RSOI: USACE Developing Natural and Nature-Based Features Based on Engineering With Nature® (EWN) and Landscape Architecture Principles

Request for Statements of Interest
Funding Opportunity Announcement

Federal Awarding Agency:
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Engineer Research and Development Center
3909 Halls Ferry Road, Vicksburg, MS 39180-6199

Funding Opportunity No: W81EWF-21-SOI-0020
CFDA No: 12.630
Statutory Authority: 10 USC 2358

Program Title: Developing Natural and Nature-Based Features Based on Engineering With Nature® (EWN) and Landscape Architecture Principles for Project Locations Identified within, or in close proximity to, the Chesapeake Bay Watershed.

Announcement Type:  Initial announcement
Issue Date:  8 June 2021
Statement of Interest/Qualifications Due Date: 8 July 2021, 1600 hrs, Central
Full Application Package Due Date, if Invited: 29 July 2021, 1600 hrs, Central
Estimated Award Ceiling:  $180,000.
Estimated Total Program Funding (optional):  $540,000 total over 3 years; $180,000 for base and each option year.
Expected Number of Awards:  The government will issue only 1 award from this announcement.

Section I: Funding Opportunity Description

Background:
Engineering With Nature® (EWN) is the intentional alignment of natural and engineering processes to efficiently and sustainably deliver economic, environmental and social benefits through collaborative processes.  In turn, sustainable development of water resources infrastructure is supported by solutions that beneficially integrate engineering and natural systems. With recent advances in the fields of engineering and ecology, there is an opportunity to combine these fields of practice into a single collaborative and cost-effective approach for infrastructure development and environmental management.  For more information, please visit: www.engineeringwithnature.org.

The EWN Initiative is also working to expand opportunities for application of natural and nature-based features (NNBF) by advancing R&D, technology transfer, stakeholder engagement and collaborative projects.  NNBF can be differentiated into two categories: natural features and nature-based features. Natural features (e.g., a wetland system) are comparatively “long-standing” in terms of age and created through the action of natural physical, biological, and chemical processes over time. Whereas, nature-based features are created by human design, engineering and construction to mimic natural features that provide similar, if not identical, services (Bridges et al., 2015).

This project seeks a partner institution in the Chesapeake Watershed Region to identify opportunities and develop concepts for NNBF based on EWN and landscape architecture (LA) principles for project locations in, or in close proximity to, the Chesapeake Watershed that contain a variety of different land uses. During each year of funding, one project location will be collaboratively identified, selected and pursued for research with the collaborative team, which also consists of EWN researchers.  In turn, one or more projects sites will be identified for each project location.

Brief Description of Anticipated Work:

Required Work Objectives:  The following objectives are required for this CESU-funded project, which is to identify opportunities and develop concepts for innovative natural and nature-based features (NNBF) based on EWN and landscape architecture (LA) principles. Year one (1) will establish the initial structure of the project and includes tasks that support the following objectives.

Upon completion of Objectives 1-3, the successful academic institution will develop a report that documents the selected project location and include a summary of the EWN strategies and NNBF that were identified, considered and/or ultimately recommended during the research effort.  The report will also include information explaining the concepts and their limits, and the potential effects and/or implications of implementing NNBF strategies to restore, manage, and/or preserve select project locations in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed and more broadly.  LA drawings and renderings, which illustrate the different types of EWN strategies and NNBF, will also be produced and shared with the EWN leadership team at the conclusion of the study.
If funded, year two (2) and year (3) would continue to expand major elements of the research project and build a diverse portfolio of collaborative EWN projects and engagements.

 Objective 1: Collaboratively Identify Project Locations for Analysis and Collect Best Available Data and materials. This objective prioritizes initial research activities that are focused on the collection of existing data sets and materials on cultural and environmental conditions related to the selected project locations.  Activities associated with Objective 1 will include the following: (i) characterization of the physical qualities of landscapes at a regional scale from existing datasets including wave environment, geomorphology, topobathy, habitat, and relative sea level rise; (ii) a high-level inventory of cultural landscapes features such as historical landmarks, archaeological sites, and other elements that contribute to the cultural significance of the units; (iii) contemporary and projected visitation patterns will also be documented; (iv) existing relevant datasets and reports will be identified, collected and reviewed including climate adaptation in and around the project location within a proposed watershed; and (v) a review of the most recent scientific literature pertaining to SLR and marsh migration in the Chesapeake Bay.

Objective 2: Analysis of materials and data sets and documentation of relevant precedents.  This objective will pursue the analysis of materials and datasets obtained through Objective 1 and pursue documentation of relevant precedents.  During this analysis, the team will identify and prioritize one or more project sites (i.e., possible placement locations for NNBF and/or hybrid features) for the selected project location during the research period. Precedent research guided by analysis will identify innovative and inclusive NNBF concepts. An atlas in the form of a series of maps and visual precedent studies will inform the analysis and ultimately the prioritization of NNBF strategies that receive further consideration as part of Objective 3.

