[Federal Register Volume 75, Number 228 (Monday, November 29, 2010)]
[Notices]
[Pages 73027-73033]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2010-29958]


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Notices
                                                Federal Register
________________________________________________________________________

This section of the FEDERAL REGISTER contains documents other than rules 
or proposed rules that are applicable to the public. Notices of hearings 
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Federal Register / Vol. 75, No. 228 / Monday, November 29, 2010 / 
Notices

[[Page 73027]]


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DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE

Commodity Credit Corporation


Cooperative Conservation Partnership Initiative and Wetlands 
Reserve Enhancement Program

AGENCY: Commodity Credit Corporation and Natural Resources Conservation 
Service, United States Department of Agriculture.

ACTION: Notice of request for proposals through the Mississippi River 
Basin Healthy Watersheds Initiative.

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SUMMARY: The Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) announces 
the availability of financial assistance funds in fiscal year (FY) 2011 
for up to $15 million in the Cooperative Conservation Partnership 
Initiative (CCPI) and up to $25 million in the Wetlands Reserve 
Enhancement Program (WREP) through the Mississippi River Basin Healthy 
Watersheds Initiative (MRBI). These funding levels are available for 
new MRBI proposals only. However, CCPI and WREP will not be the only 
funding mechanisms for MRBI in FY 2011. The Chief of NRCS reserves 
discretion in utilizing other NRCS conservation program funds and 
mechanisms in support of the objectives of MRBI.
    Through agreements, partners and NRCS will provide assistance to 
eligible participants in the 43 designated focus areas (8-digit HUCs) 
in the following 13 States: Arkansas, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, 
Kentucky, Louisiana, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Ohio, Tennessee, 
South Dakota, and Wisconsin. The purpose of this notice is to solicit 
proposals from potential partners to enter into agreements with NRCS 
and to inform agricultural producers and landowners of the future 
availability of program funds through approved partnership projects. 
Proposals must be based on one or more 12-digit HUCs within the 43 
designated focus areas. Partners who are currently involved in approved 
MRBI agreements through CCPI or WREP and want to work in other 12-digit 
watersheds must submit new proposals for a new project.

DATES: Eligible partners may submit proposals for MRBI-CCPI and/or 
MRBI-WREP via email or U.S. Postal Service; however, all proposals must 
be received on or before January 28, 2011.

ADDRESSES: Applicants are encouraged to submit proposals electronically 
to MRBI-CCPI@wdc.usda.gov for CCPI and MRBI-WREP@wdc.usda.gov for WREP. 
If submitting a paper proposal, the proposal may be mailed to: Troy 
Daniell, Initiatives Coordinator, Conservation Initiatives Team, 
Natural Resources Conservation Service, P.O. Box 2890, Washington, DC 
20013.
    Do not send submissions via registered or certified mail. Do not 
send the same proposal both electronically and to the P.O. Box address; 
use only one method to submit a proposal. If submitting more than one 
project proposal, please submit each separately.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Troy Daniell, Initiatives Coordinator, 
Conservation Initiatives Team, Natural Resources Conservation Service; 
Telephone: (202) 690-2825; e-mail: Troy.Daniell@wdc.usda.gov.
    Persons with disabilities who require alternative means for 
communication (Braille, large print, audio tape, etc.) should contact 
the USDA TARGET Center at: (202) 720-2600 (voice and TDD).

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

Part A--General WREP and CCPI Proposal Information

Focus Area Watersheds

    Forty-three focus area (8-digit hydrologic unit code (HUC)) 
watersheds have been selected by NRCS State Conservationists, with 
input from the State Technical Committees and State water quality 
agencies, to help improve water quality by reducing nitrogen and 
sediment levels in the watersheds of the Mississippi River Basin, as 
well as improve wildlife habitat and restore wetlands. The designated 
8-digit HUC focus areas are listed below. A complete list of the 
smaller-scale, 12-digit HUC sub-watersheds within the designated 8-
digit HUC focus areas can be found at: http://www.nrcs.usda.gov/programs/mrbi/unit_code_lists.html.

