Chi-Cal Rivers Fund 2014 Request for Proposals

The Chi–Cal Rivers Fund (Fund) is inviting applications for competitive grant funding to be awarded through its second annual funding cycle. At the time of this announcement, approximately $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 July 29, 2014.

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, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S.D.A. Forest Service, and Wrigley Company Foundation.

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

  • Reduce stormwater runoff with green infrastructure
  • Enhance fish and wildlife habitat
  • Improve public-use opportunities

In this way, the Fund also helps to advance the goals of the Millennium Reserve, the Cook County Stormwater Management Plan, the City of Chicago Green Stormwater Infrastructure Strategy, the Remedial Action Plan for the Grand Calumet River Area of Concern, and several other ongoing efforts designed to restore the health, vitality and accessibility of the waterways in the Chicago and Calumet region.

Geographic Eligibility

To be eligible for funding, projects must occur within the Eligible Project Area depicted in Map 1. A more-detailed interactive map can be viewed by clicking here. Priority will be given to projects that directly benefit the following waterways:

  • Chicago River and tributaries in Illinois
  • North Shore Channel
  • 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

Projects that benefit any of the waterways listed above are eligible to receive funding. However, it is important to note that the Fund combines money from multiple sources, and each source has its own set of requirements and intended uses. Some of the available grant funding must be spent specifically for:

  • Public-use enhancement in or near downtown Chicago
  • In-stream habitat improvement projects for aquatic life within the Chicago Area Waterway System (CAWS) in Illinois*
  • Projects in Northwest Indiana

*The CAWS includes the waterways in the bulleted list above with the exception of Burns Ditch, the Little Calumet River south of the Cal-Sag Channel, and the tributaries of the Chicago River upstream of the confluence with the North Shore Channel.

Applicant Eligibility

Eligible applicants include: non-profit 501(c) organizations; state, tribal and local governments; and educational institutions. To be competitive, applicant organizations must demonstrate capacity and experience commensurate with the scale of the project being proposed and the funding being requested.

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 often causes urban flooding and it 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 stormwater 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 may include the installation of rain gardens, green roofs, pervious surfaces, bioswales, rain barrels/cisterns, tree trenches, urban forestry, as well as other green infrastructure solutions that help retain stormwater. By slowing, storing and filtering rain water, these projects will reduce runoff into sewer systems and 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:

  • Demonstrate water quality and quantity benefits for the major waterways of the system, as listed under the Geographic Eligibility section above
  • Engage community institutions (e.g., school districts, local units of government) with the potential to implement similar projects on other landholdings
  • Can be replicated or 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 land-use or watershed plans as priorities for green infrastructure installation
  • Increase the capacity of the system to mitigate new stressors from a changing climate

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 minimal habitat structure for birds and other wildlife.

Funding in this category will support on-the-ground riparian and in-stream habitat improvements. Funded projects may 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.

Preference will be given to projects that:

  • Occur in close proximity to the waterways listed under the Geographic Eligibility section
  • Increase habitat resilience within the context of new stressors from a changing climate

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 Chicago, four new boathouses and improvements to the trail system will provide better boating, biking, hiking and walking opportunities. The Millennium Reserve project has a goal of improving public recreation within 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, walking and hiking, generate economic benefits associated with these uses, and improve the natural aesthetics of underserved neighborhoods.

Preference will be given to projects that:

  • Occur in close proximity to the waterways listed under the Geographic Eligibility section
  • Include a communication plan for notifying relevant communities about the project after completion
  • Include a plan for collecting and reporting data on public use following project completion

Metrics and Monitoring

Applicants will be asked to describe proposed project activities and outcomes in terms of a set of quantitative metrics, viewable by clicking here. Applicants are encouraged to use the metrics listed, but they may also specify other metrics as needed. Only metrics relevant to the project being proposed should be selected in the application.

Each proposal should describe a monitoring plan to measure the outcomes and assess the success of the proposed project. At a minimum, the description should: 1) indicate the metrics that will be used to track progress and quantify outcomes; 2) outline the approach for establishing baseline conditions against which post-implementation conditions will be compared; and 3) demonstrate plans and resources for post-implementation monitoring.

Applicants may use grant funding to support monitoring activities associated with the proposed project. Applicants are encouraged to direct approximately 5–10 percent of the project budget toward this need. Some projects, particularly those proposing experimental restoration techniques, may warrant using a larger amount of the project budget for monitoring.

Matching Contributions

The ratio of matching contributions offered to grant funding requested is one criterion considered during the review process, and projects that meet or exceed a 1:1 match ratio will be more competitive. 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
  • 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 two 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 to be 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).

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 address project site operation and management needs for at least five 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 and adequate organizational capacity
  • Strong partnerships and community engagement
  • Benefits to underserved communities
  • Plans for pre- and post-implementation monitoring to document project outcomes
  • Plans for post-implementation operation and maintenance
  • Alignment with local, regional, tribal, state and federal plans

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 options to use 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 these 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.

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, until 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; available for viewing by clicking here.

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, upload a balance sheet and profit/loss statement.

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 are encouraged.

Conceptual plans


To be provided if available.

Photos - JPEG


Compress photos to the extent possible without creating image-quality problems.

Other relevant documents


10-page limit

Grant Application Webinar

Fund partners will host a webinar on June 24, 2014 at 10 AM Central Time. The webinar will provide additional information about the Fund and funding priorities, guidance on the application process, and answers to participant questions. Prospective applicants are strongly encouraged to participate. Webinar participants can register at:

Application Deadline and Review Timeline

Applications must be submitted online by 4 PM Central Time on July 29, 2014.

  • July 29, 2014: Application deadline
  • July 30 – October 31, 2014: Applications reviewed
  • November 14, 2014: Anticipated announcement of awards
  • November 2014 – January 2015: Grant agreements developed

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, most awards will be made on a reimbursable basis. However, funds may be advanced to qualified grantees based on cash needs of the project. Grantees will be required to submit annual interim reports and final financial and programmatic reports.

Additional Information and Application Assistance

For more information about the grants program or assistance with the application process, please contact Todd Hogrefe (; 612-564-7286) or Ellen Gibson (; 612-564-7253) at the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation. Additional information can also be found at:

Partner Information

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