Chi–Cal Rivers Fund 2013 Request for Proposals


Deadline for Submission: September 17, 2013


The Chi–Cal Rivers Fund (Fund) is inviting applications for competitive grant funding to be awarded through its inaugural funding cycle.  At the time of this announcement, approximately $1.1 million is expected to be available for grant awards.  Individual grants will range from $50,000 to $300,000.  To be considered for funding, applications must be submitted online ( by 4 PM Central Time on September 17, 2013.

Fund Overview 

The Chicago and Calumet watersheds comprise a highly engineered system of waterways that provide many benefits to the region— they move treated waste water away from urban centers and provide capacity for managing flood waters; they provide economically important conduits for commercial shipping, tourism and recreational boating; they provide vital habitats for many resident and migratory wildlife species.  Despite these services, the waterways have been degraded by many stressors.  Dangerous flooding, impaired water quality, habitat degradation, and limited safe public access have significantly reduced many of the ecological, economic and community values of the system.

To help restore these values for the people and wildlife of the region, a team of private and public organizations has established the Chi–Cal Rivers Fund.  Administered by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, the Fund is a partnership among ArcelorMittal, The Chicago Community Trust, Crown Family Philanthropies, Gaylord and Dorothy Donnelley Foundation, Illinois Department of Natural Resources, Joyce Foundation, Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago, and Wrigley Company Foundation.

The Fund will achieve its impact primarily by supporting projects through a competitive grants program focused on three goals:

  • Increase stormwater storage capacity through green infrastructure

  • Enhance fish and wildlife habitat

  • Improve public-use opportunities

Geographic Eligibility

To be eligible for funding, projects must occur within the Eligible Project Area depicted in    Map 1.  In Illinois, this area includes all of Cook County and portions of Lake and Will counties.  In Indiana, it includes portions of Lake and Porter counties.  Grant funding will be directed to work within the drainage areas of the following waterways:

  • Chicago River and tributaries in Illinois
  • Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal
  • Bubbly Creek
  • Calumet Sag Channel
  • Calumet River
  • Grand Calumet River
  • Little Calumet River
  • Burns Ditch

Map 1. Geographic focus of the Chi–Cal Rivers Fund.

Applicant Eligibility

Eligible applicants include:  non-profit 501(c) organizations; state, tribal and local governments; and educational institutions.  Individuals, federal agencies, and private for-profit firms are not eligible to apply for funding. 

Projects that seek funding for political advocacy, lobbying, litigation, fundraising, or legally mandated mitigation projects are not eligible.

Funding Categories

With an emphasis along the major waterways of the system, the Fund will award grants in the following three categories:

1. Green Stormwater Infrastructure

2. Habitat Enhancement

3. Public-Use Improvement

Each applicant will need to identify the one category that best describes the proposed project.  If a project is expected to yield benefits in multiple categories, an applicant may also identify any relevant secondary categories.  The following sections provide more information on the three funding categories.

Funding Category 1:  Green Stormwater Infrastructure

Within the Chicago and Calumet region, as in many developed areas, stormwater runoff impairs water quality by carrying petrochemicals, road salts, excess nutrients, sediments and other contaminants into local waterways.  Large volumes of runoff discharged during storms further degrade habitat by scouring channels and eroding streambanks.  In areas with combined sewer systems, particularly serious problems occur during large storms, when municipal sewer capacities are exceeded and the combined flow of flood water and sewage is discharged directly into waterways to prevent sewers from back-flowing into buildings.  In addition to causing property damage, these combined sewer overflows pose a significant public health risk from bacterial contamination.

To address these issues, this category will direct funding to green infrastructure projects that increase on-site stormwater capture and storage.  Funded projects will include the installation of rain gardens, green roofs, pervious surfaces, bioswales, rain barrels/cisterns, and other green infrastructure solutions.  By slowing, storing and filtering rain water, these projects will reduce runoff into sewer systems and thereby help to reduce the discharge of contaminants to local waterways.  They will reduce property damage and health risks associated with flooding, reduce municipal costs of managing and treating stormwater, improve aquatic habitats, and promote safe and economically important public uses associated with the river system.

