Authorization vs. Appropriations: What You Need To Know

When it comes to federal funds for water infrastructure grants, the difference between authorization and appropriation is essential. Sometimes the definition of one is confused for the other. Here’s what you need to know about both terms and what it means for water grants.

Authorization is Congress dictating that money can be spent on a specific item and appropriations allow agencies to spend money that has been authorized previously. Oftentimes, excitement surrounds authorization, such as the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act of 2021 (which provides $55 billion in new funding over five years to help with drinking and wastewater problems). The issue is, additional legislation must be passed in order to appropriate where that money will be spent. Therefore, grant programs for water infrastructure will not receive any additional funds until they are appropriated.

Sometimes the process of funds trickling down to individual projects takes years. While this can be frustrating, it can also be used to your advantage. Do you have a project that needs to be
funded in the next few years? Keep an eye on where money is being appropriated and which
grants will be boosted because of that. This could be helpful when deciding which grants to
submit applications to years in advance, bettering your chances of success.

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Grant Pursuit Strategy: The Data Behind Funding Opportunities

In June of 2021, CEO and founder Tia Cavender and database and IT Manager Fernando Gonzalez spoke with Municipal Water Magazine regarding Dig Deep’s work to help municipalities follow the money for infrastructure. Dig Deep’s Grant Pursuit Strategy (GPS) is a tool for municipalities to utilize in order to identify the best grants for them to pursue and the order in which to do so. GPS makes it clear which grants are the most achievable and which are the most competitive using data analysis performed by the team at Dig Deep. Each result is customized specifically for the municipality in question and the project they need funding for. We know the landscape is tough. The US Water Alliance and the American Society of Civil Engineers estimate that $109 billion dollars per year needs to be invested by the federal government to close the water infrastructure gap. The funding opportunities out there cover nowhere near that yearly cost. Therefore, precision and efficiency must be utilized to make the most of this competitive environment. An example of the information GPS provides, Dig Deep performed a comparison between the funding opportunities in Colorado versus Oregon. The data shows that drinking water and

stormwater projects are more likely to receive grant funding due to more availability versus wastewater projects which have more opportunities for loans. To read the full article in Water Strategies’ Municipal Water Leader magazine, click here. We regularly blast out more in-depth information regarding tips for your application, downloadable resources like this checklist, and grant alerts. Sign up here.

U.S. Senator Ron Wyden visits the Big Creek Dam Project site in Newport, Oregon

This month, U.S. Senator Ron Wyden visited Newport, Oregon’s Big Creek dams. The Senator’s visit is imperative as Big Creek dams are the sole water source for Newport. And it is in danger of failure.

Both dams were built over 60 years ago and currently there’s evidence of internal seepage. The dam was deemed unsafe by the Oregon Water Resources Department Dam Safety Engineer in 2021 which requires immediate repairs or a pause in use.

Immediate failure of the Big Creek dams would be catastrophic. City Engineer Aaron Collett said that upon failure, water levels could reach up to 19 feet high in under one minute. Water that high and moving fast would wash over the water treatment plant, rendering it useless, before washing away homes and putting citizens at risk. The economic damages in Newport could exceed $1 billion.

The price tag for replacing the dams is high as well. Costs are projected to reach $100 million, putting a strain of up to $10,000 per taxpayer in Newport without federal assistance. The economic burden on citizens in the surrounding area are why Mayor Dean Sawyer and state Rep. David Gomberg has lobbied for federal funding towards the dam replacement for years now.

Senator Wyden saw the upper dam first-hand and listened to presentations from Mayor Dean Sawyer, City Engineer Aaron Collett, state Rep. David Gomber, and Dig Deep CEO Tia Cavander regarding the necessity for this dam replacement. In response, he assured city leaders that the Senate is committed to providing funding for this project.

In fact, the 2022 Water Resources Development Act promises $60 million for the dam project. The bill cleared the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure and was adopted by the House. Now on its way to the Senate, Wyden said “It’s full-court press…This is job number one.”

The information from this blog post is provided by the Newport News Times. To read more about Senator Wyden’s visit and the Big Creek Dams, check out this Newport News Times article.

How to Determine Your Project’s Competitiveness for a Funding Opportunity

Once you’ve figured out that you meet the funder’s requirements for their grant application, the
next step is to determine if your project will be competitive enough to justify the time and
resources required to prepare the grant application.

