will be subjected to a review for relevancy to EPA's mission to support advancement of environmental science. Proposals may be rejected if they are found to lack relevance. Examples include:

  • Proposal is technically deficient with no chance for consideration;
  • Proposal fails to advance the objectives stated in the solicitation even if successfully performed; and/or
  • Proposal fails to demonstrate a public purpose of support and stimulation; i.e., it implies the primary purpose is to provide direct support to the Federal government.

Technical Review: Initial proposals that are found administratively acceptable and relevant shall be reviewed for technical merit against the following criteria:

Proposal Evaluation Factors

  1. Quality and content of the research proposal relevant to the objectives described in this solicitation (25 points);
  2. Demonstrated knowledge of algal-environment relationships, especially with respect to the Great Rivers (25 points);
  3. Demonstrated capability of processing and interpreting the sample load expected under this agreement (25 points);
  4. Experience evaluating and reporting results in the scientific literature (15 points);
  5. Experience working with a variety of federal, state, other academic scientists in the field of interpretation of the biological condition of stream/river and natural controls over biological condition (5 points); and
  6. Cost effectiveness of the proposed budget structure (5 points).

Institutional cost-share is not required. However, the degree of recipient cost sharing incorporated into the proposal, such as in-kind contributions, including: facilities, equipment, materials, professional services, or volunteer staff provided by non-Federal public agencies, organizations, or individuals, will be considered.

Results of proposal peer review . The total number of points possible for each proposal is 100. The maximum number of points each proposal will receive for the six rating factors is 100.

Other Factors: If two or more of the superior-rated proposals receive similar rankings, the respective budgets will be evaluated for cost reasonableness and cost realism. The proposal that is determined to be the most reasonable/realistic will be selected for award. The amount of cost sharing proposed (if any) will not result in additional points for any applicant, but will be considered in the evaluation of the reasonableness and realism of the overall budget.

Review and Selection Process:

Evaluation Process: The administrative and relevancy reviews will be conducted by EPA personnel who are not a part of the technical review panel. The technical review panel shall consist of at least one internal EPA reviewer and at least two non-EPA reviewers who are able to demonstrate technical expertise and a lack of any conflict of interest.

Source Selection: EPA will conduct the evaluation of initial proposals and make a selection of the applicant for award based upon the rankings of the technical review panel and the other factors discussed above. The Decision Official will be an EPA Office of Research and Development (ORD) manager who will determine which applicant should receive the award.

Full Application: The applicant selected for award will be requested to submit a full, detailed application in accordance with the guidance provided by EPA's Office of Grants and Debarment (http://www.epa.gov/ogd/). EPA will negotiate changes to the proposal with the selected applicant. For example, EPA will discuss significant comments received from the technical reviewers, aspects of the budget that may be questionable, the proposed terms and conditions for the agreement, and the nature and extent of EPA collaboration.

Rejection Factors: Applications will be rejected because they fail to comply with the administrative requirements of the RFA, they are found to lack relevancy, they are judged technically unacceptable, or they are not deemed suitable for award due to other factors (if identified).

Disputes: Disputes will be resolved pursuant to the process described in 40 CFR 30.63 and Part 31, subpart F.

Anticipated Announcement and Award Dates: The anticipated award date is 06/01/2005.

VI. Award Administration Information

Award Notices: Notice of award will be made in writing by an official in the EPA Grants Administration Division. Preliminary selection by the Decision Official in the Office of Research and Development does not guarantee an award will be made. Applicants are cautioned that only a grants officer can bind the government to the expenditure of funds. No commitment on the part of EPA should be inferred from technical or budgetary discussions with an EPA Program Official. A Principal Investigator or organization that makes financial or personnel commitments in the absence of a grant or cooperative agreement signed by the EPA Grants Award Official does so at their own risk.

EPA will promptly notify in writing (postal or email) those applicants whose proposal is rejected. An unsuccessful applicant may request a debriefing to better understand the evaluated strengths and weaknesses of its proposal and the reason for rejection if other than technical merit.

Administrative and National Policy Requirements:
Regulations and OMB Coverage:

Grants and agreements with institutions of higher education, hospitals, and other nonprofit organizations are subject to 40 CFR Parts 30 and 40 and OMB Circular A-122 for nonprofits and A-21 for institutions of higher learning. Grants and agreements with state, local, and tribal governments are subject to 40 CFR Parts 31 and 40 and OMB Circular A-87.

Programmatic Terms and Conditions: Terms and conditions will be negotiated with the selected recipient covering the following requirements: It is required that projects be performed by qualified personnel. All proposals must identify any person who will assist in carrying out the project. The authorized representative of the recipient whose proposal is selected for an award is responsible for accepting the cooperative agreement from EPA and ensuring that all cooperative agreement conditions are satisfied. Recipients are responsible for the successful completion of the project and for complying with all reporting requirements of the cooperative agreement.

Award recipients may begin incurring allowable costs on the start date identified in the EPA cooperative agreement. Activities must be completed and funds spent within the time frames specified in the award agreement. EPA funds may be used only for the purposes set forth in the cooperative agreement and must conform to Federal cost principles contained in OMB Circular A–87; A–122; and A–21, as appropriate. Ineligible costs will be reduced from the final cooperative agreement award.