Preference will be given to substantial on-the-ground, shovel-ready projects that:

  • Engage community institutions (e.g., school districts, local units of government, non-traditional partners) with the potential to implement similar projects on other landholdings
  • Can be replicated, or can otherwise catalyze further green infrastructure implementation
  • Demonstrate the benefits of green infrastructure in communities or settings where it has not been broadly deployed, including underserved neighborhoods
  • Are located in flood-prone areas identified by government units or approved watershed plans as priorities for green infrastructure installation

Applicants will be asked to describe their project activities and outcomes in terms of the following metrics, as applicable (i.e., applicants should address only the metrics relevant to the project being proposed).

Activity metrics

  • Number/square feet of rain garden installations
  • Number/square feet of green roof installations
  • Number/square feet of pervious surface installations
  • Number/square feet of bioswale installations
  • Number/square feet of [other] installations
  • Number/capacity (in gallons) of rain barrels/cisterns
  • Design retention capacity – stormwater storage capacity of the installations (in gallons)

Outcome metrics

  • Gallons of stormwater storage added – net change in stormwater storage capacity of the area that will drain to the installations
  • Square feet of impervious cover retrofitted with green infrastructure to manage stormwater

Collecting consistent data on the performance of all green stormwater infrastructure projects is necessary for assessing the comprehensive impact of Fund investments.  To minimize the burden on grantee organizations and ensure consistency of data, Fund-designated stormwater engineers will provide technical services to the Fund.  Any entity that receives a grant for which 50% or more of the project budget supports green stormwater infrastructure will be required to work with the designated stormwater engineer(s) to validate the design and expected performance of that infrastructure.  The designated stormwater engineer(s) will provide design review, inspection and related services at no cost to the grantee.

Funding Category 2:  Habitat Enhancement

The Chicago and Calumet region provides critical stopover habitat for many migratory birds and supports dozens of resident fish, wildlife and plants listed as threatened or endangered.  However, much of the aquatic habitat in the region is highly impaired.  Silt or sludge is the primary substrate in many waterways, and few riverbeds have the sand or gravel required for spawning by many fish.  Many riverbanks are riprap or vertical walls that separate riparian areas from their watercourses.  Overhanging canopy cover is virtually absent in many areas, providing little shade for moderating water temperatures and little habitat structure for birds and other wildlife.

Funding in this category will support on-the-ground habitat improvements.  Funded projects will include riverbank naturalization, bank stabilization, riparian buffer planting, in-stream structure installation, and restoration of wetlands, prairies and forests adjacent to system watercourses.  By improving habitat connectivity, reducing erosion, improving water quality, and adding habitat complexity, this work will contribute to healthier fish and wildlife populations.

Applicants will be asked to describe their project activities and outcomes in terms of the following metrics, as applicable (i.e., applicants should address only the metrics relevant to the project being proposed).

Activity metrics

  • Linear feet/acres of hardened riverbank naturalized
  • Linear feet/acres of riparian buffer planted/stabilized – bank stabilization proposals should specify method (e.g., rock toe, root wad)
  • Linear feet/acres of stream bank shelf and littoral zone plantings
  • Linear feet/acres of in-stream habitat restored
  • Number of riffles or in-stream habitat structures installed
  • Acres of riparian wetlands, prairies and forests restored

Outcome metrics

  • Linear feet/acres of riparian habitat reconnected with watercourses
  • Percent invasive vegetation cover reduced in project areas
  • Percent native vegetation cover increased in project areas
  • Reduction of sediment inputs to watercourses (in pounds)
  • Improvement in Floristic Quality Index for restored terrestrial areas
  • Improvement in macroinvertebrate-based Biotic Integrity Indices for in-stream habitat projects 

Funding Category 3:  Public-Use Improvement

With its system of working channels, the Chicago and Calumet region has a legacy of limited public access and recreational opportunities along its banks and on its waterways.  However, multiple new initiatives are underway to enhance the public-use benefits associated with the system.  In 2011, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced a plan to make the Chicago River the “next recreational frontier.”  As part of this plan, four new boathouses will be constructed and the trail system will be improved to provide improved river access for runners, bikers and walkers.  Chicago also received a $100-million loan from the U.S. Department of Transportation to expand its downtown riverwalk and make the Chicago River its “second waterfront.”  The Millennium Reserve project, which is linked to the America’s Great Outdoors program and billed as the largest open space project in the country, has a goal of providing public recreation opportunities in 140,000 acres in the Calumet region, with an emphasis on improving access, connectivity and use of water resources and riparian areas.