       Designated Focus Areas for the MRBI FY 2011 (8-Digit HUCs)
------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                            Hydrologic
             State(s)                     Watershed          Unit Code
------------------------------------------------------------------------
Arkansas/Missouri.................  Cache...............        08020302
Arkansas..........................  Lake Conway-Point           11110203
                                     Remove.
Arkansas..........................  L'Anguille..........        08020205
Arkansas/Missouri.................  Lower St. Francis...        08020203
Illinois..........................  Lower Illinois-             07130001
                                     Senachwine Lake.
Illinois..........................  Upper Illinois......        07130005
Illinois..........................  Vermillion (Upper           07130002
                                     Mississippi River
                                     sub-basin).
Illinois/Indiana..................  Vermillion (Upper           05120109
                                     Ohio River sub-
                                     basin).
Indiana...........................  Eel.................        05120104
Indiana...........................  Upper East Fork             05120206
                                     White.
Indiana...........................  Wildcat.............        05120107
Indiana/Ohio......................  Upper Wabash........        05120101
Iowa..............................  Boone...............        07100005
Iowa..............................  Maquoketa...........        07060006
Iowa..............................  North Raccoon.......        07100006
Iowa/Minnesota....................  Upper Cedar.........        07080201

[[Page 73028]]

 
Kentucky/Tennessee................  Bayou De Chien-             08010201
                                     Mayfield.
Kentucky..........................  Licking.............        05100101
Kentucky..........................  Lower Green.........        05110005
Louisiana.........................  Mermentau...........        08080202
Louisiana/Arkansas................  Bayou Macon.........        08050002
Louisiana/Arkansas................  Boeuf River.........        08050001
Minnesota.........................  Middle Minnesota....        07020007
Minnesota.........................  Root................        07040008
Minnesota.........................  Sauk................        07010202
Mississippi.......................  Big Sunflower.......        08030207
Mississippi/Louisiana/Arkansas....  Deer-Steele.........        08030209
Mississippi.......................  Upper Yazoo.........        08030206
Missouri/Iowa.....................  Lower Grand.........        10280103
Mississippi.......................  Coldwater Creek.....        08030204
Missouri..........................  North Fork Salt.....        07110005
Missouri..........................  South Fork Salt.....        07110006
Missouri/Arkansas.................  Little River Ditches        08020204
Ohio/Indiana......................  Upper Great Miami...        05080001
Ohio..............................  Upper Scioto........        05060001
Tennessee.........................  Forked Deer.........        08010206
Tennessee/Kentucky................  Obion...............        08010202
Tennessee.........................  South Fork Obion....        08010203
Tennessee/Kentucky................  Red River...........        05130206
South Dakota/Minnesota............  Upper Minnesota.....        07020001
Wisconsin/Illinois................  Sugar...............        07090004
Wisconsin/Illinois................  Upper Rock..........        07090001
Wisconsin/Illinois................  Pecatonica..........        07090003
------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Under MRBI, NRCS works with partners through CCPI and WREP to help 
address conservation concerns and opportunities within the watershed of 
the Mississippi River Basin. In approved MRBI-CCPI project areas, NRCS 
will make Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), Conservation 
Stewardship Program (CSP), and Wildlife Habitat Incentive Program 
(WHIP) funds available to eligible producers consistent with the 
proposal design as much as possible. In approved MRBI-WREP project 
areas, funds are available through the Wetlands Reserve Program (WRP).

Proposal Submission, Review, and Notification

    Potential partners are highly encouraged to submit proposals to the 
email address provided in the ``Addresses'' section of this notice. If 
the proposal is submitted in hard copy, the potential partner must 
submit two copies of the proposal, typewritten or printed on 8\1/2\'' x 
11'' white paper. The entire project proposal, not including letters of 
support, cannot exceed 12 pages in length including a summary, 
responses to the information requested in this RFP, maps, and other 
supporting documents. The proposal must address, in sufficient detail, 
all the criteria outlined in the ``Proposal Requirements'' section of 
this notice in order to be considered.
    MRBI-CCPI and MRBI-WREP proposals submitted to NRCS become the 
property of the agency for use in the administration of the program, 
may be filed or disposed of by the agency, and will not be returned to 
the potential partner. Once proposals have been submitted for review 
and ranking, there will be no further opportunity for the potential 
partner to change or re-submit the proposal; however, NRCS may request 
certain changes before finalizing the selection and approval of a 
project. Incomplete proposals or those that do not meet the 
requirements set forth in this notice will not be considered, and 
notification of elimination will be mailed to the applicant. Partner 
proposals may be withdrawn by written notice to Troy Daniell, 
Initiatives Coordinator, Conservation Initiatives Team, at any time 
prior to selection (see ``Addresses'' section in this notice).
    NRCS will review, evaluate, and rank proposals based on the 
criteria set forth in the respective ``Proposal Requirements'' sections 
of this notice for both MRBI-CCPI and MRBI-WREP. Potential partners 
should recognize that the proposal is the only document NRCS will use 
in the evaluation process. The proposal must request NRCS program funds 
for obligation beginning in FY 2011 (October 1, 2010-September 30, 
2011). Proposals which request funding with obligation starting after 
FY 2011 will not be evaluated or considered under this request for 
proposals.
    Partners whose proposals have been selected will receive an 
official letter of notification. Upon notification of selection, the 
partner should contact the appropriate State Conservationist(s) to 
develop the required partnership agreement and other project 
implementation requirements. Potential partners should note that, 
depending upon available funding and agency priorities, NRCS may offer 
a reduced amount of program financial assistance from what was 
requested in the proposal and may require adjustments to the proposal 
as a condition of approval to meet program or other requirements. 
Partner submissions of proposals that are not selected will also be 
notified by mail.

