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DER's Partnerships Program: Frequently Asked Questions

Answers to common inquiries regarding DER's Partnerships Program

Visit the Partnerships Program webpage for additional resources and information.

Table of Contents

What is the Partnerships Program?

What is the Partnerships Program? 

The Regional Restoration Partnerships Program (Partnerships Program) has been established by DER to support Regional Restoration Partnerships (Partnerships) that work to restore aquatic ecosystems within their Partnership Region. DER will solicit applications for Partnerships that build lasting capacity among regional and local partners to initiate, fund, and manage aquatic restoration activities. Over a three-year award period, with two, 1-year options to extend, selected applicants will lead and support Partnerships that identify, prioritize, and advance ecological restoration actions collaboratively with local Stakeholders. Lessons and relationships that emerge from the Partnerships will inform and improve the future activities and operations of the DER Partnerships Program. 

DER will provide grants through the Partnerships Program to support both staffing costs to coordinate selected Partnerships and to support implementation efforts that advance Partnership priorities. 

What is a Regional Restoration Partnership?

What is a Regional Restoration Partnership? 

A Regional Restoration Partnership (or “Partnership”) is a group of people—and the organizations they represent—who work collaboratively to identify and advance a Partnership’s vision, goals, priorities, and actions within a Partnership Region. The Partnership members include a Lead OrganizationStakeholders, and DER. 

What is a Partnership Region?

What is a Partnership Region? 

A Partnership Region is a geographic area within Massachusetts where the Regional Restoration Partnership activities take place, as defined by the Lead Organization in their application. The minimum area for a Partnership Region is 75 square miles. A Partnership Region must be located within the jurisdictional boundaries of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. DER cannot fund overlapping Partnership Regions.

What is a Lead Organization?

What is a Lead Organization? 

The Lead Organization is the Partnerships Program RFR applicant, grantee, Partnership leader, and employer of the Restoration Coordinator.  

What is a Restoration Coordinator?  

What is a Restoration Coordinator?  

A Restoration Coordinator is a qualified professional employed by a Lead Organization who leads and coordinates the Partnership and its work.

Who are Stakeholders?

Who are Stakeholders? 

Stakeholders are the regional and local partners who participate in the Regional Restoration Partnership and work collaboratively to develop and implement restoration projects and activities that advance Partnership priorities. Stakeholders often contribute time, technical expertise, and in some cases funding to help advance the Partnership’s restoration priorities. Stakeholders may include representatives from nonprofit organizations, municipalities, state or federal agencies, and other groups. 

What is a Partnership Plan?

What is a Partnership Plan? 

A Partnership Plan is developed in cooperation with Stakeholders under the leadership of the Lead Organization and its Restoration Coordinator. The Partnership Plan articulates the vision, goals, and priorities of the Partnership over a Partnership term.  

Who can apply for the Partnerships Program?

Who can apply for the Partnerships Program? 

Massachusetts registered tax-exempt 501(c)(3) organizations and Massachusetts Regional Planning Agencies may apply to the Partnerships Program.

Can an existing partnership apply? A new partnership that doesn't currently exist?

Can an application be submitted to support an existing partnership to serve as a DER Regional Restoration Partnership? Can an application be submitted to form a DER Regional Restoration Partnership where no formal partnerships currently exist? 

DER welcomes applications to support partnerships that are in all stages of development, ranging from existing partnerships that are well-established to new partnerships proposed in regions where none currently exist. 

If my partnership is focused on a single issue, would it still be a good fit?

The current partnership my organization supports focuses on a single issue. Assuming this partnership wants to remain focused on a single issue, would it be a good fit for the Partnerships Program? 

DER seeks to support an integrated approach to restoration based on an understanding of the aquatic ecosystem stressors present in each Partnership Region. Selected Lead Organizations are expected to work collaboratively with Stakeholders to identify a range of restoration priorities, projects, and other activities that are appropriate given the ecological stressors identified during the Partnership Planning process. Therefore, partnerships that focus only on opportunistic projects or a single stressor are not a good fit for the Partnerships Program. Existing partnerships that support climate adaptation/resiliency work may use this opportunity to expand their scope to include ecological restoration, if not already included. 