Funding in this category will be used to complement the work of these new initiatives.  Funded projects will include improving public access to waterways, developing/improving terrestrial and aquatic trails (i.e., greenways and blueways), and expanding/enhancing neighborhood green space.  These projects will improve opportunities for public uses such as fishing, boating and hiking, generate economic benefits associated with these uses, and improve the natural aesthetics of underserved neighborhoods.

Applicants will be asked to describe their project activities and outcomes in terms of the following metrics, as applicable (i.e., applicants should address only the metrics relevant to the project being proposed).

Activity metrics

  • Miles of trails/riverwalks developed/improved
  • Number of public access points developed/improved
  • Acres of neighborhood green space (e.g., parklands) created/improved

Outcome metrics

  • Increase in the number of people hiking/walking on new/improved trails
  • Increase in the number of people using new/improved access points for fishing
  • Increase in the number of people using new/improved access points for boating
  • Increase in the number of people using new/improved neighborhood green space
  • Increase in annual economic activity associated with improved public-use opportunities (e.g., new jobs at boathouses/canoe liveries; tax/fee revenues)

Applicants may suggest additional metrics for quantifying activities and outcomes in this category.

Applications in this category should describe both a communications plan for notifying relevant communities that the proposed project has been completed and the proposed methods for collecting data on public use for the first year after project completion.  Grant recipient reports will be expected to include user data after the first year.

Matching Contributions

The ratio of matching contributions offered to grant funding requested is one criterion considered during the review process, and match ratios of 1:1 or greater are encouraged.

Matching contributions may include cash, in-kind contributions of staff and volunteer time, work performed, materials and services donated, or other tangible contributions to the project objectives and outcomes.  The cost of recent land acquisition or easement may also qualify as match for a project involving work at the acquired site.

To be eligible, matching contributions must be:

  • Raised and dedicated specifically for the project
  • Voluntary (mitigation, restitution and permit/court-ordered settlements are ineligible)
  • Applied only to the requested grant and not to any other matching program(s)
  • Spent/applied between the project start and end dates designated in the grant application (the start date may be back-dated up to 1 year prior to the application deadline to allow recent work directed to the project to be applied as match)

Project Duration

Anticipated completion time for funded projects will typically be 2 years following finalization of a grant agreement.  Projects may be a discrete part of a longer-term project, provided there are definable outcomes for the proposed phase of the overall effort.  The project narrative should include a clear timetable or schedule for project completion.

Project start and end dates should define the period during which all proposed work is accomplished, all requested funds are spent, and all matching funds are spent or applied.  The start date may be back-dated up to 1 year prior to the proposal deadline to allow work directed to the project to be applied as match (back-dating does not reduce the prospective 2-year duration of a grant going forward).

Long-term Operation and Maintenance

To help ensure project benefits will be sustained through time, grantees will be required to present or develop plans that addresses project site operation and management needs for at least 5 years after project completion.  The plans should describe anticipated actions needed, cost estimates, likely sources of funding, and parties responsible for implementation and oversight.  A portion of individual grant awards may be used to support plan development, and plans must be completed prior to the end dates specified in individual grant agreements.

