RULE 168.00.15-005 - Arkansas Unpaved Roads Grant Program

RULE 168.00.15-005. Arkansas Unpaved Roads Grant Program

Arkansas Economic Development Commission, Division of Rural Services and the Arkansas Rural Development Commission

The Arkansas Economic Development Commission (AEDC), Division of Rural Services (DRS), is charged with assisting rural communities with a population of 20,000 and under. Established under Act 302 of 1991, and merged with the Arkansas Economic Development Commission under Act 8 of the 2015 First Extraordinary Session, DRS assists local agencies in rural areas with information and technical assistance. Currently, more than 80% of Arkansans live in rural areas.

The Arkansas Rural Development Commission (ARDC) is a group of citizens from rural Arkansas responsible for overseeing the programs of DRS. Seven of its members are appointed by the Governor, two are appointed by the Senate President Pro-Tem, and two are appointed by the Speaker of the House. Commissioners serve multiple-year terms and meet throughout the year to discuss rural issues that affect Arkansans.

The mission of these two groups is to "Enhance the quality of life in rural Arkansas."

One focus of the Division of Rural Services is to be a source of information for rural citizens and provide support services to rural communities. DRS publishes a quarterly newsletter that covers rural policies and topics. The Division also hosts an annual conference and local forums around the state throughout the course of the year.

General Information and Eligibility

Created by Act 898 of the 90th General Assembly, the purpose of the Unpaved Roads Program (Program) is to create a better unpaved county road system with a reduced negative environmental impact on priority water resources in Arkansas. The Program focuses on best management practices (BMPs) that reduce the impact of sediment and road runoff to streams, rivers, and drinking water supplies while reducing long term unpaved county road maintenance costs.

The Program is designed to fund work on public roads with unbound road surfaces. These are surfaces of natural material or crushed aggregate that have not been incorporated into a bound layer using asphalt, oil, or other such binder. For the Program, driving surface aggregate (DSA) is NOT considered "paved" even though the material looks similar to pavement/concrete and is laid with paving equipment. Public entities that own and maintain public roads in Arkansas that are open to public vehicle travel at least eight (8) consecutive weeks a year are eligible to apply for grants for Program funding. Counties are the primary applicants for Program funding. Other unincorporated areas with public, unpaved roads can also apply for funding as long as the entity has capacity to implement and manage a Program grant.

In determining applicant eligibility, it is important to focus on the entity that owns and maintains the road itself, not necessarily the land the road traverses. Often one entity owns and/or maintains the road through the property of another entity, for example a County-owned road might traverse through a State Forest, Wildlife Management Area, or National Forest. The entity that owns and maintains the road corridor is the entity that is eligible to apply for Program funding. In this case, the county would be the eligible applicant. The county must gain the approval of the County Judge to apply.

What Types of Projects are Eligible

Program projects eligible for funding must focus on both unpaved road improvements and sediment reduction that is negatively impacting, or could negatively impact a named, priority water body covered by the Program.

Projects should focus on worksites (identified pollution sites) and environmentally safe practices (ESM) to reduce pollution while providing a more stable unpaved road. Only projects that provide some form of environmental benefit, typically by reducing sediment and concentrated drainage to waterways, will be considered for funding.

Priority Water Bodies In Order of Program Priority

* A water body containing an aquatic species listed as threatened, endangered or a candidate species by the Federal Government;

* A water body that has been determined to be impaired as a result of turbidity or sediment;

* A water body used as a drinking source for people;

* A water body used as an interstate waterway;

* A water body the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission had determined contains a species of greatest conservation need;

* A water body important to agricultural or pasture land use; or

* A water body important to forestry land use.

What Types of Projects are Ineligible

Projects not eligible for funding consideration under the Unpaved Roads Program include, but are not limited to:

* Roadways that have bound surfaces including oil, asphalt, concrete, or any mixture of sealed aggregate.

* Roadways that are not negatively impacting a priority body of water.

* Public roads that are open to the public for less than eight (8) consecutive weeks.

* Any and all private roads.

Note: Applicants are not eligible for an Unpaved Roads Grant if the county has an Unpaved Roads Grant currently open. Once the grant has been closed out, applicants are eligible to apply.

Environmentally Sensitive Maintenance

An Environmentally Sensitive Maintenance (ESM) certified person must be in charge of work plan development and project implementation for the applying entity. ESM training for the Program is a one-day course that covers the road maintenance practices employed by the Program. ESM training is made available at no-cost to potential grant applicants - such as county judges, county roads personnel, and other interested parties. It is highly recommended that all persons representing the county who have a significant role in the Program attend ESM training, to include county administrative staff. ESM training must be taken once every 5 years to maintain certification.

Some examples of ESM principles are as follows:

* Road/Stream Interactions: ESM practices for stream crossings focus on reducing the sediment delivery to a river or lake, riverbank stability issues, and the river crossing itself. Practices such as highwater bypasses, French mattresses, proper stream crossing sizing, better bridge and pipe design, and in-stream flow control structures can be effectively used to stabilize the unpaved road/stream interface.

* Unpaved Road Surface: ESM practices for the unpaved road surface include drainage control and improved aggregate. Drainage control starts with proper crown and cross-slope, but also includes practices such as grade breaks, berm removal, and broad-based dips. Improved surface aggregate focuses on the Program's Driving Surface Aggregate and includes maintenance concerns such as grading and pothole repair.

* Unpaved Road Base: Practices that improve the base of a road include mechanical base improvements, underdrains, French mattresses, and in some cases full-depth reclamation.

* Vegetation Management Practices: Practices that manage vegetation in a sustainable manner will reduce erosion from the unpaved road area and save on future maintenance costs associated with tree trimming and cleanup. Practices include selective thinning, proper pruning, seeding and mulching, and managing vegetation for long term stability.

* Unpaved Road Bank Management Practices: Practices that stabilize the upslope or downslope road bank include slope reinforcement, filling the road profile, naturalizing bank shape, and natural or mechanical slope reinforcement.

* Unpaved Road Ditch and Outlet Stabilization: ESM practices for ditches include anything that reduces the flow in the ditch. The simplest of these practices is to provide more drainage outlets in the form of new turnouts and cross pipes. Selecting locations to outlet water and choosing the proper outlet stabilization methods is also important. Other practices such as berm removal and filling the road profile attempt to eliminate ditches completely and promote sheet flow. Practices to reduce the effect of subsurface flow such as underdrains are also important.

Eligible Project Expenses

Applicants may apply for the full or partial costs of materials, equipment, and labor required for implementation of the grant project. Salaries and other associated personnel expenses are not eligible. Eligible grant funds are capped at $75,000.

Material expenses on a project include but are not limited to items such as pipe, stone, fill, fabric, aggregate, etc. Products with the potential ability to leach off the road (such as dust suppressants) must meet Arkansas state standard requirements for non-pollution.

Program projects are often completed with applicant-owned equipment. In most cases, this will be county owned equipment. Reimbursement of applicant-owned equipment costs may be an eligible expense under the Program as:

1) the accepted Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) rates if submitted with the grant application and/or;

2) legitimate quote or invoice acceptable by DRS and/or;

3) The labor is $18.04 per hour, unless sufficient documentation from a specialist is provided to DRS to justify another amount.

Often, projects may require equipment that the applicant does not own. It may be an eligible expense for an applicant to rent or lease equipment necessary to complete a project with Program funds. Equipment rented or leased with Program funds can only be used on the project for which it was rented or donated. Grant funds from the Program cannot be used to purchase or maintain equipment.

Some projects may be completed entirely by subcontractor where no unpaved road work is performed by the applicant. Applicant should follow standard procedures regarding project bidding and working with sub-contractors. DRS will make payments to the grant recipient (in most cases this will be a county), not directly to the grant recipient's sub-contractors.

Most projects will require permits and/or engineering or consultant work to design and complete. Program funds can be used to cover engineering, permitting, or similar consultant costs, but such costs are limited to a maximum of 10% of the total contract between the DRS and the grant recipient. Note this limit is defined as up to 10% of the contract amount (Program contracted funds), not 10% of the total project value (which could include in-kind or other funds).

Current Allowable Expenses for Donated Labor

If a grantee choses to use donated labor or services for all or a portion of the grant match, it must be submitted in one of two ways. First, if the labor donated is unskilled, volunteer labor; DRS will bill at $18.04 for each individual hour donated. Simply put, if four people donate one hour each to the project, $72.16 ($18.04 x 4 = $72.16) can be claimed toward the community's portion of the match. Secondly, if the labor donated is skilled, professional labor, DRS will accept the estimate given by the company or individual. For this to be accepted, a donor must be licensed or considered a professional in the field where the donation is being made. This professional labor donation can include, but is not limited to, dozer/dirt work, electrical, plumbing, carpentry, welding, and etc.

Funding Availability

Applicants with an eligible project may apply for up to $75,000 in state matching funds toward a single project. As the grant pool is limited, it may sometimes be necessary to make awards of less than the amount actually requested and some projects unfortunately cannot be funded at all.

Matching Requirement

All proposed and funded projects are required to have at least a fifty percent (50%) match contribution and counties can apply for up to $75,000. In-kind goods and services committed by the county will include without limitation - labor, equipment use, materials, and services. Donations from private entities and other Program stakeholders can be applied to meet or exceed the programmatic matching requirements. Other sources of funds that will benefit a county's grant applications are encouraged. The Program is a public, private partnership to benefit the people of Arkansas.

All matching funds must be pledged at the time of application submission and be immediately available if an award is received. Donated labor cannot count as match if it is executed before the grant is awarded. Debt financing of any nature and proceeds from any other state grant programs cannot be used for matching purposes.

A total project cost does not have to equal $75,000. It can be more or less. However, if the total project cost is more than $75,000 the applicant should provide proof that the entire project can be funded. For example, if the total project cost is $275,000, the applicant may apply for $75,000 but should still show how the additional $200,000, is being funded. Therefore, an applicant should only apply for what can be completed and funded within the project timeline of one year.

Application Process

Applicants are encouraged to conduct site visits with DRS staff on-site to discuss the potential project before an application is submitted for funding in excess of $25,000. The purpose of a pre-application meeting is to work jointly with the applicant to ensure the plan they submit is in the best interest of both entities. Some applicants, especially those new to the Program, may focus on road improvement concerns over environmental concerns. The pre-application meeting allows Program staff to provide input on the potential project at an early stage before the applicant has invested a large amount of time and resources in developing a worksite plan.

It also allows an early discussion of potential topics relating to permitting, funding availability, and other issues that could affect the scope or design of the project. Potential landowner issues should be a part of the initial site visit. Often the type of ESM practices used on an unpaved road will depend a great deal on the cooperation of local landowners, especially where off right-of-way work or additional drainage outlets are required for successful project completion.

DRS personnel will work with applicants to revise the scope of their applications should they not meet Program standards. The DRS, at their discretion, may refuse to accept incomplete applications or applications that do not properly address environmental issues or other Program rules.

A complete grant application should include the following:

* Grant Application: The approved grant application submitted by the applicant will include cost estimate breakdowns and budget tables for both the requested grant funds and match funds. The minimum matching requirement ratio is 1:1.

Every grant dollar must be matched with at least one dollar of non-grant funds. The grant application must include a work plan, which consists of a hand-drawn or digitally produced sketch of the proposed project. A work plan is a plan view of the road with all planned features such as pipes, aggregate, underdrain, surface features, etc. Applicants may use the space provided on the back of the grant application for the work plan. The grant application must also include a map that identifies where the project is located with a clear delineation of the water body that will be impacted by the project. The water body must be named.

* General Program Contracts.

* Program Statement of Policy: Program Statement of Policy required on all Program grants.

* DRS Standards and policies: Any policies adopted by DRS and its Commission.

Applications that DRS deems complete and potentially acceptable to the Program should be forwarded to the Committee for review and prioritization. The Committee will review and prioritize applications based on established written criteria and make funding recommendations to the DRS and its Commission. The Committee operates in an advisory capacity only.

All applications for funding must be approved by the DRS' Commission, Governor's Office and the Arkansas Legislature. All applicants shall be notified in writing of the funding decisions of the DRS and its Commission.

Note: A county cannot begin on any part of the project until they have received their grant funds.

Project Monitoring

Project monitoring is designed to answer three questions:

1. Did the project succeed in reducing sediment pollution from leaving a worksite?

2. Are the ESM practices installed correctly and will less sediment enter a priority water body as a result of this project?

3. Was drainage disconnection achieved thereby reducing erosion?

Field data will be collected by Program staff and other stakeholders as assigned to answer these questions. A modified water erosion prediction project (WEPP) for roads will be used to collect pre- and post-project data to determine the amount of sediment reduction achieved at a worksite. Results will be reported as tons of sediment reduced per mile of road.

Field data collection will require three site visits by Program staff, or others as assigned. WEPP data sheets will be completed:

1) before the project begins, and;

2) five days after project completion date. WEPP analysis will be used to produce sediment reduction yields. Five repeatable photo-points will also be installed during these site visits.

Approximately one year later Program staff will return to the project site to perform a project walk through to ensure the project is still operational and reducing sediment. Photo-points will be repeated. Program staff (or others as assigned) will complete simple project completion report worksheet that will summarize the project implementation to ensure the grant was completed to achieve the grant objectives.

At least four percent (4%) of the awarded grant amount will be available to be spent on project monitoring. This amount will be included in the grant from DRS to the grant recipient. The recipient will use this amount to pay for all/part of the required monitoring.

Final Inspection

Upon project completion, a final inspection must be scheduled on-site involving the DRS, AACD, or its assigns and the grant recipient. Final inspections should be completed within five days after work is complete, so any remediation can be done while equipment is still on site if needed. Other entities such as personnel from DRS, Program stakeholders, and sub-contractors to the grant recipient should be encouraged to participate. The purpose of the final inspection is to:

* Verify the project is completed in accordance with Program standards and to the satisfaction of the DRS;

* Verify that all work elements classified as "in-kind services" are also completed in accordance with Program standards and to the satisfaction of DRS;

* Verify that work elements proposed in the work plan have been properly installed; and

* Allow DRS to summarize the project work elements and costs on the Project Completion Report.

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Documents Needed for a Complete Grant

In addition to the grant application with all questions answered fully, counties must include the following in order for the application to be complete:

[] A signed Certification Letter, enclosed with application, from the local governing official (County Judge)

[] A Resolution passed by the quorum court enclosed with application. The Resolution must have the county judge's signature, and the signature of the city/county clerk.

[] Backup documentation for all items listed in the project cost estimate. This includes written professional estimates for all items the applicant is purchasing or receiving through donation. Only one bid is required for each item.

[] Backup documentation for all items listed in the applicant's funding source breakdown (local match). This includes copies of bank statements for cash, letters indicating pledges of cash, and letters of intent to donate all or part of the materials, supplies, equipment and/or equipment rental, land, easements and in-kind labor being donated to the project. Applicants must show they have raised their entire portion of the match in order to be eligible.

[] An 8.5"x11" map of the area to be served by the proposed project.

[] Items of public support. A letter of support from your local governing State Senator and State Representative. These two letters are required but a community could include support letters for the project from members of the community as well.

[] Documentation of completion for the required best management practices (BMPs) training for the county roads staff proposing the project.

[] A simple project work sketch including a map that shows the location of proposed project to a water body with a state or federal aquatic species of concern and/or water body that supplies drinking water for people.

[] Identification of the proposed work elements to minimize sediment leaving the roads system post-project.


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