 Objective 3: Development of three NNBF concepts and designs for a project location.  Working in collaboration with the team, up to three NNBF concepts will be developed for the selected project location. These concepts will draw on the landscape architecture + EWN approach using quantitative and qualitative research methods such as physical and digital wave modeling, archival research, scenario planning, and design projection depicting the landscape concepts.  These concepts will be offered in a clear and compelling manner that communicates the ideas to the stakeholders and broader public.

A successful application would likely include experience with Engineering With Nature®, natural infrastructure design/placement, development and implementation of nature-based strategies and natural and nature-based features (NNBF), incorporating human-use benefits into infrastructure projects, physical and digital wave modeling, archival research, scenario planning, and design projection depicting the landscape concepts.

Public Benefit:
A fundamental goal of EWN is to enable more sustainable delivery of economic, social, and environmental benefits associated with water resources infrastructure. For example, storm and flood risk reduction projects (e.g., flood plain expansion, levee systems, NNBF) are generally pursued to protect human life and property. Introducing EWN techniques, practices and/or infrastructure that limits/reduces damage can also produce a range of other benefits, such as habitat for wildlife. Moreover, important social benefits, including recreation, educational opportunities, and community resilience, are also possible when projects are designed and operated so that people can interact with the project. An EWN objective is to centralize capabilities and assets to focus on community resilience and the prioritization of natural infrastructure strategies. As such, collaborations are maximized, efficiencies created, and greater opportunities emerge to integrate natural and conventional infrastructure. In turn, applicable systems are more resilient to issues like flooding, habitat degradation, and sea level rise.

Section II: Award Information
Responses to this Request for Statements of Interest will be used to identify potential investigators for studies to be sponsored by the Engineer Research and Development Center for to identify opportunities and develop concepts for innovative natural and nature-based features (NNBF) based on EWN and landscape architecture (LA) principles.  The estimated level of funding for FY21 is approximately $180,000. Additional funds of $180,000 per year for 2 additional years may be available, providing the potential funding of $540,000 over 3 years to the successful Recipient/Awardee.  Depending on findings in the early years of this effort, funding needs may increase above the anticipated $180,000 per year in subsequent years of this project; however, total funding will not exceed $540,000 over the life of this cooperative agreement.

Government Involvement:
USACE EWN Leadership and ERDC researchers will work collaboratively with the selected team to achieve the elements of the previously described objectives.  Activities include, but are not limited to: research that includes field work/measurements, modeling, lab work, and corresponding data analysis, interpretation, reporting, etc.; co-teaching courses, workshops, seminars; hosting students and faculty at ERDC labs and USACE field projects for sabbaticals and/or long-term training opportunities; and co-authoring news articles, videos, documentaries, graphics, technical notes, journal articles, etc.  The selected team(s) of investigators are expected to actively participate with ERDC researchers in the delivery of all outcomes described in each of the Objectives.

Section III: Eligibility Information

  1. Eligible Applicants – This opportunity is restricted to non-federal partners of the Chesapeake Watershed Cooperative Ecosystems Studies Unit (CESU).
  2. Cost Sharing – This action will be 100% funded by USACE.

Section IV: Application and Submission Information – Two Phase Process

Phase I: Submission of a Statement of Interest/Qualifications.

  • Materials Requested for Statement of Interest/Qualifications:
    • Please provide the following via e-mail attachment to: a.keen@usace.army.mil (Maximum length: 2 pages, single-spaced 12 pt. font).
      • Name, Organization and Contact Information
      • Brief Statement of Qualifications (including):
        • Biographical Sketch,
        • Relevant past projects and clients with brief descriptions of these projects,
        • Staff, faculty or students available to work on this project and their areas of expertise,
        • Any brief description of capabilities to successfully complete the project you may wish to add (e.g. equipment, laboratory facilities, greenhouse facilities, field facilities, etc.).
      • Note:  A proposed budget is NOT requested at this time.
  • The administrative point of contact is Melissa Keen, 601-634-4880; melissa.a.keen@usace.army.mil
  • Statement of Interest/Qualifications shall be submitted NO LATER THAN 8 July 2021, 1600 hrs, Central
    • Based on a review of the Statements of Interest received, an investigator or investigators will be invited to move to Phase II which is to prepare a full study proposal.  Statements will be evaluated based on the investigator’s specific experience and capabilities in areas related to the study requirements.

Phase II: Submission of a complete application package to include a full technical proposal including budget, if invited.

  • Address to Request Application Package
    • The complete funding opportunity announcement, application forms, and instructions are available for download at Grants.gov.
    • The administrative point of contact is Melissa Keen, 601-634-4880; melissa.a.keen@usace.army.mil
  • Content and Form of Application Submission
    All mandatory forms and any applicable optional forms must be completed in accordance with the instructions on the forms and the additional instructions below.