State Conservationist(s) Proposal Review

    Once a project proposal is received, the agency will provide a copy 
of it to the appropriate State Conservationist(s). State 
Conservationist(s) will review the proposals to:
    (a) Document potential duplication with other projects or existing 
programs;
    (b) Ensure adherence to and consistency with program regulation, 
including requirements related to land and landowner eligibility and 
other program requirements;

[[Page 73029]]

    (c) Address expected benefits for project implementation in their 
State(s);
    (d) For multi-State proposals, coordinate with all State 
Conservationists involved in the proposal to verify there is 
concurrence and support for the project;
    (e) Identify other issues or concerns that should be considered; 
and
    (f) Provide a recommendation to the NRCS Chief for approval or 
disapproval of the project.

Waiver Authority

    To assist in the implementation of approved WREP and CCPI projects, 
the Chief may waive the applicability of the Adjusted Gross Income 
Limitation, on a case-by-case basis, in accordance with 7 CFR part 
1400. Such waiver requests must be submitted in writing from the 
program applicant, not the sponsoring partner, addressed to the Chief, 
and submitted through the local NRCS designated conservationist.

Part B--The Cooperative Conservation Partnership Initiative (CCPI) 
Component of MRBI

    To improve the health of the watersheds within the Mississippi 
River Basin, NRCS and its partners will help producers to voluntarily 
implement conservation practices that avoid, control, and trap nutrient 
runoff; improve wildlife habitat; restore wetlands; and maintain 
agricultural productivity. These improvements will be accomplished 
through a conservation systems approach to address water quality, 
wetland, and wildlife related resource concerns. NRCS will provide 
producers assistance in implementing a suite of practices that will 
reduce the impacts of nutrients and sediment leaving agricultural 
fields.

Overview of the CCPI

    The CCPI is a voluntary conservation initiative that enables the 
use of certain conservation programs, combined with resources from 
eligible partners, to provide financial and technical assistance to 
owners and operators of agricultural and nonindustrial private forest 
lands in order to enhance conservation outcomes and achieve resource 
conservation objectives. The functions of CCPI can best be described in 
two parts: CCPI partnerships and CCPI program participation.
CCPI Partnerships
    Under CCPI, eligible potential partners may submit proposals 
addressing the criteria that are outlined in this request for 
proposals. Partners who may enter into partnership agreements with NRCS 
include federally recognized Indian tribes, State and local units of 
government, producer associations, farmer cooperatives, institutions of 
higher education, and nongovernmental organizations with a history of 
working cooperatively with producers to effectively address 
conservation priorities related to agricultural production and 
nonindustrial private forest land. Individual agricultural producers 
are not an eligible partner entity and may not submit CCPI proposals. 
However, individual agricultural producers can participate by applying 
for program assistance in the approved proposal areas, through their 
local NRCS office.
    Proposals will be evaluated through a competitive review process. 
After selection, the partners will enter into a partnership agreement 
with NRCS. The partnership agreement will not obligate funds, but will 
address the:
    (a) Role of the partner;
    (b) Role of NRCS;
    (c) Responsibilities of the partner as it relates to the monitoring 
and evaluation;
    (d) Frequency and duration of monitoring and evaluation to be 
completed by the partner;
    (e) Format and frequency of reports that are required as a 
condition of the partnership agreement;
    (f) Budget which includes other funding sources (if applicable) for 
financial and technical assistance;
    (g) Specified project schedule and timeframe; and
    (h) Other requirements deemed necessary by NRCS to further the 
purposes of MRBI.
    Where flexibility is needed to meet project objectives, the partner 
may request that program adjustments be allowed, provided such 
adjustments are within the scope of the applicable programs' statutory 
and regulatory program authorities. An example of an adjustment may be 
to expedite the applicable program ranking process in a situation where 
a partner has identified the producers approved to participate in the 
project. Other examples of flexibilities are payments rates, or use of 
a single area-wide conservation plan of operations rather than 
individual conservation plans of operation. An example of an ineligible 
flexibility would be to request funds for activities that do not meet 
NRCS conservation practice standards.
    CCPI is not a grant program, and all Federal funds made available 
through this request for proposals will be paid directly to producers 
through program contract agreements. If desired, producers may elect to 
have their payments assigned to another party. No technical assistance 
funding may be provided to a partner through the CCPI partner 
agreement. However, if requested by a partner, the State 
Conservationist may consider development of a separate contribution 
agreement with a qualified partner to provide funding for delivery of 
technical services to producers participating in an approved CCPI 
project.
CCPI Program Participation
    Once the agency approves and announces the selected partner 
projects, eligible agricultural producers located within the approved 
project areas may apply directly to NRCS for funding through one or 
more of the following programs: EQIP, CSP, or WHIP. CCPI uses the 
funds, policies, and processes of these programs to deliver assistance 
to eligible producers to implement approved core and supporting 
conservation practices, enhancements, and activities under MRBI. 
Producers interested in applying must meet the eligibility requirements 
of the program for which they are applying. Individual applications 
from eligible producers will be evaluated and ranked to ensure that 
producer applications selected for funding are most likely to achieve 
project objectives. Once applications are selected, the producers may 
enter into one or more contracts or cost-share agreements with NRCS 
within one or more of the programs offered under CCPI. During FY 2011, 
an objective of MRBI-CCPI is to deliver EQIP, CSP, and WHIP assistance 
to producers to achieve MRBI priority conservation objectives in 
geographic areas defined by the partner. Depending upon the program 
available in the project area, the assistance provided enables eligible 
producers to implement conservation practices and enhancements, 
including the development and adoption of innovative conservation 
practices and management approaches.