Many grant guidelines will provide evaluation criteria that tell you how evaluators will be scoring applications. If this information is available to you, use it. The evaluation criteria will establish the relative importance of various components of the project to the funder. You can use that information to align your project with what the funder is interested in supporting.

Some funding agencies publish a list of projects funded in previous grant cycles, occasionally including copies of the submitted proposals. This information can provide invaluable insight into the program’s giving habits. Look for trends and compare how well your project and organization would fit in with their award history.

Utilize the program officer or contact person at the funding agency you’re researching. They are responsible for managing the application process and can be an incredible resource when
determining your competitiveness. Ask questions, be prepared, and listen carefully. Be open to receiving any information they are able to share.

Keep in touch with Dig Deep so you can be among the first to know when grant opportunities
open up.

How to Incorporate Fundable Elements Into Your Project

What makes a project stand out in a sea of grant applications? The incorporation of fundable
elements. The more of these features your project has, the better its chances of securing
funding. If you are able to incorporate these elements early on in the design and construction
process, your project will have more long-term success.

Here are a few fundable elements to consider incorporating:

Highlight what you’re already doing. Capital infrastructure projects can create jobs, both short-
term and long-term. Furthermore, capital projects are often part of larger development and
revitalization efforts. Think about how your project contributes to economic stimulus and/or
serving the underserved communities in your area and then highlight those contributions in your

Funders are interested in supporting projects that have the support and participation of the
community. Formalize existing connections by asking for a letter of support, letter of
commitment or memorandum of understanding. Also make an effort to make new, strategic
connections with those who may be positively impacted by your project. The more connections
and support your project has, the more fundable it will be.

Incorporating best industry practices in your capital infrastructure project also helps its chances
of funding. Emerging or green technologies incorporated early on in the design and construction
phases of your project shows funding agencies that you are innovative. This also opens the
door to a partnership with a research institution, power company, or environmental group, thus
boosting your project’s fundability.

As you can see, there’s many ways to include fundable elements into your project and grant
application. The incorporation of these doesn’t have to involve dramatic changes either. Take a
look at the details of your project and see what sorts of fundable elements you can include in
the design. Learn more about Dig Deep so you can be among the first to know when grant
opportunities open up.

Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA): The Largest-Ever Investment in the Nation’s Water Infrastructure

There’s a lot to parse about the dollars that are going to flow to communities nationwide from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA). Some funds will be made available via competitive grant programs.

If you’re looking for water infrastructure funding, focus on these top four options:

  • Building Resilient Infrastructure and Communities Program (BRIC)
    The existing FEMA BRIC program will distribute $1 billion to support communities undertaking hazard mitigation projects to reduce the risks they face from disasters and other natural hazards. Communities will apply as sub-applicants under their states. Applications for FY22 are expected to open no later than September 30, 2022.
  • Flood Mitigation Assistance
    $3.5 billion from this existing FEMA program can be used for projects that reduce or eliminate the risk of repetitive flood damage to buildings insured by the National Flood Insurance Program. Communities will apply as sub-applicants under their states. Applications for FY22 are expected to open no later than September 30, 2022.
  • Water & Groundwater Storage and Conveyance
    This existing $1 billion program at the Department of Interior provides funding for water storage projects with capacity between 2,000 and 30,000 acre-feet – as well as projects that convey water to or from surface water or groundwater storage. The Department will hold its final stakeholder sessions this month and open applications later this spring.
  • Emergency Watershed Protection Program
    This existing Department of Agriculture program will provide $300 million in technical and financial assistance to project sponsors for the design and construction of measures to help repair damages from a recent disaster. Applications open in February.

Also, keep these other three grants on your radar. If your water project includes a renewable energy component, for example, you may be able to fund that part of your project using one of these grants:

  • Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grants
    This Department of Energy block grant program will provide $550 million to states, local governments, and tribes for projects that reduce energy use, increase energy efficiency, and cut pollution. The first funding opportunity is expected for release in the Fall of 2022.
  • Energy Improvement in Rural or Remote Areas
    This new Department of Energy program will provide $1 billion to entities in rural or remote areas to increase environmental protection from the impacts of energy use and improve resilience, reliability, safety, and availability of energy. For this program, rural/remote is defined as cities, towns, or unincorporated areas with fewer than 10,000 people. Applications for funding are expected to be open in Fall 2022.
  • Community Wildfire Defense Grant Program
    This new $1 billion program at the Department of Agriculture will provide grants to communities at risk from wildfire to develop or revise their community wildfire protection plans and carry out projects described within those plans. It will include a mix of formula and competitive funds. Applications are expected to open early in 2023.

