NOAA Fisheries is looking for a few good marine habitat restoration projects to help fund.

The federal agency’s Restoration Center, following its mission to invest in habitat restoration, has opened a $4 million competitive grant program for projects that will lead to “real, lasting differences for communities, businesses and the environment.”

More specifically, NOAA said it seeks restoration programs that use a habitat-based approach to “rebuild productive and sustainable fisheries,” as well as contributing “to the recovery and conservation of protected resources, promote healthy ecosystems and yield community and economic benefits.”

The range of eligible applicants include for-profit commercial organizations, nonprofits, institutions of higher education and U.S. territories, as well as local, state and Native American tribal governments.

The broad outline of the restoration projects include those with a goal of rehabilitating “degraded or altered marine, estuarine, coastal and freshwater migratory fish habitats,” as well as projects seeking to return species to their historic habitats.

There are items that are not eligible for funding, including land acquisition, marine debris removal and water quality improvement efforts “that rely primarily upon hard infrastructure.”

Last year, NOAA recommended $8.2 million in funding through the habitat restoration grant program to 15 applicants for projects designed to restore habitats in 10 states and Puerto Rico, leveraging about $13 million in non-federal funding along the way.

In Massachusetts, the town of Falmouth received $675,000 to restore 56 acres of modified wetlands, previously used to cultivate cranberries, back to its natural habitat. Also, the Friends of the Herring River received $700,000 to return tidal flow to the Herring River estuary and rebuild salt marsh on outer Cape Cod.

The application process opened on Nov. 8 and the deadline for pre-proposals is set to close on Jan. 8, 2020.

“The pre-proposal process will help determine if proposed products are well-suited for this specific funding competition and if a full application is warranted,” NOAA Fisheries said in a statement.

Applicants that survive the pre-proposal phase face an April deadline for full proposals. NOAA Fisheries said it expects to publicly announce the recommended applications sometime in July 2020, with award recipients officially notified between July and November of next year.

The funding awards will range from $75,000 to $3 million and will be paid out over one to three years. NOAA said it normally leverages its federal funding with matching contributions or partnerships with organizations in the public and private sector to to complete important coastal habitat restoration.

“To this end, applicants are encouraged to demonstrate a 1:1 non-federal match for NOAA funds requested to conducted the proposed project,” NOAA Fisheries said.

The earliest successful applicants may start on their awards is Oct. 1, 2020.

Contact Sean Horgan at 978-675-2714, or shorgan@gloucestertimes.com. Follow him on Twitter at @SeanGDT

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