Availability of Funding

    Effective on the publication date of this notice, the CCC announces 
the availability of up to $9 million in EQIP and $500,000 in WHIP 
financial assistance; and 278,000 acres in CSP for MRBI-CCPI during FY 
2011.

Proposal Requirements

    The proposal must include the following:
    (1) Proposal Cover and Summary:
    (a) Project Title.
    (b) Project director/manager name, telephone number, and mailing 
and email addresses.

[[Page 73030]]

    (c) Name and contact information for lead partner entity submitting 
proposal and other collaborating partners.
    (d) Short summary of project including:
    i. Project start and end dates (not to exceed a period of 4 years),
    ii. Designated 12-digit HUC, or contiguous multiple 12-digit HUCs 
sub-watersheds where the project is located, including the State(s) and 
county(s),
    iii. General project objectives and resource concerns to be 
addressed as they relate to MRBI priorities and objectives,
    iv. Total amount of CCPI financial assistance being requested by 
program, and
    v. Whether the MRBI-CCPI proposal will be used in conjunction with 
a MRBI-WREP, MRBI-CIG, or other Federal programs to meet MRBI 
objectives. Include the name of that project and the associated Federal 
agency. (Note: Federal funds cannot be used as a match to the funds 
provided by NRCS.)
    (2) Project Natural Resource Objectives and Concerns:
    (a) Identify and provide detail about the project objectives. 
Objectives should be specific, measureable, achievable, and results-
oriented.
    (b) Identify and provide detail about the natural resource 
concern(s) to be addressed in this project. Include in this description 
how the proposal objectives will address the priority MRBI resource 
concerns of water quality, wetland restoration, and improved wildlife 
habitat. Potential partners will work with the State Conservationist(s) 
to ensure the priority resource concerns are addressed by utilizing 
approved conservation practices, enhancements and activities, and 
conservation program requirements. A list of NRCS approved natural 
resource concerns for MRBI may be found on the MRBI Web site at http://www.nrcs.usda.gov/programs/mrbi/mrbi_overview.html.
    (3) Detailed Project Description:
    (a) A detailed description of the geographic area covered by the 
proposal, including:
    i. Types of land uses to be treated, and
    ii. The location and size of the proposed project area and what 12-
digit HUC sub-watershed(s) the project will be within.
    (b) A detailed map showing the project area. Include on the map:
    i. Outlined areas that need conservation treatments,
    ii. Location where conservation treatments are needed, and
    iii. Priority order for the different areas to be treated.
    (c) A description of the project timeline. Include:
    i. Duration of the project, not to exceed 4 consecutive years in 
length beginning in FY 2011,
    ii. Project implementation schedule that details when different 
objectives and conservation practices and enhancements will be 
completed,
    iii. When partner and Federal resources will be used within the 
timeframe of the project. Include the total amount of financial 
assistance funds requested for each fiscal year of the project to be 
made available for producer contracts and cost-share agreements (for 
multi-State projects, provide the funds or acres by State as 
appropriate), and
    iv. When the final project report will be submitted.
    (d) A description of the plan for evaluating and reporting on 
progress made toward achieving the objectives of the agreement.
    (e) Identify potential criteria to be used by NRCS to prioritize 
and rank agricultural producers' applications for EQIP, CSP, and WHIP 
in the project area. Potential partners should collaborate with NRCS to 
develop meaningful criteria that NRCS can use to evaluate and rank 
producer program applications. This will ensure that producer 
applications which will best accomplish MRBI objectives will be 
selected.
    (f) An estimate of the percentage of producers, including 
nonindustrial private forest landowners, in the project area that may 
participate in the project along with an estimate of the total number 
of producers located in the project area. Provide details about 
additional information such as how the partner will encourage producer 
participation; does the project include any tribal producers, beginning 
farmers or ranchers, socially disadvantaged farmers or ranchers, or 
limited resource farmers or ranchers; and are there groups of producers 