What is the difference between Restoration Coordinator funding and Implementation funding? 

What is the difference between Restoration Coordinator funding and Implementation funding? 

Restoration Coordinator funding may be used by a Lead Organization to pay for salary, fringe benefits, and indirect costs necessary to employ and oversee a Restoration Coordinator staff position. Implementation funding can be used by a Lead Organization to support a wide range of ecological restoration-related work via subcontracts, such as for planning, assessment, prioritization, and on-the-ground project development and implementation. 

What types of restoration activities are eligible for Implementation funding?

What types of restoration activities are eligible for Implementation funding? 

DER seeks to fund an integrated approach to restoration based on an understanding of the aquatic ecosystem stressors present in each Partnership Region. Selected Lead Organizations will work collaboratively with local and regional Stakeholders to identify and prioritize restoration projects and other activities that are appropriate given the ecological stressors identified within the Partnership region.  

Examples of eligible restoration activities include but are not limited to: restoration assessment and planning at landscape and site-specific scales, coastal and freshwater wetland restoration, dam removal, culvert replacement, water quality restoration, floodplain restoration, hydrology and streamflow restoration, and urban river revitalization. More information on these restoration practices is available from the DER home page. All projects should help communities and nature become more resilient and adapt to climate change. 

What types of activities are ineligible for Implementation funding?

What types of activities are ineligible for Implementation funding? 

Discrete activities that do not meaningfully reduce or eliminate the primary stressors that cause impaired ecological processes are not eligible for funding (i.e., activities that address the symptoms, not the causes, of impairment). 

The following are examples of ineligible discrete activities under the Partnerships Program: 

  • River/Stream bank armoring  

  • Habitat management, maintenance, or aesthetic projects 

  • Invasive species management 

  • Trash cleanups 

  • Pond dredging 

  • Lake and pond treatments with alum or other chemicals 

  • Lake drawdowns 

  • Fish ladder construction or maintenance 

  • Trail maintenance 

  • Stream crossing retrofits (e.g., replacing in-kind, or sliplining, an existing culvert, resulting in the same or reduced hydraulic capacity) 

  • Removal of beaver dams and other natural aquatic habitat features 

Some of the listed Ineligible Discrete Activities may be eligible for funding if they enhance or help sustain the benefits of an eligible restoration activity or if they are necessary to mitigate impacts caused by an eligible restoration activity. For example, riverbank armoring may be an eligible activity when necessary to prevent river scour from damaging adjacent infrastructure after a dam removal. This is not an exhaustive list, and DER reserves the right not to fund any activity or expense that the Division deems ineligible. Selected Lead Organizations and their Stakeholders may engage in any activities they choose; however, they may not use Implementation funding to support ineligible activities and costs. 

What types of expenses and activities are ineligible for Restoration Coordinator funding?

What types of expenses and activities are ineligible for Restoration Coordinator funding? 

DER will only reimburse for Restoration Coordinator activities and associated costs that are incurred during the grant contract term and that directly support Partnership goals, priorities, and activities as outlined in approved Partnership Plans. Examples of ineligible RC activities and costs include: 

  • Political activities or lobbying 

  • Participation in administrative appeals or other legal actions, unless such actions are directly associated with an approved Partnership project or activity, and with prior written approval by the DER Ecological Restoration Partnerships Specialist 

  • Providing or communicating support for, or opposition to, an existing or proposed project, program, petition, initiative, law, regulation, or permit application, unless specifically approved in a Partnership contract or planning document, or otherwise in writing by the DER Ecological Restoration Partnerships Specialist 

  • Costs or activities that do not directly support a Partnership 

  • Costs associated with ineligible activities 

  • Work that occurs outside of a grant contract term 

This is not an exhaustive list, and DER reserves the right not to fund any Restoration Coordinator activity or expense that the Division deems ineligible. Selected Lead Organizations and their Stakeholders may engage in any activities they choose, however, they may not use Restoration Coordinator funding to support ineligible activities and costs. 

