Under draft guidance for distributing grants for state nonpoint source
programs, the Environmental Protection Agency would no longer require states to
set aside $100 million to develop watershed-based plans for impaired lakes and
Under Section 319 of the Clean Water Act, states, territories, and tribes
receive grants for technical assistance, financial assistance, education,
training, technology transfer, demonstration projects, and monitoring to assess
the success of specific nonpoint source implementation projects.
The draft guidance encourages states to look for alternative sources of
funding, acknowledging the limited funds that Congress appropriates for Section
319 programs. In FY 2012, Congress appropriated $165 million for Section 319
grants. EPA requested the same amount in FY 2013, but now the agency is
operating under FY 2012 levels, owing to the continuing resolution that is in
Nonpoint source pollution arises from nutrient and sediment runoff from farms
to stormwater and other pollutants in urban environments. EPA said it remains
the largest source of water quality impairments in the nation.
The removal of the set aside funds is contained in the draft Nonpoint
Source Program and Grants Guidelines for States and Territories. These
guidelines spell out the conditions and circumstances in which these grants can
be used and leveraged with other federal, state, and local programs to address
nonpoint source water quality impairments. EPA has not revised the guidelines
for distributing grants for state nonpoint source programs since 2003 (205 DEN
The revisions are a result of an EPA-state workgroup and are to be
implemented in all states and most territories.
EPA said the draft guidelines, upon being finalized, are “binding
requirements” that apply to grants made with funds appropriated by Congress
under Section 319. States and EPA regions will begin to implement these
guidelines in fiscal year 2013 and will fully implement them in FY 2014 and in
subsequent years, the agency said in the draft guidance.
EPA said it is no longer requiring states to set aside $100 million to
develop watershed-based plans to address runoff in impaired lakes and streams.
Instead, EPA in the guidance said it would require a revised “set aside” of at
least 50 percent of a state's allocation for watershed projects.
It also was removing the 20 percent caps it had required in the 2003 guidance
for statewide nonpoint source monitoring assessment.
The draft document specifically encouraged states to consider the farm bill
programs at the Agriculture Department--the Environmental Quality Incentive
Program, the Conservation Reserve Program, and the Conservation Stewardship
Program--that provide funds for improving water quality.
It said states should work closely with state conservationists who are
authorized to disburse USDA funds to identify and address watersheds impaired by
nutrients, sediment, and other nonpoint source pollutants.
USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service made $33 million available in
May for 157 watersheds that are impaired by nitrogen, phosphorus, and sediment
runoff from farmlands, ranches, and forests. In July, EPA officials said USDA
funds and Section 319 funds could not be used for the same project (132 DEN A-4,
But the draft guidelines clarify that Section 319 funds can be used for
monitoring the watershed, if not for the specific project, and developing
The goal of the guidelines remains to encourage states to address waters
impaired by nonpoint pollution sources through watershed based plans and through
total maximum daily load plans. A TMDL plan calculates the maximum amount of
each pollutant, be it from a point or nonpoint source, that can be discharged
into a given water body without adversely affecting water quality standards for
Also, the draft guidelines encourage states to “creatively” use the Clean
Water State Revolving Fund and the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund to
address source waters impaired by nonpoint sources.
EPA said it would continue to allow states to use their funds for “the full
range of activities” addressed in their EPA-approved nonpoint source management
program. This means the money can be used for protection of waters not currently
identified as having an impairment and for restoration of impaired waters.
EPA said it will receive comments on the draft guidelines until Dec. 9 at email@example.com.
By Amena H. Saiyid
EPA's draft Nonpoint Source Program and Grants Guidelines for States and
Territories is available at http://water.epa.gov/polwaste/nps/upload/final-draft-public-comment-319-guidelines2.pdf.
For more information on the draft guidance, contact Nancy Yoshkawa in the
Nonpoint Source Control Branch Assessment and Watershed Protection Division in
the Office of Wetlands, Oceans, and Watersheds at (202)
566-3012 or firstname.lastname@example.org.