who may submit joint applications to address resource issues of common 
interest and need.
    (g) A listing and description of the approved MRBI-CCPI core 
conservation practices, conservation activity plans, enhancements, and 
partner activities to be implemented during the project timeframe and 
the general sequence of implementation of the project. Information 
about approved MRBI-CCPI EQIP, WHIP, and CSP practices, enhancements, 
and activities can be accessed at http://nrcs.usda.gov/programs/mrbi/mrbi.html. Only the conservation practices listed, which are available 
in the applicable State's Field Office Technical Guide, are eligible 
for use in MRBI. For each conservation practice, estimate the amount of 
practice extent (feet, acres, number, etc.) the partner expects 
producers to implement and the amount of financial assistance requested 
to support implementation of each practice through producer contracts.
    (h) Also address technical assistance efforts that will be made by 
the partner. Describe any activities that are innovative and include 
outcome-based performance measures, such as water quality monitoring, 
to be implemented by the partner.
    (i) Indicate whether the project will address specific regulatory 
compliance and any other outcomes the partner expects to complete 
during the project period.
    (j) A detailed description of any requested adjustments, by 
program, with an explanation of why the adjustment is needed in order 
to achieve the objectives of the project. Requested adjustments or 
flexibilities must comply with statutory and regulatory requirements.
    (k) A science-based description of how the proposal's objectives 
also may provide additional benefits by addressing energy conservation 
or mitigating the effects of climate change, if applicable.
    (l) A description of a plan to conduct water quality monitoring and 
evaluation and the reporting of progress made toward achieving MRBI 
objectives and desired outcomes. NRCS is especially interested in 
proposals that adopt a three-tiered monitoring and evaluation approach 
designed to assess environmental outcomes at the edge-of-field, in-
stream, and at the 12-digit HUC level. Higher priority will be given to 
projects that adopt this three-tiered approach where the partner 
provides resources or technical services to carry it out. Higher 
priority will also be given to projects that utilize environmental 
indicators to assess water quality and evaluate effects of conservation 
systems and activities implemented through the project at the edge-of-
field level in conjunction with in-stream and 12-digit HUC monitoring. 
Information concerning water quality monitoring and evaluation can be 
found at http://www.nrcs.usda.gov/programs/pdf_files/water_quality_monitoring_reference_material.pdf.
    (4) Partner Description:
    (a) A description of the partner(s) history of working with 
agricultural producers to address conservation priorities.
    (b) A description of how the partner(s) will collaborate to achieve 
the objectives of the agreement. Include:
    i. The roles, responsibilities, and capabilities of the partner(s), 
and

[[Page 73031]]

    ii. The financial or technical commitments of each of the 
partner(s) and how they will be leveraged by the Federal contribution 
through EQIP, WHIP, CSP, or a combination of the three. Include 
specifically what commitments will be used toward water quality 
monitoring needs. If partners who do not submit the proposal intend to 
commit resources, a letter or other documentation from these partners 
confirming a commitment of specified resources is required.
    (c) A description of the resources (financial and technical 
assistance) requested from each of the applicable NRCS programs (EQIP, 
WHIP, and CSP) and the non-Federal resources provided by the partner 
that will be leveraged by the Federal contribution. Partners need to 
clearly state, by project objective, how they intend to leverage 
Federal funds along with partner resources. The funding and time 
contribution by agricultural producers to implement agreed-to 
conservation practices and enhancements in program contracts will not 
be considered any part of a match from the potential partner for 
purposes of CCPI.
    (d) A description of how the partner will facilitate the submission 
of landowner applications.
    (e) A description of how the partner will provide for outreach to 
beginning farmers or ranchers, limited resource farmers or ranchers, 
socially disadvantaged farmers or ranchers, and Indian tribes.