Are direct costs allowed?

Are direct costs allowed? 

Lead Organizations may request funding for direct expenses that are necessary to support the Restoration Coordinator carrying out their job duties. Direct costs may include but are not limited to: fees for meeting space to host Stakeholder meetings, travel expenses for the Restoration Coordinator, and supplies or equipment that may be needed to execute approved Partnership planning documents. Direct costs will be negotiated and approved on an annual basis. 

This is not an exhaustive list, and DER reserves the right not to fund any expense that the Division deems ineligible. 

How much funding is available?

How much funding is available? 

Restoration Coordinator Funding: 

Funding is available to support one Restoration Coordinator at a 0.5-1.0 Full Time Equivalent (FTE) for each selected Lead Organization. Funding will be provided for a maximum of 75% of the base salary for a 1.0 FTE Restoration Coordinator position that ranges from $55,000 - $75,000. Lead Organizations employing a Restoration Coordinator for less than a 1.0 FTE are eligible to apply for funding for a maximum of 75% of the base salary, but the overall amount funding will be reduced proportionally depending on the FTE of the staff position. The maximum fringe rate that can be requested is 30%. FY22 salary is not anticipated to be a full year; contracts will be executed and funding is estimated to be available in November 2021.  

Funding will be negotiated and approved annually, during which time DER will consider adjustments to salary.  


Implementation Funding:

The FY22 grant funding for implementation activities is anticipated to be up to $20,000 per Lead Organization. In future years of the Partnership term, funding for implementation activities will be negotiated annually. The maximum value of grant funding is anticipated to range from $50,000-$200,000 annually.

Are indirect costs allowed? If so, is there a maximum rate allowed?

Are indirect costs allowed? If so, is there a maximum rate allowed? 

Indirect costs are limited to a maximum of 15% of the total amount requested for the Restoration Coordinator position, including fringe.  

Is there a match requirement?

Is there a match requirement? 

Applicants must provide a 25% match for funding that is requested to support the Restoration Coordinator salary and fringe benefits costs. Match value must be derived from expenses that directly support Restoration Coordinator employment and/or directly support the Restoration Coordinator carrying out their job duties. No match is required for DER implementation funding. 

Will DER pay for the full cost to implement specific projects pursued by a Partnership?

Will DER pay for the full cost to implement specific projects pursued by a Partnership? 

DER anticipates that the available Partnerships Program funding will not cover the full costs of Partnership implementation activities. Lead Organizations will be expected to seek additional funds for Partnership implementation work, and DER’s investment should be used to leverage other funding sources to support implementation activities.  

How does participation in a Partnership relate to DER’s Priority Projects Program?

How does participation in a Partnership relate to DER’s Priority Projects Program and the potential for specific projects in a Partnership Region to apply for and receive support as a designated DER Priority Project, and vice versa? 

Participation in the Partnerships Program does not affect eligibility for DER funding and support under the Priority Projects Program, and designation as a DER Priority Project does not affect eligibility to receive funding and other support under the Partnerships Program. DER’s Partnerships Specialist will work closely with selected Lead OrganizationsStakeholders, and DER staff to ensure efficient engagement, coordination, and allocation of resources for restoration projects and activities that may be eligible for DER support under both programs.

Can I apply if my organization is currently receiving funding for a DER Priority Project?

Can I apply if my organization is currently receiving funding for a DER Priority Project? 

Yes, the Partnerships Program is a separate program. 

How long is the commitment to the Partnerships Program? How does this timeline align with funding?

How long is the commitment to the Partnerships Program? How does this timeline align with funding? 

Selected applicants will sign non-binding Cooperative Agreements with DER to enter the Partnerships Program as Lead Organizations for a three-year Partnership term. This timeline may be extended by mutual agreement between DER and the Lead Organization for up to two 1-year extensions for a maximum Partnership term of five years. 