    • SF 424 R&R – Application for Federal Assistance
    • Full Technical Proposal – Discussion of the nature and scope of the research and technical approach. Additional information on prior work in this area, descriptions of available equipment, data and facilities, and resumes of personnel who will be participating in this effort should also be included.
    • Cost Proposal/Budget – Clear, concise, and accurate cost proposals reflect the offeror’s financial plan for accomplishing the effort contained in the technical proposal. As part of its cost proposal, the offeror shall submit cost element breakdowns in sufficient detail so that a reasonableness determination can be made. The SF 424 Research & Related Budget Form can be used as a guide but is required if you choose to utilize the subaward budget form.  The cost breakdown should include the following, if applicable:
      • Direct Labor: Direct labor should be detailed by level of effort (i.e. numbers of hours, etc.) of each labor category and the applicable labor rate.  The source of labor rates shall be identified and verified.  If rates are estimated, please provide the historical based used and clearly identify all escalation applied to derive the proposed rates.
      • Fringe Benefit Rates: The source of fringe benefit rate shall be identified and verified.
      • Travel: Travel costs must include a purpose and breakdown per trip to include destination, number of travelers, and duration.
      • Materials/Equipment: List all material/equipment items by type and kind with associated costs and advise if the costs are based on vendor quotes and/or engineering estimates; provide copies of vendor quotes and/or catalog pricing data.
      • Subrecipient costs: Submit all subrecipient proposals and analyses. Provide the method of selection used to determine the subrecipient.
      • Tuition: Provide details and verification for any tuition amounts proposed.
      • Indirect Costs: Currently the negotiated indirect rate for awards through the CESU is 17.5%.
      • Any other proposed costs: The source should be identified and verified.
  • Application package shall be submitted NO LATER THAN 29 July 2021, 1600 hrs, Central.
  • Submission Instructions

Applications may be submitted by e-mail or Grants.gov. Choose ONE of the following submission methods:

  • E-mail: Format all documents to print on Letter (8 ½ x 11”) paper. E-mail proposal to melissa.a.keen@usace.army.mil
  • Grants.gov: https://www.grants.gov/:
    • Applicants are not required to submit proposals through Grants.gov. However, if applications are submitted via the internet, applicants are responsible for ensuring that their Grants.gov proposal submission is received in its entirety.
    • All applicants choosing to use Grants.gov to submit proposals must be registered and have and account with Grants.gov. It may take up to three weeks to complete Grants.gov registration. For more information on registration, go to  https://www.grants.gov/web/grants/applicants.html.

Section V: Application Review Information

  1. Peer or Scientific Review Criteria: In accordance with DoDGARs 22.315(c), an impartial peer review will be conducted. Subject to funding availability, all proposals will be reviewed using the criteria listed below (technical and cost/price). All proposals will be evaluated under the following two criteria which are of descending importance.
    • Technical (items i. and ii. are of equal importance):
      • Technical merits of proposed R&D.
      • Potential relationship of proposed R&D to DoD missions.
    • Cost/Price: Overall realism of the proposed costs will be evaluated.
  2. Review and Selection Process
    • Categories: Based on the Peer or Scientific Review, proposals will be categorized as Selectable or Not Selectable (see definitions below). The selection of the source for award will be based on the Peer or Scientific Review, as well as importance to agency programs and funding availability.
      • Selectable: Proposals are recommended for acceptance if sufficient funding is available.
      • Not Selectable: Even if sufficient funding existed, the proposal should not be funded.

Note: The Government reserves the right to award some, all, or none of proposals. When the Government elects to award only a part of a proposal, the selected part may be categorized as Selectable, though the proposal as a whole may not merit such a categorization.

  1. No other criteria will be used.
  2. Prior to award of a potentially successful offer, the Grants Officer will make a determination regarding price reasonableness.

Section VI: Award Administration Information

Award Notices

Written notice of award will be given in conjunction with issuance of a cooperative agreement signed by a Grants Officer. The cooperative agreement will contain the effective date of the agreement, the period of performance, funding information, and all terms and conditions. The recipient is required to sign and return the document before work under the agreement commences. Work described in this announcement SHALL NOT begin without prior authorization from a Grants Officer.

 Administrative Requirements

The cooperative agreement issued as a result of this announcement is subject to the administrative requirements in 2 CFR Subtitle A; 2 CFR Subtitle B, Ch. XI, Part 1103; and 32 CFR Subchapter C, except Parts 32 and 33.

Reporting

See 2 CFR Sections 200.327 for financial reporting requirements,

200.328 for performance reporting requirements, and 200.329 for real property reporting requirements.

Section VII: Agency Contact

Melissa Keen, Grants Specialist
US Army Corps of Engineers, Engineer Research and Development Center
3909 Halls Ferry Road
Vicksburg, MS 39180-6199
melissa.a.keen@usace.army.mil
601-634-4880

RSOI in Word: FOA 21-SOI-0020 for EWN Chesapeake