Applications are now available for the 2010 Natural Resource Damage grant program

that has $7.5 million  available for restoration projects  in the upper Clark Fork River Basin.

"We are starting the eleventh year of the grant program aimed at returning the Basin to a healthy ecosystem," said Kathleen Coleman, Program Specialist for the Natural Resource Damage Program . "This year, $7.5 million is available to fund grant projects approved by the governor."

Grant applications for over $25,000 must be received by Friday, April 9, 2010. Grant applications for $25,000 or less may be submitted on a continuous basis throughout the year. Applicants requesting more than $25,000 must use a long-form application, and there is a short-form application for applicants requesting $25,000 or less.

Government agencies, private entities and individuals may apply for grant funds for projects that will restore or replace the natural resources in the Basin. Grant funds may also be used for developing future grant proposals or for conducting monitoring, research and education activities related to restoration of natural resources in the basin. Only projects that would be located in the Upper Clark Fork River Basin are eligible for funding, subject to limited exceptions.

Applications and guidance materials are available through the Natural Resource Damage Program at (406) 444-0205 or electronically on the Department of Justice website.

The NRDP will not hold a workshop this year, but staff is available to assist grant applicants upon request. Call the NRDP office at 444-0205 for further information.

Once the applications are received, the NRDP will consult with various government agencies and the Upper Clark Fork River Basin Advisory Council to prepare draft funding recommendations. These recommendations will then be considered by the Trustee Restoration Council, which consists of the governor's chief of staff, directors of the state's three natural resource agencies, the attorney general and the chairman of the advisory council. After a public comment period, the Advisory Council and Trustee Restoration Council will make recommendations to the governor, who is expected to make final funding decisions on proposals over $25,000 in December 2010. The Trustee Restoration Council makes final funding decisions on proposals of $25,000 or less.

The restoration projects are funded with interest generated from the $130 million Restoration Fund established by the state in 1999 from settlement of several portions of its lawsuit against ARCO. The suit sought compensation for injuries to the natural resources in the Upper Clark Fork River Basin caused by decades of mining and smelting in the Butte and Anaconda areas by ARCO and its predecessors. To date, about $68 million has been awarded to 90 grant projects that will improve the Basin's fish and wildlife habitat and populations, public recreation opportunities, and public drinking water supplies.

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