Pennsylvania Infrastructure Investment Authority’s (PENNVEST)
Nonpoint Source Pollution Program
The NPS Project Priority Rating System – NOTES
This document is to help clarify and broaden understanding of the rating system guidance manual – it does not replace the manual. Download the “Non-Point Source – Project Priority Rating System Guidance Manual” and reference these notes as you read and study it. The manual is available here.
Rating System Introduction and Guidance
A variety of NPS projects are considered, but some undoubtedly satisfy the requirements of the NPS program better than others. The Rating System is a way to prioritize and to “Rank” projects by how well they meet those requirements. A projects ranking has a direct correlation with the type and amount of funding that is awarded or if the project is even funded at all. In making the final funding determinations, some other factors are considered (i.e. is there a public health issue), but typically projects with a higher ranking will be first in line to receive limited funds. Therefore, understanding the components that make a “good” project will help in designing and submitting successful projects.
Projects in a given funding cycle are competing against others in that particular cycle only. The quantity and quality of projects submitted determines how competitive the cycle will be (i.e. a round with many good projects means it’s harder for a mediocre project to make the cut). This is the incentive for not only having a good project, but also taking the time to complete the application in a way that clearly communicates a projects value.
Because each funding cycle is unique, it is not possible to establish an exact number of points needed for approval. But since most NPS projects receive between 40-60, you can be fairly certain that projects with above 55 points will be approved; projects with between 45 and 55 points will most likely to be approved; while projects with less than 40 points are questionable. Where the cutoff line falls is totally contingent on the quantity and quality of projects in the specific funding cycle. Using the information provided here an applicant should be able to make a reasonable estimate of the number of point their project will be awarded.
PENNVEST Priority Rating Factors
PENNVEST, along with The Department of Community and Economic Development and others, add points based on the factors below. Points awarded in this section are primarily determined by the status and economic conditions of the geographic location of the proposed project. Typically, NPS projects do not receive many points in this section.
- Economic Development (20, 15, 5 or 0 Points) Will any jobs be created as a result of this project? Document and explain any job creation that might happen either because an existing business will expand or a new business will move in as a result of the project.
- Distressed or Disadvantaged Community (10 points) Points are added for communities on the Act 147 list that are considered distressed.
- Infill (10 Points) Points may be awarded for redevelopment of existing population centers in cities, boroughs or townships of the 1st class.
- Brownfield (15 Points) Projects located on DEP designated Brownfield sites.
- Community Action team (CAT) Projects (10 Points) Only specific communities identified by the CAT will qualify.
- Comprehensive Planning (5 Points) Projects receive points when they are within an area served by a community comprehensive plan that is consistent with an adopted county comprehensive plan.
DEP Priority Rating Factors
DEP rates the project’s technical aspects by evaluating five rating factors for a total of 100 points. When writing narratives provide any and all the information needed by the Rater to understand the problem and how the project addresses that problem. Narratives should be comprehensive, yet concise and clearly written.
There are some project benefits, such as Green Components, Water Conservation and Energy Conservation, that are not rated but should be included on the application. Non-rated benefits are often a factor when deciding between projects that are tied in their ranking.
1. Water Quality Rating (40, 30, 20, 10 or 0 points) Water Quality points are assigned by objective rating guidelines that specify the number of points awarded for each condition.
a. To receive 40 points the receiving stream must be on the 303(d) list of impaired waters at http://www.portal.state.pa.us/portal/server.pt/community/water_quality_standards/10556/integrated_water_quality_report_-_2010/682562. Search categories by stream name.
i. When the receiving stream is a small tributary to a listed impaired stream, include the name of that stream and the impairment.
ii. To qualify for 40 points the proposed project must address the impairment listed (i.e. a stream impaired for AMD cannot get 40 points for an Ag BMP project)
iii. Make a “screen shot” of the page where the receiving stream is listed and include it in your application.
b. To receive 30 points the receiving water body must be a designated High Quality or Exceptional Value.
i. Make a “screen shot” of the page where the receiving stream is listed and include it in your application.
c. To receive 20 points the receiving water body must be impaired, though not listed on the 303(d) list. It is the applicant’s responsibility to clearly show and document the water quality impairment.
i. Provide as much water quality data as possible; if available include lab reports and explanations on how results were calculated.
ii. Include pictures that show the impairment and proximity to the proposed project site.
iii. Provide a narrative that describes the impairment, it severity and how the impairment is connected to your proposed project
d. To receive 10 points the project must be “reasonably expected to have direct and substantial benefits to waters”. The applicant must clearly show and document the benefits.
2. Compliance Rating (10, 5 or 0 Points) Only projects that have or will be receiving a Notice of Violation can be awarded Compliance points. Proactively addressing a compliance issue (i.e. a NOV is expected to be issued) has priority over a project designed to achieve compliance with a NOV already issued.
a. It is common for AMD projects to receive Compliance Points; rare for Ag and Stormwater projects.
3. Planning Rating (Total 25 Points) The two separate sections of this rating awards points based on the applicants ability to manage a project and on how well their project coordinates with a larger plan.
a. “Capabilty to Manage” ( Scale 0 -10 Points) is demonstrated by how well the applicant can show, through experience and the application process itself, their skill and ability to navigate sometimes difficult process.
i. Hint: This is the incentive to do a good job on the application. Clear, concise descriptions and explanations, well planned projects, etc. speak to your ability to manage.
b. “Planning Coordination” (15, 10, 5 or 0 points) is an indicator of how a project coordinates with a larger plan.
i. Only projects that are “specifically” recognized in a larger plan will receive the maximum 15 points.
ii. Most projects can receive 10 points by documenting that other groups endorse the goals of their project.
iii. 5 points can be awarded if DEP Nutrient Trading Credits are expected to be generated and actually applied for.
4. Benefit To Cost Comparison (Scale of 0-20 Points) More subjective then the other categories, this section relies on the experience and judgment of the Rater. By looking at the amount of NPS pollution actually eliminated relative to the cost, it is an effective way to separate good from bad projects.
a. Note: Points are now assigned utilizing a scale from 0-20 points in lieu of the 20, 12 or 5 point system in the manual. The tables in the manual are no longer applicable.
b. The narrative should explain – clearly and in detail – the impairment and what the water quality benefit is.
c. “Benefit” in this context is referring to the “amount” of improvement to water quality. Quantify, as much as possible, how much nonpoint source pollution will be reduced and include calculations, data sources and an explanation of the process used.
d. Information you may want to include are current stream conditions, the size of the existing operation (i.e. how many cattle), proximity of the receiving stream to the proposed project, how quickly and by what route does runoff get to the receiving stream, etc.
5. Safety Rating (5, 3, 1 or 0 Points) There are no environmental benefits associated with the safety rating. While NPS projects get 0 points in this section, documenting any safety or health problem that will be eliminated may result in points awarded.
Questions on the Rating System can be directed to
Phil Wenrich, DEP Project Manager, email@example.com, 717-705-6345
Steve Anspach, PENNVEST Project Specialist, firstname.lastname@example.org, 717-783-6589
Terry Fisher, PACD – PENNVEST NPS Program Developer, email@example.com, 717-238-7223 x11