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U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
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National Center for Environmental Research
Science to Achieve Results (STAR) Program

CLOSED - FOR REFERENCES PURPOSES ONLY

Development of Watershed Classification Systems for Diagnosis of Biological Impairment in Watersheds and Their Receiving Water Bodies

SPECIAL NOTICE for Development of Watershed Classification Systems for Diagnosis of Biological Impairment in Watersheds and their Receiving Water Bodies, Sorting Code 2003-STAR-A1
Applicants are asked to submit the original and only four (4) copies (5 in all) of the fully developed application -- NOT the original and eight (8) copies (9 in all) as requested in the "Standard Instructions for STAR Grants." EPA will prepare an electronic version of the applications received in response to this RFA. The review will be conducted using a modified electronic format.

Opening date: October 8, 2002
Closing date: January 29, 2003

Summary of Program Requirements
Background
Scope of Research
References
Other Guidance
Funding
Eligibility
Standard Instructions for Submitting an Application
Special Notice
Contacts

Access standard STAR forms and instructions (http://www.epa.gov/ncer/rfa/forms/)
View NCER Research Capsules (http://www.epa.gov/ncer/publications/topical/)
View research awarded under previous solicitations (http://www.epa.gov/ncer/grants/)

SUMMARY OF PROGRAM REQUIREMENTS

General Information

Program Title:

Development of Watershed Classification Systems for Diagnosis of Biological Impairment in Watersheds and Their Receiving Water Bodies

Sorting Code:

2003-STAR-A1

Synopsis of Program:

This solicitation seeks the development of regionalized watershed classification schemes that can be used within the context of a national framework for determining ecosystem vulnerability, designing monitoring systems, and identifying watershed restoration opportunities. Regionalized classification schemes should be based on a strong conceptual understanding of watershed processes, as well as illustrating quantitative linkages among watershed attributes, loadings, and ecological responses.

Contact Person(s):

Jonathan H. Smith; telephone: 202-564-5181; email : smith.jonathanh@epa.gov

Applicable Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance (CFDA) Number(s):

66.500

Eligibility Information:

Academic and not-for-profit institutions located in the U.S., and state or local governments, are eligible under all existing authorizations. Profit-making firms are not eligible to receive grants from EPA under this program. Federal agencies and national laboratories funded by federal agencies (Federally-funded Research and Development Centers, FFRDCs) may not apply. For more eligibility information (click here). Potential applicants who are uncertain of their eligibility should contact Jack Puzak in NCER, phone (202) 564-6825, e-mail: puzak.jack@epa.gov
Award Information:

Anticipated Type of Award: Grant

Estimated Number of Awards: Approximately five

Anticipated Funding Amount: Approximately $4 million

Potential Funding per Grant per Year: $150,000 - $300,000/yr ($450,000- $900,000 per grant) total costs for up to 3 years, depending on whether new field data is collected.

Deadline/Target Dates:

Letter of Intent Due Date(s): None

Application Proposal Due Date(s): January 29, 2003

BACKGROUND

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) Office of Research and Development (ORD) solicits grant applications for establishing watershed classification schemes in different regions of the U.S. to support the design of efficient monitoring strategies, diagnose the causes of biological impairment, and prioritize watersheds for restoration activities. This will involve defining both the structural characteristics of a classification strategy (geographic dependence vs. independence, scale, hierarchy, discrimination of natural features from anthropogenic alteration), functional characteristics (theoretical basis for defining categories), and pragmatic aspects of implementation (regional and national relevance, ease of application, flexibility, accuracy, and nature of technical transfer products).

In risk assessments, classification schemes serve as an aide for boundary definition in problem formulation and as a tool for extrapolation of exposure-effect relationships in risk characterization (USEPA, 1996). Ultimately, watershed classification systems can serve a broad array of uses such as: (1) basis for stratification in monitoring strategies to detect responses to nonpoint source pollution, (2) a tool to assess watershed vulnerability and diagnose potential causes of biological impairment, (3) a method to prioritize watersheds for restoration activities, and (4) a tool used to extrapolate results of empirical or mechanistic models of watershed response to other similar watersheds, potentially across entire regions. Classification thus reveals to watershed managers increased opportunities for risk prevention and locally appropriate goals and methods for watershed restoration.