National Ranking Considerations

    The agency will evaluate proposals using a national competitive 
process. A higher priority may be given to proposals that:
    (a) Have a high percentage of producers actively farming or 
managing working agricultural or nonindustrial private forest lands 
included in the proposed project area;
    (b) Significantly leverage non-Federal financial and technical 
resources and coordinate with other local, State, or Federal efforts. 
This includes resources committed to provide for water quality 
monitoring and evaluation of conservation practices;
    (c) Integrate both WREP and CCPI within a project area;
    (d) Deliver high percentages of applied conservation practices to 
address water quality, wildlife habitat, and wetland restoration;
    (e) Provide innovation in approved conservation practices, 
conservation methods, and delivery, including outcome-based performance 
measures and methods such as adaptive management strategies;
    (f) Complete the application of the conservation practices and 
activities on all of the covered program contracts or cost-share 
agreements in 4 years or less;
    (g) Assist the participants in meeting local, State, and Federal 
regulatory requirements;
    (h) Provide for environmental monitoring and evaluation of 
conservation practices, enhancements, and activities;
    (i) Provide for outreach to, and participation of, beginning 
farmers or ranchers, socially disadvantaged farmers or ranchers, 
limited resource farmers or ranchers, and Indian tribes within the 
proposed project area;
    (j) Have a high potential to achieve MRBI water quality objectives 
of nitrogen and sediment reductions leaving the field; and
    (k) Identify other factors and criteria which best achieve the 
purposes of MRBI-CCPI.

Part C--The Wetlands Reserve Enhancement Program Component of MRBI

Availability of Funding

    Effective upon publication of this notice, NRCS on behalf of CCC, 
announces that within the designated focus areas in the Mississippi 
River Basin Watersheds, up to $25 million in financial assistance funds 
are available in FY 2011 for the WREP to eligible participants through 
approved partnership projects within the 43 designated 8-digit HUC 
focus area watersheds in the following states: Arkansas, Illinois, 
Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, 
Ohio, Tennessee, South Dakota, and Wisconsin.
    Under WREP, NRCS enters into multi-year agreements with eligible 
State and local governments, nongovernmental organizations, and Indian 
tribes to target and leverage resources to carry out high priority 
wetland protection, restoration, and enhancement activities; and 
improve water quality and wildlife habitat. Eligible partners should 
submit complete proposals to the addresses listed in this notice 
addressing the MRBI conservation objectives to be achieved in one or 
more 12-digit HUC watersheds within the 43 eligible 8-digit HUC focus 
area watersheds. Proposals that integrate a MRBI-WREP proposal with a 
MRBI-CCPI project in one or more 12-digit HUC watersheds will be given 
additional consideration in the selection process.
Overview
    WREP is a voluntary conservation program which is a component of 
WRP. WREP leverages resources of eligible partners to provide financial 
assistance to eligible landowners to protect, restore, and enhance high 
priority wetlands; improve wildlife habitat; and improve water quality. 
WREP partners are required to contribute a match as detailed in the 
proposal requirement section at 3(e). Proposals which include 
additional partner resources will be given higher priority 
consideration in the selection process.
    WREP financial assistance is delivered to eligible landowners and 
partners in approved project areas through easement acquisition, 
conservation program contracts, cooperative agreements, contribution 
agreements, or Federal contracts. Restoration may be achieved through 
payments to other parties who conduct the restoration activities.
    Only States and local units of government, Indian tribes, and 
nongovernmental organizations are eligible to submit a proposal and 
enter into agreements with NRCS. A nongovernmental organization is an 
organization described in section 501(c) (3) of the Internal Revenue 
Code of 1986. Individual landowners may not submit WREP proposals 
through this submission process. However, once a WREP project has been 
approved and announced, eligible landowners may apply for WREP through 
their local NRCS office. As part of the agreement, approved partners 
may also help facilitate the submission of landowner applications, 
provide additional technical or financial assistance to landowners, and 
provide other resources as defined in the agreement.
    Written proposals are to be submitted by eligible partners, and 
project evaluation will be based upon a competitive process and the 
criteria established in this notice. Once NRCS selects a partner's 
proposal, landowners within the selected project area may submit an 
application directly to NRCS for participation in WRP. Individual 
landowner applications will be evaluated and ranked along with other 
applications in the watershed or geographic project area, when 
applicable, to ensure that the properties selected for funding will 
achieve project objectives.
    Wetland restoration and enhancement actions will be designed to 
improve water quality, and maximize wildlife habitat benefits and 
wetland functions and values according to the WRP regulation, 7 CFR 
part 1467, and NRCS conservation practice standards. Additionally, the 
successful restoration of land and the resultant wetland values must 
take into consideration the cost of