As you can see, there’s a lot happening. The agencies are scrambling to open and announce grant opportunities as quickly as they can. Keep in touch with Dig Deep so you can be among the first to know when grant opportunities open up.

Don’t Miss Out on Opportunities of Over $1B in Water Funding

The Department of the Interior recently announced new funding opportunities to help Western communities create or expand clean, new water sources, including $1 billion over five years for water desalinization, reclamation, and reuse projects.

With the right funding, creative, innovative solutions can be devised to safeguard healthy, dependable, affordable drinking water sources over the long term.

“Drought, climate change, and less reliable water resources year-after-year give rise to the need to continue to develop new and innovative solutions to address the challenges we face,” said Assistant Secretary for Water and Science Tanya Trujillo in the announcement.

Reclamation Commissioner Camille Calimlim Touton stated, “Water reuse and desalination are important tools to building resiliency throughout the West, and these funding opportunities support water providers in developing new and clean sources of water to improve their water supply reliability for their communities.” Part of the WaterSMART program, these opportunities will bring resources to states, tribes, and local entities as they formulate and carry out plans to increase water supply.

New Notices of Funding Availability (NOFAs) are being released on an ongoing basis. If you’re looking to take advantage of this or other opportunities on the horizon to find a lasting solution to your drinking water challenges, contact us today!

A Clear Grant Strategy Helps Secure More Funding

When Tim Gross became Director of Public Works and City Engineer for Newport, Oregon, it didn’t take long to realize that the city’s capital improvement plan far outpaced the size of the budget.

Critical improvements were needed. Road and storm drainage systems needed repairs or updates. A lot of infrastructure needed upgrades to meet current seismic standards. This included a dangerous dam, estimated to cost $80 million to fix.

Government grants seemed a likely source to supplement the City’s capital improvement funds. But navigating the complex world of federal grant-seeking while also meeting the constant demands of his full-time job was challenging. Newport needed a solid strategy that would use staff time efficiently and help them secure the right funding. So, they partnered with Dig Deep Research—the water grant experts.

Dig Deep’s solutions enable local governments to leverage external funds for their water infrastructure systems. For Newport, step one was to develop a long-term, comprehensive funding strategy for its capital improvement projects.

The key is not to think about where you are today, but rather, where you need to be three, five, or even 10 years down the road.

Dig Deep helped the City of Newport understand which projects were most “fundable” and which funding programs were worth pursuing. The Dig Deep approach steers clients toward the most likely funding opportunities, reducing effort and increasing the odds of securing the funds.

To date, Newport has secured more than $27 million in low-interest loans and $17.6
million in grants for its capital improvements. Successes include:

  • a $1.5 million grant to fund 100% of the costs to seismically retrofit the Newport Fire Station
  • saving $2.2 million in interest by tapping into a special public financing package and rolling six projects into one loan at 1% interest
  • $1.15 million in government planning grants and $14 million in state funding toward that large dam project

With Dig Deep’s expert approach, Newport now has a sustainable funding plan in place for replacing and repairing the city’s aging infrastructure. “Pairing fundable projects with public and private capital funding allows the city to stretch its investments,” explained

“In some instances, we don’t have any out-of-pocket funds because we’re able to use one grant to provide the match for the next. That’s part of the strategic planning process, understanding how all those pieces fit together.” Although Gross recently left the City after a decade in his role, he is still a strong advocate for the Dig Deep approach and frequently offers his engineering expertise to Dig Deep clients.

About Dig Deep

Dig Deep Research helps communities find the best funding solutions for drinking water, storm water, and wastewater projects. From research to writing to strategic grants planning, our water grant experts provide solutions that enable local governments to secure external funding for their water infrastructure systems. If you have a water infrastructure project and are struggling to navigate the complex world of government water grants, contact us. Our water grants experts can help you save time and secure the funding you need.