CRMA Grant Program Frequently Asked Questions

An overview of Frequently Asked Questions about the Culvert Replacement Municipal Assistance (CRMA) Grant Program.

Table of Contents

What is the Culvert Replacement Municipal Assistance (CRMA) Grant Program?

The Division of Ecological Restoration’s (DER) Culvert Replacement Municipal Assistance Grant Program provides funding to Massachusetts Municipalities and other applicants interested in replacing an undersized, perched, and/or degraded culvert in an area of high ecological value. The purpose of this funding is to encourage municipalities and other applicants to replace culverts with better designed crossings that meet improved structural and environmental design standards and flood resiliency criteria.  

Only projects that intend to meet the goals of the Massachusetts Stream Crossing Standards will be considered for funding. Projects should be designed to facilitate fish & wildlife passage, maintain the natural movement of water and sediment through the stream crossing, and reconnect upstream and downstream habitat. 

What is the difference between the Pre-RFR and RFR Periods?

The Pre-Request for Response (Pre-RFR) Period is an optional but recommended step when interested applicants can review and learn about the grant opportunity. During the Pre-RFR, applicants can ask DER Staff both general and project-specific questions about their culvert replacement project. Potential applicants are encouraged to email by February 1, 2023 to set up a Pre-RFR Project Inquiry call.  

The Request for Response (RFR) Period is the time period during which applicants submit their online applications. Due to state procurement regulations, DER staff are unable to discuss projects with proponents during this time. Any questions during the RFR Period must be submitted in writing during a Question and Answer Period and pertain only to questions about the application and/or application process (not project-specific questions). 

Who can apply for a Culvert Replacement Municipal Assistance Grant?

All Massachusetts municipalities and other applicants are eligible to apply. Check the Notice of Funding Opportunity posted to COMMBUYS for additional details on eligible applicants.

What projects are eligible to apply?

Eligible projects must be culvert or bridge replacements located on a public way, owned and maintained by an applying municipality or other eligible applicant, and must cross a natural freshwater, non-tidal river or stream channel. The stream channel may be either intermittent or perennial. Projects must intend to meet the Massachusetts Stream Crossing Standards.  

What is a public way?

The applicant should retain a publicly-held interest in the existing culvert or bridge. The structure and roadway approach should currently be publicly owned or can be acquired through public leasehold, right-of-way or easement prior to award and execution of a grant. 

Can I apply for more than one culvert or bridge replacement in the same grant round?

Each applicant may submit one grant application. In that grant application, you may propose the replacement or removal of a single culvert/bridge, or of multiple culverts/bridges located on the same local connected stream network. You may include up to three structures per application.  

DER will evaluate proposed projects on the overall ecological and public benefits achieved. For applications to replace or remove multiple structures, DER seeks projects where the combined benefits to local stream connectivity and ecology significantly reconnects upstream and downstream habitat.  

Proposals which include culverts and bridges scattered geographically or not hydrologically connected will not be competitive for funding. In these cases, applicants should instead choose to submit one structure for consideration. 

Can an applicant apply for funding for a project which previously received a grant award?

Yes. Applicants awarded funding through the CRMA grant program in a previous year are eligible to apply for a new project and/or apply for continued work on the previously awarded project.

If I want to resubmit a project that was not funded previously, do I need to reapply?

Yes. If you wish to resubmit a previously unfunded project for consideration in the next funding round, you are required to submit a new application.

How are applications evaluated?

An interagency grant review committee uses the grant criteria to assess, score, and rank proposals. For a detailed listing of grant evaluation criteria, review the Evaluation Criteria part of the RFR when it is posted to COMMBUYS. DER seeks projects that: 

  • Are Located in Areas of High Ecological Value – Project is in proximity to important habitat and will reconnect upstream and downstream habitat by removing barriers to fish and wildlife passage. 

  • Meet Program Priorities – Project intends to meet the goals of the Massachusetts Stream Crossing Standards

  • Demonstrate Municipal/Applicant Support – Project is a high priority for the municipality/applicant and the municipality/applicant is committed to managing the project.  

  • Have Identified a Pathway for Funding - The applicant has identified other sources of funding and how DER financial assistance will help the applicant advance the culvert replacement project(s) towards implementation. 

  • Are Ready for the Proposed Phase of Work – Project has a scope, budget, and timeline that adequately meets grant program criteria and project goals. 

  • Provide Multiple Project Benefits – Proposed project not only provides benefits to the environment, but also public safety, climate resiliency, and socio-economic benefits to environmental justice neighborhoods and/or the surrounding community.

How do I determine if my project is in an area of High Ecological Value?

DER uses several decision support tools, data sources, and staff expertise to evaluate environmental benefits. DER will provide examples of decision-support tools and map layers that DER will use in part to assess Environmental Benefits of the proposed culvert replacement as part of the grant materials to be provided mid-January, 2023.  

Does DER consider any other benefits to the environment, besides habitat value?

DER will consider the feasibility for and extent to which the proposed project will improve ecological function at the site. For example, DER will weigh whether the new stream crossing will (a) allow natural stream processes to occur, (b) allow the channel to naturally adjust and change over time, and (c) improve passage for fish and wildlife. DER will consider the severity of the existing barrier to fish passage and the expected magnitude of improvements with a replacement structure meeting the Stream Crossing Standards.   

DER will consider any additional environmental information about the project site or possible environmental benefits from the proposed culvert replacement provided by the applicant. This may include, but is not limited to, information on critical habitat, bank erosion, water quality, and fish and wildlife species that inhabit the site/area. 

What can Culvert Replacement Municipal Assistance grant funds be used for?