[[Page 73032]]

such restoration, as required by the WRP statute and reflected in the 
WRP regulation at 7 CFR part 1467.4. Proposals must conform to the WRP 
guidelines for restoration and management of lands subject to a WRP 
easement.
    Benefits to the partners in WREP agreements include:
     Involvement in wetland restorations in high priority MRBI 
focus areas;
     Ability to cost-share restoration or enhancement 
components beyond those required by NRCS;
     Ability to participate in management or monitoring of 
selected project locations; and
     Opportunity to utilize innovative restoration methods and 
practices.

Land Eligibility

    The land eligibility criteria for WREP are the same as for WRP and 
are listed in 7 CFR Sec.  1467.4.

Proposal Requirements

    For consideration, the proposal must be in the following format and 
contain the information set forth below.
    (1) Proposal Cover and Summary. The first few pages of the proposal 
must include--
    (a) Project Title.
    (b) Project Director/Manager name, telephone, and mailing and email 
address.
    (c) Name and contact information for lead partner submitting 
proposal and other collaborating partners.
    (d) Short general summary of project, including:
    (i) Potential acres to be enrolled in the project area,
    (ii) Designated 12-digit watershed(s) where the project is located, 
including the State(s), and county(s). Include a general location map,
    (iii) Proposed project start and end dates that do not exceed 4 
consecutive years including FY 2011,
    (iv) The project objectives and resource concerns to be addressed, 
and
    (v) Total amount of financial assistance being requested.
    (2) Project Natural Resource Objectives and Actions. The proposal 
must--
    (a) Identify and provide detail about the wildlife and water 
quality concerns to be addressed and how the proposal's objectives will 
address those concerns. Objectives should be specific, measurable, 
achievable, results-oriented, and include a timeline for completion.
    (b) For each objective, identify the actions to be completed to 
achieve that objective and address the identified natural resource 
concern. Specify which actions are to be addressed through this project 
using WREP assistance, and which are being addressed through alternate 
non-Federal funding sources or other resources provided.
    (c) Identify the total acres that require wetland protection, 
restoration, and enhancement.
    (3) Detailed Project Description. Information provided in the 
proposal must include--
    (a) A description of the partner(s) history of working 
cooperatively with landowners on conservation easements.
    (b) A description of the watershed characteristics within the 
designated focus area covered by the proposal including a detailed 
watershed map that indicates the project location. The description 
should include information related to land use types, vegetation, 
soils, hydrology, potential sources of water quality impairments, 
occurrences of at-risk species, proximity to other protected areas, and 
a summary of resource concerns. Proposals should state whether a MRBI-
WREP proposal is integrated with a MRBI-CCPI proposed project and 
include the name of the proposed project.
    (c) A description of the partner(s) and the roles, 
responsibilities, and capabilities of the partner(s). Proposals which 
include resources from partners other than the lead partner must 
include a letter or other documentation confirming the commitment of 
resources.
    (d) A description of the project duration, plan of action, and 
project implementation schedule. Project proposals cannot exceed 4 
years.
    (e) A description of the financial assistance resources that are 
requested through WREP, and the non-Federal resources provided by the 
partner(s) that will be leveraged by the Federal contribution. WREP 
requires partners to contribute a match of:
    (i) In-kind only contributions of at least 20 percent of the 
restoration costs,
    (ii) Cash only contributions of at least 5 percent of the 
restoration costs, or
    (iii) A combination of in-kind and cash contributions of at least 
20 percent of the restoration costs.
    Proposals which include additional partner resources will be given 
additional consideration in the selection process. Contributions 
provided by the partners to achieve additional ranking points can be in 
the form of technical or financial assistance for the protection, 
restoration, and enhancement of the wetland. Contributions can also be 
in the form of assistance with management and monitoring activities. 
Contributions above the match requirement can be cash or in-kind 
equipment or services. Partners may provide incentives to landowners to 
participate in WREP; however, incentive payments will not be considered 
part of the match requirement. Incentives include sign-up bonuses, 
practice incentive payments, or similar activities not funded through 
WRP.
    (f) Total budget for the project including all partner resources 
which will be leveraged for the project and the amount of WREP 
financial assistance being requested for project broken out by fiscal 
year with totals. Include a description of the amount of funds needed 
annually for easement acquisition and wetland restoration and 
enhancement activities.
    (g) A description of non-Federal resources that will be available 
for implementation of the proposal. Proposals which include additional 
non-Federal resources will be given higher consideration in the 
selection process. The partner needs to state clearly how they intend 
to leverage Federal funds along with partner resources. Landowner 
contributions in the implementation of agreed-to wetland restoration 
and enhancement practices may not be considered any part of a match 
from the potential partner for purposes of WREP. Partners will also be 
required to submit a plan for monitoring, evaluating, and reporting 
progress made toward achieving the objectives of the agreement.
    (h) An estimate of the percentage of potential landowners, or 
estimate of the percentage of acres likely to be enrolled within the 
project area, compared to the total number of potential landowners or 
acres located in the project area. A statement on how the partner will 
encourage participation to guarantee success of the project. It is not 
necessary for a target area to involve multiple landowners to be 
selected. Projects will be evaluated based on the ecological merits of 
the proposal and contributions by the partners.
    (i) A statement describing how the partner will provide outreach, 
especially to encourage participation by Indian tribes, beginning 
farmers or ranchers, socially disadvantaged farmers or ranchers, and 
limited resource farmers or ranchers.
    (j) A description of the wetland protection, restoration, and 
enhancement activities to be implemented during the project timeframe, 
and the general sequence of implementation of the project. Activities 
may include those efforts undertaken by the partner and those that the 
partner requests NRCS to address through financial support.

