Pennsylvania Infrastructure Investment Authority’s (PENNVEST)
Nonpoint Source Pollution Program
General Program Information – Frequently Asked Questions
What is the PENNVEST NPS Program?
What are the goals of the NPS Program?
What is NPS pollution?
Why fund NPS projects?
What kinds of projects can be funded?
What does “shovel ready” mean?
How do I know if I have a “good” project?
Who can apply?
How do I get a government agency to be my sponsor?
Can a private consultant help with the application?
What part of the project does funding cover?
Are grants available?
What is the Act 167 requirement?
Are DBE (Disadvantaged Business Enterprise) solicitations required?
Do Davis Bacon wage rates apply?
Is it possible to start a project before funding is secured?
How do I apply?
If I accept the funding offer, am I “obligated” to continue through to completion of the project?
What advice do you have for new applicants?
Who can I contact with questions or to get started?
The Pennsylvania Infrastructure Investment Authority (PENNVEST), was established in 1988 with the primary goal of improving water quality in the State through low interest funding of drinking water and wastewater capital improvement projects. The program, as originally established, has played a major role in reducing point source pollution. However nonpoint source pollution continued to be a major problem. For that reason, and because of the Chesapeake Bay Initiative, in 2009 funding opportunities were expanded to include nonpoint source pollution (NPS) projects.
NPS projects are very different than the traditional wastewater and drinking water infrastructure projects and require a different application approach. PENNVEST has worked hard to adapt to the NPS difference despite limitations imposed by the legislation that they operate under. A “legislation fix” is being considered that allows for process changes that will improve the NPS application process. Until such time that the “fix” is approved, PENNVEST will continue to improve the NPS program as much as possible given the existing constraints.
For more information on PENNVEST: http://www.portal.state.pa.us/portal/server.pt/community/pennvest/9242
The three stated goals of the NPS program are to (1) improve water quality in existing impaired streams and lakes, and to protect existing exceptional value or high quality waters, (2) promote water conservation and energy efficiency and (3) to promote economic development.
Non-point source water pollution is caused when water from rainfall, snowmelt or some other source flows over or through the ground and picks up various pollutants that are eventually deposited in streams, lakes and other water bodies. NPS pollution entering a water body often comes from multiple, diffuse sources – such as fertilizers, herbicides, oil and grease, sediment, bacteria from livestock waste, acid from abandoned mines and more. For more information about NPS pollution:
Currently the majority of stream impairment in the State is from nonpoint source pollution. Therefore it makes sense to emphasize NPS Projects that have a direct impact on water quality. Another big reason to fund NPS projects is they often provide a big return on a relatively small investment.
PENNVEST funds nonpoint source, shovel-ready projects that have a water quality benefit. Four specific types of NPS projects qualify for funding.
- Agriculture best management practices (AG BMP’s), which includes but is not limited to manure storages, stream bank fencing, riparian buffers, stream crossings, etc.
- Urban stormwater management. PENNVEST prefers seeing green infrastructure stormwater projects like rain gardens, green roofs, porous pavement, etc instead of traditional stormwater devices.
- Abandoned mine drainage projects (AMDs). This includes both passive (stream alkalization) and active (pump and treat) processes.
- Brownfields, as they apply to stormwater management. Anything that will capture rainwater on a contaminated site and prevent it from going offsite will be considered.
Steam bank restoration projects, riparian buffers and other stream side improvements are eligible; however in-stream work like stream channel diversions and permanent in-water structures are not typically covered.
For application purposes PENNVEST considers a project “Shovel Ready” when the design and engineering is complete, required DEP permits are approved and the project is ready to go to bid. Bid Documents do not need to be complete for the application to be submitted for board approval.
Generally speaking projects that have a clear and quantifiable water quality benefit and that have a high benefit-to-cost ratio will technically be “good” projects. DEP and PENNVEST ranks projects per established rating guidelines.
