Nov/Dec 2009

State News: August 2009


innovations 2009


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Wisconsin egrants Program Adds Efficiency

Wisconsin-Pennsylvania: Egrants—Comprehensive Grants Management System
Not too long ago, processing 30 grant applications would have taken down the Office of Justice Assistance in Wisconsin.
“It would take so much effort for the manual work that was needed,” said Darcey Varese, financial officer for the agency.
Then came an influx of homeland security funding, which would add even more work and data requirements. It was obvious something needed to be done, Varese said.
“Our systems were outdated, unlinked,” she said. “We were not able to build off what we had.”
So the agency turned to Pennsylvania, which had developed a Web-based grants management system using the federal Edward Byrne Memorial State and Local Law Enforcement Assistance Grant Program. Pennsylvania’s Commission on Crime and Delinquency shared the source code for the process and Wisconsin implemented its e-grant program in 2006. The Egrants–Comprehensive Grants Management System is one of eight national winners of the CSG Innovations Awards.
The system is comprehensive—“from cradle to grave,” as Varese calls it.
“You’re able to announce grant opportunities to agencies and it tracks it throughout the system all the way through to collecting data and tracking the funding until the closeout of the project,” Varese said.
Alison Poe, deputy director of the Wisconsin Office of Justice Assistance, said the system also generates the documents needed to make an award, as well as keeps track of all the information needed for reporting to the federal government.
She said the program is used by agencies as small as one- to two-person police forces to large nonprofits that apply for grant funding from the Office of Justice Assistance. “It has been used and successfully by a full range” of organizations, Poe said.
While there was some early trepidation when the e-grants process was installed, many grant-seeking agencies have seen the benefits of the process.
“Prior to Egrants, every program unit in the agency had their own application kit and their own process that they would use on a round of funding,” said Varese. “Egrants has forced a stable standard process across the agency for grants management.”
The continuity forced by the use of the program, she said, led to much efficiency. And, she said, the agency didn’t have to prepare as much as others when the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funding started to roll in.
Egrants also promotes transparency and accountability in the grants process, Varese said. And, said Poe, the ease of access to the information has helped the agency respond more quickly to requests for information from the press, legislature and other governmental agencies.
The use of the Egrants program in both Wisconsin and Pennsylvania illustrates the ability of states to use technology or share existing IT strategies, according to the program’s application for the Innovations Award. And that sharing continues. Varese said several Wisconsin state agencies have adopted or expressed interest in a comparable process for grants management.
“For a small agency like ours,” said Poe, “it gives us a chance to share back with the enterprise of state government something that has been very beneficial.”
—Mary Branham


Michigan Assesses Impact of Water Withdrawal

Michigan: Water Withdrawal Assessment Process
Michigan is working to ensure its use of water doesn’t have an adverse impact on the Great Lakes ecosystem.
The state developed a water withdrawal assessment process to avoid those problems. The state’s Water Withdrawal Assessment Process, one of eight national winners of a Council of State Governments Innovations Award, is part of a regional effort to protect the Great Lakes and prevent large scale water diversion from the basin.
The Great Lakes Compact—to which eight states and two Canadian provinces belong—prohibits other states and foreign countries from withdrawing water from the lakes, and also requires the member states and provinces to regulate their water use and promote conservation of the lakes. Michigan is the only state to fully implement the compact, according to David A. Hamilton, chief of the Water Management Section in the Land and Water Management Division.
“We had to find ways by which we would measure the impact of water withdrawals and assure they are not going to cause an adverse impact on the aquatic resources or water dependent natural resources in the Great Lakes basin,” Hamilton said.
So Michigan developed a collaborative process in which science guided policy, he said.
The state developed models of withdrawal impact. For instance, the stream flow throughout the state is calculated, taking into account the diversity of the types of streams in Michigan, Hamilton said. Then, proposed groundwater withdrawal is reviewed for its impact on the amount of water depleted from neighboring streams.
“The real heart of it is that every stream has been classified according to what type of fish communities live there,” he said. Curves were developed to show the impact on the fish populations based on the amount of water withdrawn, according to Hamilton.
Based on the scientific evidence, Michigan lawmakers passed legislation that set standards for the amount of water that could be safely withdrawn, Hamilton said. The laws, passed in 2006, were the first in Michigan to establish water withdrawal regulations.
Because Michigan is a water-rich state, Hamilton said some people questioned the need to set the regulations. The compact to avoid diversion of Great Lakes water to other states and regions was just one reason. But Hamilton said there are areas in Michigan that face water shortages. Legislators approved the law and then instructed the Department of Environmental Quality to develop tools to further refine and implement the plan.
An assessment tool is available online for water users to determine the likelihood of an adverse impact of a proposed withdrawal, Hamilton said. Only those that withdraw a large quantity of water—100,000 gallons a day—would be required to participate in the assessment. That includes large industries, irrigators and municipalities.
“It’s good for planning industry and development to have an idea ahead of time whether or not they can do something,” said Hamilton.
He said the assessment tool is efficient in that people can fill out the application online. If there’s no impact, they can get automatic authorization through the process. For those cases where there is a potential impact, Hamilton said, the assessment would send them to the state for individual review.
Michigan fully implemented its assessment process in July 2009. Hamilton said other states are looking at Michigan’s process and will implement similar programs to address the requirements of the compact.
—Mary Branham



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