This RFA builds upon earlier STAR grants in aquatic ecosystem classification by exploring relationships between watershed attributes and aquatic ecosystem condition. In addition, this RFA goes beyond the development of methods to assess current condition by addressing the development of methods to assess differences in ecosystem vulnerability to stressors and differences in restoration opportunities within a watershed context. The EPA is interested in building on current classification work by developing the strong underlying basic science that establishes a conceptual understanding of how baseline aquatic ecosystem condition relates to watershed attributes (physical, climatic, and terrestrial) and how anthropogenic activity alters baseline conditions. Classification schemes completed through this RFA will enhance the ability of state, tribal, and local agencies to protect the nation's waters.

SCOPE OF RESEARCH

This solicitation seeks the development of regionalized watershed classification schemes that can be used within the context of a national framework to determine ecosystem vulnerability and watershed restoration opportunities. Regionalized schemes will typically transcend state geographic boundaries. Proposals for successful regionalized classification schemes should be based on a strong conceptual understanding of watershed processes, as well as demonstrating quantitative linkages among watershed attributes, loadings, and ecological responses.

The outcome of the research will help address these questions:

How can regionalized watershed classification schemes be developed within the context of a national framework to determine ecosystem vulnerability and opportunities for watershed restoration?

To what degree can ecologically relevant flow-regime metrics, including those describing base-flow and peak-flow conditions, be predicted based on watershed characteristics?

How can functional relationships between watershed attributes and hydrological, water quality, and biological responses at different scales be incorporated into a hierarchical classification scheme to predict regional, watershed, and water-body scale sensitivities to aquatic nonpoint source stressors?

To what degree can the sensitivity of aquatic ecosystems to the effects of anthropogenic changes to watersheds be predicted based on the inherent biophysical characteristics of watersheds?

To what degree can relationships be quantified between hydrologic regime and nonpoint source pollution processes, such as sediment yields, nutrient loadings, aquatic thermal regimes, and riparian and in-stream habitat structure and quality, in a watershed?

What specific environmental problem might be amenable to solving with application of the proposed classification scheme?

Successful applications will include 1) development of a regionalized classification scheme and 2) explicit information on how the calibration and validation of the classification scheme would be carried out. The application must also address all of the following attributes of watershed classification frameworks:

(a)Geographically-dependent vs. independent frameworks: Existing land classification schemes can be characterized as either geographically-dependent [e.g., Omernik 1987, Maxwell et al. 1995] or geographically-independent [Anderson et al. 1976, Richards 1990, Poff and Ward 1990, Rosgen 1996, Detenbeck et al. 2000].

Geographically-dependent classification schemes have categories that describe specific places or regions. These classification frameworks are usually based on the premise that areas of similar climate, landform, and geology exhibit similar ecosystem potential and vulnerability to stressors. Geographically-dependent frameworks tend to cover broad geographic regions at a pre-determined scale or nested scales.

Geographically-independent schemes have categories that describe similar features occurring at many locations, and are not limited to a specific scale, place or region. Geographically-independent frameworks are usually determined by watershed attributes that can be defined independently of a geographic region, e.g., surface-water storage or runoff characteristics, or valley or stream-channel morphology.

(b)Scale: Classification frameworks are sought that apply to a wide range of spatial areas, from watersheds as small as 5 to 10 square miles to large watersheds defined by the 8-digit HUC scale (Seaber et al. 1987). Proposals must explain when and why classification criteria may need to vary across scales of analysis.

(c)Hierarchy: Geographically-dependent and independent schemes can be either nonhierarchical or hierarchical in nature: a hierarchical approach could be preferable in that it is appropriate for a range of management issues that must be addressed at different scales. Proposals incorporating nonhierarchical classification schemes must specify the benefits of utilizing such a system. Applicants are expected to specify whether a scheme will be useable for classifying only parts of a watershed (e.g., able to classify just the headwaters catchment portion) vs. the entire watershed in an hierarchical fashion.

(d)Regional relevance: National or regional-scale classification schemes are sought; however, proposals of more limited scope are acceptable if their applicability to larger regional watersheds in a variety of ecoregions can be demonstrated. Proposals to develop a classification framework for only one region of the country must explain how this framework fits into a national classification scheme.