- DEP rates the technical merits of the project in five categories:
- Water Quality (40 points)
- Compliance (10 points)
- Planning (25 points)
- Benefits-to-cost (20 points)
- Safety (5 points)
- PENNVEST adds points, for:
- Economic Development (20 points)
- Disadvantaged Community – Act 47 list (10 points)
- Infill - redevelopment of existing population centers (10 points)
- Designated Brownfield sites
- Community Action Team Projects (10 points)
- Comprehensive Planning
You can view the “Non-Point Source – Project Priority Rating System Guidance Manual” here.
Only Governmental units may apply, this includes cities, municipalities, county conservation districts, multi-county municipal authorities, etc. However, Non-Governmental agencies, including non-profit groups, private farmers and the like, may apply through a local Governmental agency sponsor. As an example – a county conservation district may be the applicant for PENNVEST funding for Best Management Practice projects for a private farmer in their county.
The simple answer is – go ask them. There is a substantial resource commitment for a government agency to sponsor a project. Therefore, they will want to make sure a project is well thought out, planned and engineered before they commit.
Yes. Actually it’s quite common to work with a private consultant who can help plan and design the project. Many consultants are experienced with PENNVEST, know what is required and will work help prepare the application. PENNVEST requires that an engineer or technical expert reviews and approves NPS projects, is registered with PENNVEST and is listed on the application.
PENNVEST funds can be applied to most parts of the project, including administrative costs, engineering and design costs, construction, etc. Matching funds are not required.
HOWEVER, since only “shovel ready” projects are considered, there are upfront costs incurred. Engineering and design must be competed and permits applied for before the application can be submitted. While these costs will typically be reimbursed in funds from approved projects, PENNVEST will not reimburse applicants for any upfront cost for projects that are not approved.
PENNVEST is a low interest loan program; HOWEVER some applicants may qualify for principle forgiveness (a grant). Qualifying for a grant depends on a number of factors:
- There is a limited amount of money set aside each year for grants and therefore grant money is not always available. Starting in Fiscal Year 2012, it is expected that $10-20 million will be available for grants for all PENNVEST project categories (NPS, wastewater and drinking water).
- The applicant must show that they do not have the ability to repay the loan. For NPS projects the applicant is required to submit financial reports for the past three years. If the debt service : average income ratio is greater than 2:1, the applicant may qualify for principle forgiveness.
- Projects that qualify on a financial basis are then reviewed and rated for water quality benefit to cost ratio, community safety or health concerns that will be remedied, and for other benefits that are not directly tied to water quality (environmental, community, cultural, etc).
To be eligible for PENNVEST funds an Act 167 Stormwater Management Plan must be in place at the county level OR the local municipality (township, city, etc,) must have a local stormwater management ordinance in place that is similar to Act 167 requirements OR the work must be required under a NPDES MS4 permit. To determine if a local ordinance qualifies forward it to Phil Wenrich at DEP.
Not for NPS projects.
Yes – because most NPS projects are funded with federal money. The exception is state funded Urban Stormwater projects which are therefore exempt from Davis Bacon.
In certain cases (i.e. a flood emergency) it is possible to start before closing of the loan. However, you MUST have permission from PENNVEST in the form of a “Letter of No Prejudice” that is submitted and approved before you begin.
The following steps provide a general overview of the application process. It is not the intent of this document to provide a detailed guide. As you travel through the application you will be asked for specific information, documents, letters, etc. that can be confusing. However, be assured, there is help available; through samples, templates and explanations you will find on the website, as well as from PENNVEST and DEP staff.
To apply a Government Agency must follow the following general steps:
- Go to the PENNVEST website/state web portal; http://www.pennvest.state.pa.us/portal/server.pt/community/pennvest_internet/9242 and familiarize yourself with information provided on the website for Applicants.
- Create a PA PowerPort username and password.
- Pre-Application. Preliminary planning, surveying, design, engineering and cost analysis is completed and it’s determined that the project provides clear and quantifiable water quality benefits
- Retain legal counsel and an engineer (or a project expert) who will be identified on the application.
- Only government agencies may apply, therefore if you are not a government agency you will need to find a government sponsor.