Proposals and resultant work generated under this solicitation will be subject to peer review, at EPA’s expense, and must comply with all EPA quality assurance requirements. Instructions for preparing a Quality Assurance Project Plan can be found in EPA QA/G-5, Guidance for Quality Assurance Project Plans, which is on INTERNET site, http://www.epa.gov/quality/qs-docs/g5-final.pdf. (PDF, 111pp., 401.01 KB, about PDF)
An acceptable quality assurance document, i.e., Quality Assurance Project Plan (QAPP), shall be due within 60 days following acceptance of the award.

To further the assistance-agreement objectives of public support and stimulation, applicants must agree to make methods, models, and data resulting from this agreement accessible to the public and to EPA researchers.

The nature and extent of collaboration between EPA and the recipient:

EPA and the Project Officer for this assistance agreement anticipate substantial involvement in the implementation of the research as follows:

  • Provide technical input to indicator development and oversight of data analysis;
  • Provide access to related EMAP Great Rivers data and partners; and
  • Participate in the development of indicators, the interpretation of results, the assessment of the ecological conditions of the Great Rive rs, and the preparation of summary reports and publications.

The selected proposal will receive federal financial assistance from EPA through a Cooperative Agreement. A Cooperative Agreement is a legal instrument for the transfer of funds to an organization for the implementation of an EPA approved workplan, under which substantial involvement is anticipated between the Federal Agency and the recipient organization during the performance of the approved activities. In the case of this project, Assessing the Condition of Great Rivers Using Benthic and Planktonic Algal Indicators, it is anticipated that personnel from EPA-ORD Duluth Offices will work closely with the recipient organization during the implementation of the approved workplan, including (but not limited to) providing assistance in identifying appropriate environmental information to be included in the assessment; and identifying environmental and ecological conditions, issues or problems that can be addressed during different stages of implementation of the workplan. Also, it is expected that the recipient organization would work closely with EPA in the organization, development and implementation of outreach activities, including seminars.

Reporting:

Quarterly Progress Reports: The selected recipient will be required to submit quarterly progress reports summarizing technical progress, difficulties encountered, and planned activities for the next quarter. Each report shall include a summary of expenditures. The first quarterly report will be due ninety days after the cooperative agreement is awarded to the recipient.

Final Report: The grantee will be required to submit a final report within no later than 90 days of the completion of the period of performance. The final report will include detailed maps, tables, charts and any other graphical displays needed to illustrate key findings. The schedule for the development of the final report should allow for a 30-day review period by EPA (which would include experts from outside EPA) and sufficient time to allow the recipient to address any comments and issues identified by this review.

VII. Agency Contact:

The primary agency contact for this RFA is:

Craig Johnson
U.S. EPA, Mid-Continent Ecology Division
6201 Congdon Blvd
Duluth, Minnesota 55804
Telephone: 218-529-5016
Telefax: 218-529-5015
E-mail: johnson.craig@epa.gov

VIII. Other Information

Questions: Questions should be submitted in writing by the principal investigator. Do not attempt to seek information regarding this RFA from any sources other than those identified in Section VII, as the information provided may be erroneous. Questions that are considered significant will be answered via an amendment to this RFA.

Confidential Information: Clearly mark information considered to be confidential. EPA will make final confidentially decisions in accordance with Agency regulations (40 CFR, Part 2, Subpart B). As noted above, initial proposals for research and demonstration projects will be provided to at least two non-EPA consultants for review. All reviewers will be required to sign confidentiality agreements certifying they will keep all deliberations confidential. They will not copy any portions of any material provided by EPA for review, and they will return all materials to EPA upon request. If you are unwilling to allow non-EPA consultants to review your proposal, please advise us of your decision in a cover letter to your proposal.

DUNS Number: Applicants are required to provide a Dun and Bradstreet (D&B) Data Universal Numbering System (DUNS) number when applying for Federal grants or cooperative agreements. OMB has determined that there is a need for improved statistical reporting of Federal grants and cooperative agreements. Use of the DUNS number government-wide will provide a means to identify entities receiving those awards and their business relationships. The identifier will be used for tracking purposes, and to validate address and point of contact information.

A DUNS number will be required whether an applicant is submitting a paper application or using the government-wide electronic portal (http://www.grants.govexit EPA ). The DUNS number will supplement other identifiers required by statute or regulation, such as tax identification numbers. Organizations can receive a DUNS number in one day, at no cost, by calling the dedicated toll-free DUNS Number request line at 1-866-705-5711 . Individuals who would personally receive a grant or cooperative agreement award from the Federal government apart from any business or nonprofit organization they may operate are exempt from this requirement. The website where an organization can obtain a DUNS number is: http://www.dnb.comexit EPA . This takes 30 business days and there is no cost unless the organization requests expedited (1-day) processing, which includes a fee of $40.

Questions:

Q: In the identification of reference sites, GIS data will be needed to identify land-use stressors such as urban development. I anticipate GIS support from the EPA (or other contributors to the project) in helping to characterize the environmental stress in the catchment for each site. Will it be realistic to expect this support, or should I budget for a GIS team to assess the Great Rivers basin? Perhaps the land cover data at each site are already available?

A: The GIS work needed for identifying reference sites will be provided by EPA. Reference work is scheduled for 2006. The relationship of algal indicators to reference sites, or related GIS stressor data, is not a key work plan element of the initial years (2004-2005) of this current solicitation. Applicant responses to this RFA should focus on the 5 defined tasks of this solicitation (please see page 4 of the solicitation).

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