(e)Relationship to impairment: Many of the stressors affecting aquatic ecosystems today are nonchemical in nature, such as hydrological modification, sedimentation, eutrophication, and habitat loss or degradation. Proposals must address how the classification framework addresses these types of impairments and distinguishes them from classes related to natural variation in background condition.

(f)Basis for developing categories: A priori vs. a posteriori approaches to classification development are a consideration. In general, an a priori classification scheme will be most immediately usable by watershed managers. If an a posteriori approach is used to empirically develop a watershed classification scheme (e.g., Jones et al. 1997), proposals should either outline a systematic approach to this process that regional managers could adopt, or show how this could be translated into an a priori classification scheme using readily available data.

(g)Basis in theory: Classifications must adhere to the classical requirements of classification theory, i.e., 100% of the area of interest must be classifiable with no overlap between categories. Each watershed can be in only one category, and the traits of each category are to be thoroughly described.

Responses to this solicitation must address how classification schemes and response models will be tested, either through analysis of existing data or through collection of new data. Preferably, collection of new data will be linked to existing monitoring programs, through collaboration with local, state, or tribal agencies, watershed managers or other nonprofit organizations. Applicants must discuss how difficult, expensive, or practical it would be for others, specifically state monitoring programs, to apply the classification methodology themselves. Ideally, watershed classification schemes will rely on the use of readily available GIS data or attributes that can be readily derived from such data so that they can be applied in the near term by public agencies.

Proposals must include a means to assess the level of accuracy associated with their watershed classification system. Applicants are expected to address quality assurance; see the Standard Instructions for a discussion of the statement required with the proposal. Those proposals recommended for an award will be expected to provide additional detail. Quality assurance documentation will need to address how a classification system will meet proposed data quality objectives for a given Quality Assurance Program Plan (QAPP) (http://www.epa.gov/quality/qa_docs.html) created by a governmental management entity. This will help facilitate coordination with existing regional, state, and/or tribal monitoring organizations.

Applicants must specifically address how the watershed classification scheme will support more efficient monitoring efforts, improve diagnosis of causes of biological impairment, and/or prioritize watershed restoration efforts. Results of the proposed research must be clearly defined. A clear distinction must be made between outputs and outcomes of the research. Applicable results include: a solid and easily applied classification methodology; a classified set of watersheds for a given region; a data base and/or an expert system tool for classification. The primary and essential output will be a classification scheme.

OTHER GUIDANCE

In addition to consideration of the scientific quality of proposals and relevance to Agency issues, selection of awardees will consider the geographic balance of funded applications across different regions of the country, as well as complementarity to other EPA and federal programs. Thus, preference will be given to understudied regions or systems. Preference will also be given to those proposals demonstrating linkages to existing monitoring programs and/or local non-governmental organizations. Finally, cross-disciplinary efforts, e.g., those linking hydrology/geomorphology with aquatic ecology, will be viewed favorably. Keep in mind that we are NOT seeking the development of single-stressor response models.

Proposal budgets must include provisions for travel funds for annual STAR program progress reviews and a final workshop to report on results.

REFERENCES

Anderson, J.R., E.E. Hardy, J.T. Roach and R.E. Witmer. 1976. A land use and land cover classification system for use with remote sensor data. U.S. Geological Survey Prof. Paper 964, 28 pp. Reston, VA, USA

Detenbeck N.E., S.L. Batterman, V.J. Brady, J.C. Brazner, V.M. Snarski, D.L. Taylor and J.A. Thompson. 2000. A test of watershed classification systems for ecological risk assessment. Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry 19:1174-1181.

Jones, K.B., K.H. Ritters, J.D. Wickham, R.D. Tankersley, R.V. O'Neill, D.J. Chaloud, E.R. Smith, and A.C. Neale. 1997. An Ecological Assessment of the United States Mid-Atlantic Region: A Landscape Atlas. EPA/600/R-97/130. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency: Las Vegas, NV, USA

Maxwell, J.R., C.J. Edwards, M.E. Jensen, S.J. Paustian, H. Parrott and D.M. Hill. 1995. A hierarchical framework of aquatic ecological units in North America (neartic zone). NC-176:1-76. Technical Report. US Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Washington, DC, USA.

Omernik, J.M. 1987. Ecoregions of the conterminous United States. Annals of the Association of American Geographers 77 (1):118-125.