[[Page 73033]]

 National Ranking Considerations

    The appropriate State Conservationist will evaluate proposals using 
a competitive process and forward recommended proposals to the Chief 
for review and selection. The Chief will give a higher priority to 
proposals that:
    (a) Have a high potential to achieve wetland restoration;
    (b) Have a high potential to significantly improve water quality;
    (c) Have a high potential to significantly improve wildlife 
habitat;
    (d) Significantly leverage non-Federal financial and technical 
resources and coordinate with other local, State, tribal, or Federal 
efforts;
    (e) Demonstrate the partner's history of working cooperatively with 
landowners on conservation easements;
    (f) Provide innovation in wetland protection, restoration, and 
enhancement methods and outcome-based performance measures and methods;
    (g) Provide evidence that wetland restoration and enhancement 
activities will be completed within 2 years of easement closing;
    (h) Provide for monitoring and evaluation of the effectiveness of 
the restoration activities on water quality;
    (i) Provide for matching financial or technical assistance funds to 
assist landowners with the implementation of the Wetlands Reserve Plan 
of Operations and associated contracts;
    (j) Facilitate the submission of landowner applications;
    (k) Provide for outreach to, and participation of, Indian tribes, 
beginning farmers or ranchers, socially disadvantaged farmers or 
ranchers, and limited resource farmers or ranchers within the area 
covered by the agreement; and
    (l) Integrate a MRBI-WREP proposal with a MRBI-CCPI proposed or 
approved project.

Partnership Agreements

    Upon proposal selection, NRCS will enter an agreement with a 
partner as the mechanism for partner participation in WREP. At a 
minimum, the agreement will address:
    (a) The role of the partner;
    (b) The role of NRCS;
    (c) The format and frequency of reports that is required as a 
condition of the agreement;
    (d) The Plan of Work and budget to identify other funding sources 
(if applicable) for financial or technical assistance;
    (e) The specified project schedule and timeframe;
    (f) Whether the agreement will serve as an obligating document or 
whether funds will be obligated under a separate agreement with the 
partner or with a third party; and
    (g) Other requirements deemed necessary by NRCS to achieve purposes 
of the WRP.

Landowner Application

    Landowners must meet the eligibility requirements of WRP, as 
published in 7 CFR part 1467. Landowners interested in participating 
may apply for designated WREP funds at their local service center after 
WREP proposals are selected. In FY 2011, NRCS will make WREP funds 
available to eligible landowners to enroll land under a permanent 
easement, a 30-year easement, a 30-year contract on acreage owned by 
Indian tribes, or through a Restoration Agreement.
    NRCS and the partner may assist landowners in determining whether 
the application is appropriate for WREP depending on the wetland 
protection, restoration, and enhancement activities that the applicant 
seeks to install or perform.

    Signed the 20th day of November, 2010, in Washington, DC.
Dave White,
Vice President, Commodity Credit Corporation and Chief, Natural 
Resources Conservation Service.
[FR Doc. 2010-29958 Filed 11-26-10; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 3410-16-P