Each fiscal year of the Partnership term, Lead Organizations will sign binding DER grant contracts that include a defined scope of work, budget, and grant deliverables. Under the initial Partnerships Program RFR, the year-1 grant contract will be for a portion of state fiscal year 2022 (anticipated to be November 2021 through June 30, 2022). Additional funding beyond FY22 is anticipated to be awarded and contracted annually each fiscal year of the three-year Partnership, pending satisfactory performance and availability of DER funding.  

Can my organization be the applicant on more than one Partnerships Program application?

Can my organization be the applicant on more than one Partnerships Program application under the same RFR? 


How many Partnerships will be supported by DER?

How many Partnerships will be supported by DER? 

DER anticipates selecting up to three Partnerships under the initial FY22 Request for Responses. The potential for future RFRs to select additional Partnerships, and the total number of DER-supported Partnerships, will depend on multiple factors including funding availability and performance of the initial round of awards. 

How is the funding provided to organizations?

How is the funding provided to organizations?  

Funds will be paid on a reimbursement basis. Funds cannot be disbursed until there is a fully executed grant contract. After costs are incurred, Lead Organizations may submit invoices for reimbursement using the required expense and deliverable documentation.  

Are grant reports required? How often? 

Are grant reports required? How often? 

Selected Lead Organizations will be required to submit quarterly financial and activity reports to DER. Lead Organizations will also be required to use DER’s task tracking tools and deliverable reporting templates to document Restoration Coordinator and implementation activities and expenditures.

Do I need to hire a new employee to fill the Restoration Coordinator position? Can it be part time?

Am I expected to hire a new employee to fill the Restoration Coordinator position? Can this position be filled as a part-time staff position? 

Lead Organization may hire a new employee or transition an existing qualified staff person to fill the role of Restoration Coordinator. The Restoration Coordinator position may be staffed anywhere between 0.5 to 1.0 full time equivalent (FTE), and the FTE level may change during the Partnership term.  

To calculate FTE, divide the employee’s weekly scheduled hours by the employer’s full-time scheduled workweek. For example, if the employee works 28 hours per week and the organization has a regular workweek of 40 hours per week, then the calculation would be as follows: 

28/40 = .70 FTE 

Can I split the Restoration Coordinator position between two staff positions?

Can I split the Restoration Coordinator position between two staff positions?  

Lead Organizations cannot assign Restoration Coordinator duties to multiple staff. 

How do I submit an application to the Partnerships Program?

How do I submit an application to the Partnerships Program? 

Applicants must meet the minimum eligibility requirements and submit an application within the open dates of the RFR. An application must contain the following required documents: a completed application form, a completed budget worksheet and Partnership schedule (in one combined excel spreadsheet), Stakeholder letter(s) of support, and a Partnership Region map. Applicants must submit a completed application using the online submission portal following the RFR instructions.  

Where can I download the Partnerships Program application form? 

Where can I download the Partnerships Program application form?  

The Partnerships Program application form will be available through the FY22 RFR when it is released on June 28, 2021. 

Can an applicant propose to sub-award Implementation funding to a Stakeholder?

Can an applicant propose to sub-award Implementation funding to a Stakeholder? 

The applicant may propose to sub-award a portion of DER Implementation funding to support the work of non-profit Stakeholders under the Umbrella Partnership model or a similar model that the applicant proposes. DER will negotiate the terms and conditions for proposed sub-awards with selected Lead Organizations during contracting. Eligible recipients of sub-awarded Implementation funding include Regional Planning Agencies and 501(c)(3) organizations. For-profit organizations are not eligible for sub-awards. Restoration Coordinator funding cannot be sub-awarded. Refer to Attachment 1 of the Regional Restoration Partnerships Program RFR ID: DER 2021-03 for more details regarding the Umbrella Partnership model and sub-awards. 

Can an applicant propose to expand their Partnership Region during the Partnership term?

Can an applicant propose to expand their Partnership Region during the Partnership term or phase expansion into other areas of the Partnership Region throughout the Partnership term?