Evaluation Criteria

The most-competitive proposals will demonstrate:

  • Close alignment with funding category priorities
  • Clear definition of activities and anticipated outcomes
  • Strong technical merit
  • Competitive project costs
  • Matching contributions
  • Experienced project teams
  • Collaboration between multiple entities
  • Benefits to underserved communities
  • Plans for pre- and post-implementation monitoring to document project outcomes
  • Plans for post-implementation operation and maintenance

Funded projects will typically:

  • Be shovel-ready (i.e., have completed planning, design and engineering stages to the extent that on-the-ground implementation can begin shortly after the grant is awarded)
  • Apply the bulk (generally >70%) of grant funding to on-the-ground improvements, with the option of using the remaining funds for planning, design, engineering, outreach or education
  • Provide long-lasting benefits, as demonstrated by provisions for long-term maintenance and management

A panel of technical reviewers and the Fund advisory team (consisting of representatives from Fund partner organizations) will use those criteria as a strong basis for project selections.  However, project selections will also be based on other considerations, such as availability of funding, geographic balance, and balance among project types.  In addition, selections may be based on how activities advance goals and objectives of established watershed, regional, tribal, state and federal plans. 

How to Apply

All application materials must be submitted online through National Fish and Wildlife Foundation’s Easygrants system.  Hard-copy applications will not be considered for funding.  An application can be started by clicking on the following link: (Note:  the internet browser pop-up blocker must be disabled prior to beginning the application process).  New users to the system will be prompted to register before starting their application.  Once an application has been initiated, it may be saved and then modified and submitted at a later time, up to the application deadline.

In addition to completing fields in Easygrants, applicants are required to upload several files, which are described in Table 1. 

Table 1.  Required and optional files to be uploaded.


Required or Optional


Full proposal narrative


Template provided in Easygrants; completed narrative not to exceed 6 pages in length

Activity and outcome metrics


Template provided in Easygrants

Board of Trustees


Provide a list of members of Board of Trustees, Directors or equivalent.  If your organization does not have a Board, upload a document stating so.

A-133 Audit 


If your organization has not expended more than $500,000 in Federal funds in the past year, upload a statement stating that an A-133 Audit is not required.

GAAP audited financial statements 


If your organization does not have GAAP audited financial statements, you may upload a balance sheet and profit/loss statement instead.

IRS Form 990 


If your organization is not a non-profit organization, upload a document stating that a 990 Form is not required.

Statement of litigation


Template provided in Easygrants

Map of project location 


Map should show the project location with respect to major landmarks (e.g., cities, rivers).  A Google map is sufficient.

Letters of support


Include a letter of support from the landowner(s) where the proposed work would occur.  Letters from other significant partners, especially those providing match, are encouraged.

Map of project site/restoration design 


To provide finer resolution than map of project location.

Conceptual/engineering plans


To be provided if available at the time of application.

Other relevant documents, figures and photos


10-page limit


Grant Application Webinar

Fund partners will host a webinar on August 14, 2013 at 10 AM Central Time.  The webinar will provide additional information about the Fund and funding priorities, provide additional guidance on the application process, and provide answers to participant questions.  Prospective applicants are strongly encouraged to participate.  Webinar participants can register at:

Application and Review Timeline

To be considered for funding, applications must be submitted online by 4 PM Central Time on September 17, 2013.

  • Sep 17, 2013:  Applications due
  • Sep 18 – Dec 8, 2013:  Applications reviewed/grant awards approved
  • Dec 9 – 13, 2013:  Anticipated announcement of awards
  • Dec 2013 – Feb 2014:  Grant agreements developed with successful applicants

General Procedures for Grant Recipients

After project selection, National Fish and Wildlife Foundation staff will work with applicants to prepare grant agreements and other necessary paperwork.  Additional information about the grantee’s organization and its finances may be solicited during this time.  Please note that preparation of grant agreements will require approximately 4 to 8 weeks after the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation receives the additional required information from the grantee.  Once grant agreements are finalized, funds may be advanced to qualified grantees based on cash needs of the project; however, most awards will be made on a reimbursable basis.  Grantees will be required to submit interim and final financial and programmatic reports. 

Additional Information and Application Assistance

For more information about the grants program or for assistance with the application process, please contact Todd Hogrefe (; 612-564-7286) at the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation.

Partner Information

For additional information on Fund partners, please click on the following links: