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Grants to Illinois and Indiana Nonprofits, Agencies, and Educational Institutions in Eligible Locations to Improve Watershed Quality

Chi-Cal Rivers Fund

National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF)

Agency: Foundation

GrantWatch ID #144631

Grant Description

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Grants to Illinois and Indiana nonprofit organizations, government agencies, and educational institutions in eligible locations to improve watershed quality. Priorities include enhancing habitat quality, improving public access, and expanding green stormwater infrastructure. Projects should take place in the Chicago and Calumet Rivers waterways system.

With an emphasis along the major waterways of the system, the Fund will award grants in the following three categories.

  1. Habitat Quality
    • Funding in this category will support riparian, in-stream, upland and wetland habitat improvements along or near the major waterways of the system listed under the Geographic Focus section. Competitive projects will achieve a range of ecological benefits, such as improving water quality, reducing erosion, and increasing the complexity, connectivity and quality of habitat. Priority will be given to projects that improve native/natural habitat, benefit species of concern, and increase biodiversity and maintain healthy native populations. Invasive species control activities, including initial treatments, subsequent retreatments and early detection and rapid response (EDRR) are eligible for funding in this category as a component of a comprehensive habitat restoration project. Applicants demonstrating the capacity, experience, and resources needed to effectively manage invasive species and preserve habitat values following initial treatments will be most competitive. 
  2. Green Stormwater Infrastructure
    • Funding in this category will support green stormwater infrastructure (GSI) projects that improve stormwater capture and storage to mitigate the impacts of climate change, including reducing runoff, combined sewer overflows, basement backups, and flooding through nature-based design. Much of the region is covered in impervious surfaces and these threats pose significant risks to communities, with disproportionately severe impacts to low-income communities and communities of color.
  3. Public Access
    • Funding in this category will support the creation of new and or/enhancement of interventions designed to improve public access and connectivity to, understanding, and use of natural areas in close proximity to the major waterways of the system depicted under the Geographic Focus section. Public access improvement may include but are not limited to construction of trails, green space, public access points, and infrastructure enabling use of waterways and habitats, such as paddle craft launches, wildlife viewing areas, etc. Priority will be given to projects that directly benefit low-income communities and communities of color and incorporate habitat restoration and/or green stormwater infrastructure elements into their design. All proposals should describe the rationale for selecting the project location, public access or greenspace elements proposed, identify the communities and/or target audiences that will be served by the project and how they will be meaningfully and actively engaged in the project to encourage public use of the asset.  

More information about the funding categories can be found starting at

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Additional Eligibility Criteria:

Eligible and Ineligible Entities:
- Eligible applicants include nonprofit 501(c) organizations, state government agencies, local governments, municipal governments, tribal governments, and educational institutions. To be competitive, applicant organizations must demonstrate capacity and experience commensurate with the scale of the project being proposed and the funding being requested.
- Ineligible applicants include federal government agencies, unincorporated individuals, and private for-profit businesses.

Ineligible Uses of Grant Funds:
- NFWF funds and matching contributions may not be used to support political advocacy, fundraising, lobbying, litigation, terrorist activities or Foreign Corrupt Practices Act violations.
- NFWF funds may not be used to support ongoing efforts to comply with legal requirements, including permit conditions, mitigation and settlement agreements. However, grant funds may be used to support projects that enhance or improve upon existing baseline compliance efforts. 

Additional Geographic Information:

Chicago and Calumet Rivers region: To be eligible for funding, projects must occur in close proximity to or otherwise demonstrate direct benefits to the major waterways of the system and their tributaries. A map can be found at

Pre-proposal Conference:

Chi-Cal Rivers Fund 2022 - Webinar for Applicants

Thu, Jun 23, 2022 1:00 PM - 2:00 PM CDT

This webinar will provide additional information on the NFWF Chi-Cal Rivers funding opportunity including guidance related to the funding categories offered in 2022, guidance on navigating the application process, and answers to participant questions.

Register at:

Pre-Application Information:

- Full Proposal Due Date: Monday, July 25, 2022 by 10:59 PM Central Time
- Proposal Review Period: August – September
- Awards Announced: November

The start date indicated in an application should not precede November 11, 2022.

The ratio of matching contributions offered to grant funding requested is one criterion considered during the review process. Match is not required. However, providing some match (non-federal and federal) is encouraged to demonstrate broad support for the project and overall impact of the work. Match can be any combination of in cash and/or in-kind goods and services (for example external/partner services, volunteers or grantee in-kind, materials and services donated, etc.) or other tangible contributions to the project objectives and outcomes. No priority will be given to higher cash percentages versus other sources of match. In addition, eligible indirect costs (that would not be paid with requested grant funding) may be applied as match.

Applicant Webinar Recording:

Additional Funding Information:

Estimated Total Program Funding:


Estimated Size of Grant:

Individual grants typically range from $150,000 to $350,000.

Term of Contract:

Anticipated completion time for funded projects will typically be two (2) years or two field seasons following finalization of a grant agreement. Projects may be a discrete part of a longer-term project, provided there are definable outcomes for the proposed phase of the overall effort. The project narrative should include a clear timetable or schedule for project completion. Project start and end dates should define the period during which all proposed work is accomplished, all requested funds are spent, and all matching contributions are spent or applied.

Contact Information:

Apply Online:

Direct questions to:
Aislinn Gauchay
Program Director, Great Lakes

Traci Giefer
Senior Program Manager, Great Lakes

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