- Go online and complete the “Start the Application” section and provide the basic contact and project information asked for.
- Schedule and Conduct a Planning Consultation Meeting. The purpose of this meeting is to review project plans, discuss procedures and information needed, make a feasibility assessment, to identify problems and to make recommendations early in the process. The sponsoring government agency representative(s), the engineer and technical consultants, the PENNVEST Project Specialist and the DEP Project Manager should attend. The PENNVEST NPS Program Developer may also attend as additional support for the applicant.
- If preliminary approval is granted at the planning consultation meeting, the application is “unlocked” and the applicant and technical consultant can enter information in the “Complete Application”section. Often the applicant’s technical expert enters much of the project design and engineering information.
- At this time you will be required to enter or upload more detailed project information, financial information and other supporting documents.
- Water Quality Benefit is the primary goal of the NPS program. Therefore fully explain the water benefit including a description of the existing situation and the remedies proposed.
- Forward required technical documents, designs and engineering data to DEP for review. It is recommended that you send this information to DEP at least a week before the cutoff deadline. The DEP engineer only has a limited amount of time to review applications. By submitting early your project has a better chance of an early review allowing time to submit any additional information that may be requested.
- Submit the Application – Carefully review the application before you submit it. Once submitted the application is “locked” and you no longer have access. The PENNVEST Project Specialist and the DEP Project Manager review the application, rate it and forward it for Board Review.
- Wait for a Board Determination. Board meetings are scheduled approximately two months after the application cutoff date and funding determinations are released soon after the meeting.
- If approved, the applicant has 45 Days to Accept the Funding and 270 days to Settle on the Funding.
- Funds Disbursement and Project Close Out are also done online.
No. You are not obligated until funds are actually disbursed. There is a considerable investment of time and resources in applying, so very few applicants back out once they decide to accept funding and move forward.
The PENNVEST application process can be intimidating, but it is not impossible to complete. That in mind:
- Take it one step at a time. It is an information heavy process, but focusing on one step at a time helps make it more manageable.
- Dedicate staff to the process. Preferably someone who is well organized, pays attention to detail and capable of working through multiple tasks.
- Schedule time for your staff to devote on this. The amount of time needed will vary depending on the project, familiarity with this type of application, etc. but staff time needed during the initial application process could be as high as 15 -20 hrs per week for a couple of months. Obviously, working with a consultant or if you are an experienced user it will require less time.
- Ask questions; use your resources – once you get started, the PENNVEST Project Specialist will be most familiar with the specifics of your project and will be your primary contact. The NPS Application Developer, The DEP Project Manager and other PENNVEST staff are there to help.
- Network with others who have already done this.
- Take the time you need to do it right and have the application complete before submitting it.
- The Cutoff Date to submit applications is firm. Don’t make it a last minute thing.
PACD PENNVEST NPS Program Developer, Terry L Fisher, firstname.lastname@example.org or 717-238-7223 x11 (office) or 717-712-6996 (cell).
Terry can answer general questions about NPS issues, the PENNVEST NPS program and the NPS application procedures. He is available via phone, email or will meet with individuals or groups.
Regional PENNVEST Project Specialists
Dave Henning, Region 1, email@example.com, 717- 783-4490
Larry Gasparato, Region 2, firstname.lastname@example.org, 717-783-6673
Tesra Schlupp, Region 3, email@example.com, 717-738-8618
Mike Gallager, Region 4, firstname.lastname@example.org, 717-783-4488
Steve Anspach, In-house project specialist, email@example.com, 717- 783-6589
The PENNVEST Project Specialists answer questions about the NPS Program and guide applicants through the application process. Click here to see the Regions.
DEP Project Manager, Phil Wenrich, firstname.lastname@example.org, 717-705-6345
Phil reviews and rates all technical and environmental aspects of NPS projects. Among other things he looks at water quality benefit, cost-to-benefit ratio, operation and maintenance plans, etc. He also determines if projects meet the Act 167 requirement; local ordinances can be emailed directly to Phil for review.