Poff, N.L. and J.V. Ward. 1990. Physical habitat template of lotic systems: recovery in the context of historical pattern of spatiotemporal heterogeneity. Environmental Management 14:629-645.

Richards, R.P. 1990. Measures of flow variability and a new flow-based classification of Great Lakes tributaries. Journal of Great Lakes Research 16:53-70.

Rosgen, D.L. 1996. Applied River Morphology. Wildland Hydrology, Pagosa Springs, CO, USA.

Seaber, P.R., F.P. Kapinos, and G.L. Knapp. 1987. Hydrologic unit maps. U.S. Geological Survey Water Supply Paper 2294, Washington, DC, USA

U.S. EPA. 1996. Proposed guidelines for ecological risk assessment. EPA-630/R-95-002B. US Environmental Protection Agency, Washington, DC, USA.

FUNDING

It is anticipated that a total of approximately $4.0 million will be awarded, depending on the availability of funds. EPA anticipates funding approximately five grants under this RFA. The projected award range is $150,000 to $300,000 per year ($450,000-$900,000 per grant) including direct and indirect costs for up to 3 years, depending on whether new field data is collected.

ELIGIBILITY

Academic and not-for-profit institutions located in the U.S., and state or local governments, are eligible under all existing authorizations. Profit-making firms are not eligible to receive grants from EPA under this program. Federal agencies and national laboratories funded by federal agencies (Federally-funded Research and Development Centers, FFRDCs) may not apply.

Federal employees are not eligible to serve in a principal leadership role on a grant. FFRDC employees may cooperate or collaborate with eligible applicants within the limits imposed by applicable legislation and regulations. They may participate in planning, conducting, and analyzing the research directed by the principal investigator, but may not direct projects on behalf of the applicant organization or principal investigator. The principal investigator's institution may provide funds through its grant from EPA to a FFRDC for research personnel, supplies, equipment, and other expenses directly related to the research. However, salaries for permanent FFRDC employees may not be provided through this mechanism.

Federal employees may not receive salaries or in other ways augment their agency's appropriations through grants made by this program. However, federal employees may interact with grantees so long as their involvement is not essential to achieving the basic goals of the grant.1 The principal investigator's institution may also enter into an agreement with a federal agency to purchase or utilize unique supplies or services unavailable in the private sector. Examples are purchase of satellite data, census data tapes, chemical reference standards, analyses, or use of instrumentation or other facilities not available elsewhere, etc. A written justification for federal involvement must be included in the application, along with an assurance from the federal agency involved which commits it to supply the specified service.

1EPA encourages interaction between its own laboratory scientists and grant principal investigators for the sole purpose of exchanging information in research areas of common interest that may add value to their respective research activities. However, this interaction must be incidental to achieving the goals of the research under a grant. Interaction that is "incidental" is not reflected in a research proposal and involves no resource commitments.

Potential applicants who are uncertain of their eligibility should contact Jack Puzak in NCER, phone (202) 564-6825, e-mail: puzak.jack@epa.gov.

STANDARD INSTRUCTIONS FOR SUBMITTING AN APPLICATION

A set of special instructions on how applicants should apply for an NCER grant is found on the NCER web site, http://www.epa.gov/ncer/rfa/forms/, Standard Instructions for Submitting a STAR Application. The necessary forms for submitting an application will be found on this web site.

Sorting Codes

The need for a sorting code to be used in the application and for mailing is described in the Standard Instructions for Submitting a STAR Application. The sorting code for applications submitted in response to this solicitation is 2003-STAR-A1

The deadlines for receipt of the applications by NCER are no later than 4:00 p.m. ET, January 29, 2003.

SPECIAL NOTICE

SPECIAL NOTICE for Development of Watershed Classification Systems for Diagnosis of Biological Impairment in Watersheds and their Receiving Water Bodies, Sorting Code 2003-STAR-A1

Applicants are asked to submit the original and only four (4) copies (5 in all) of the fully developed application -- NOT the original and eight (8) copies (9 in all) as requested in the "Standard Instructions for STAR Grants." EPA will prepare an electronic version of the applications received in response to this RFA. The review will be conducted using a modified electronic format.

CONTACTS

Further information, if needed, may be obtained from the EPA officials indicated below. e-mail inquiries are preferred.

Jonathan H. Smith 202-564-5181
smith.jonathanh@epa.gov

 

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