The grant program provides funding towards any culvert replacement project phase. Typical project phases include field data collection (i.e new projects), engineering and design, permitting, and construction. Applicants should only apply for funding for the portion of the project that can be completed within the period of performance, anticipated to be one year from the award announcement. Most culvert replacement projects need more than one fiscal year to complete the design and engineering, permitting, and construction. 

If I propose multiple structures, can I also apply for different phases of work for each structure?

Yes, you can propose different phases of work for each proposed structure. Each structure may be at a different phase of the culvert replacement process and thus call for this. For instance, you may have not initiated work on Structure 1 and completed preliminary designs on Structure 2. In this scenario, you can apply for field data collection and design and engineering tasks for Structure 1, final design and engineering tasks for Structure #2 and permitting tasks for both Structure 1 and Structure 2. 

What is the maximum grant amount that can be requested?

Individual awards typically range from $25,000 to $400,000, depending on the number of structures, project phases, and work proposed. For example, awards for field data collection for new single culvert replacement projects have typically ranged from $25,000 - $50,000, whereas awards for design and permitting have typically ranged from $50,000 - $100,000 depending on the complexity and needs of the project. Awards over $200,000 are anticipated for construction projects only. Awards are not anticipated to exceed $400,000, regardless of the number of structures proposed. Further details on funding availability will be found in the Grant Materials and RFR posted to COMMBUYS, when available. 

Is there a match requirement?

Applicants are not required to provide match. However, applicants are asked to report other known sources of funding for the proposed project, including both secured and anticipated sources. 

Will DER pay for the full cost of the culvert or bridge replacement project?

The Culvert Replacement Municipal Assistance Grant Program is intended as an incentive grant and other funding will likely be required to complete the project.

What do I need to apply for a grant?

DER is accepting Pre-RFR inquiries between November 30, 2022 - February 1, 2023. This step is recommended, but optional. For more details, please see the Notice of Funding Opportunity posted to COMMBUYS and email to set up a call with staff to discuss your possible project(s). Application forms and related grant materials can be found on COMMBUYS, when available. Additional technical resources can be found on the CRMA webpage

Grant resources will be uploaded to COMMBUYS mid-January, 2023. Required documents needed to submit an online grant application include: 

  • Culvert Replacement Municipal Assistance Application Form (Required)  

  • Project Photos (Required) 

  • Supporting Documentation (As Applicable)

Do you have examples of successful projects from previous grant rounds?

Grant announcements from previous rounds are listed on the grant program’s website under the “Related” links.

Are there any other resources I could use to help estimate costs for a new project?

We have included a sample Bid Request for the Culvert Replacement Field Data Collection Phase on the CRMA webpage. This outlines the typical tasks included in the initial phase of a culvert replacement project and can be used to generate and request cost estimates. For new projects, applicants should indicate in the budget narrative how cost estimates were generated (e.g. based on other projects in town, engineer cost estimates, etc.).  For more advanced projects, applicants should include supporting documentation (e.g. Engineering Opinion of Probable Costs, Bids, etc.). 

In general, awards for field data collection for new single culvert replacement projects have typically ranged from $25,000-$50,000 depending on the complexity and needs of the project. (e.g. number of utilities or nearby infrastructure).  Awards for design and engineering have typically ranged from $50,000-$100,000 for a single project depending on the complexity of the project and whether the proposed scope of work included permitting tasks.

How do I estimate costs for construction?

Projects for construction should be accompanied by an engineer’s cost estimate. The project should be advanced enough that an engineer can provide this information. Construction awards are not anticipated to exceed $400,000. 

Do I need to obtain permits & the balance of funds before I can apply for construction funds?

Projects seeking construction funding should demonstrate that all permits and the balance of funds can be secured prior to the start of the grant contract period. The project should have been bid or ready to bid by the time a CRMA grant contract is executed. At the time of application, the CRMA grant funds requested in combination with town funds or other funding sources being sought should equal the balance of estimated construction costs. 

Are projects eligible if they incorporate some (but not all) of the stream crossing standards?

Only projects that intend to meet the goals of the Massachusetts Stream Crossing Standards will be considered for funding. For projects not able to fully meet the Massachsetts Stream Crossing Standards, please see the following question. 

If my project is not able to fully meet the Stream Crossing Standards, can I still apply?

Site constraints may limit the ability to fully meet all six of the important design variables outlined in the Massachusetts Stream Crossing Standards (e.g. if the site only allows for the project design to have an openness ratio of 0.80, where the minimum recommended value in the Stream Crossing Standards is 0.82). In these cases, the projects are still eligible to apply. The Division of Ecological Restoration (DER) considers the feasibility for and extent to which the proposed project will improve ecological function at the site. For example, DER will weigh whether the new stream crossing will (a) allow natural stream processes to occur, (b) allow the channel to naturally adjust and change over time, and (c) improve passage for fish and wildlife. DER will consider the severity of the existing barrier to fish passage and the expected magnitude of improvements of the proposed project. Projects that are construction-ready but do not meet the Stream Crossings Standards must be redesigned to meet the Standards. Redesign work is eligible for funding under this grant program. 

How can I demonstrate there is support for the project by the Environmental Justice Community?

Applicants should describe any direct climate resiliency, public safety, and socio-economic benefits for the Environmental Justice (EJ) community (e.g. does the road-stream crossing provide critical access for emergency response, businesses, or service centers which serve or are owned by members of the EJ population, or will the project reduce flooding vulnerabilities and related impacts). Demonstrated support may include EJ community engagement and inclusion in project planning or prioritization process; assistance provided by a community-based organization that works with or in an EJ Community to engage the community or support the development and planning of the project or related efforts; and/or municipal commitment to supplier diversity and minority-owned business. 

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