Environmental Internship Final Report
My internship this semester was to research and identify possible grants for the city of Walla Walla, with the intention of applying for one or more grants during my internship. My internship sponsor is Frank Nicholson, a Utility Engineer for the city.
This internship was structured in two phases. The first phase was the grant research stage. This mainly consisted of Internet research for grants that the city could apply for. During our first meeting, Mr. Nicholson laid out several programs that the city was currently needing funding for, including: watershed protection, water treatment, sewage treatment, stream restoration, bike path improvements, a new aquatic center, improving the fire station, main street restoration, and a composting center. Those were only general guidelines, and the bulk of my research focused around whatever areas I can strategically, and often serendipitously, find. After countless hours of independent searching through hundreds of grants, I identified over fifty possible grants that the city could qualify for. From these grants, Mr. Nicholson and I met several times to discuss my ideas for the grants. It also gave me a chance to utilize his expert knowledge of the needs of the city by matching the grants I found with city projects. Even though I did not directly apply for the majority of these grants, it was still beneficial to the city because Mr. Nicholson would notify the appropriate agencies of the grants that they could apply for. Also, just brainstorming possible projects helped Mr. Nicholson discover projects that the city could aim to complete even after my internship ended.
The second phase of my internship was the grant writing stage. Just before Thanksgiving Break, Mr. Nicholson told me the exciting news that there was a grant for me to write! This phase included further researching the specific needs of the grant that I was to write, contacting the related agencies to get their input and coordinate their cooperative efforts on the grant, and then actually writing the grant.
I am currently writing the grant application for the restoration of 1,000 feet of Garrison Creek in Fort Walla Walla Park. The funds would come from the Costal Protection Grant: Water Quality/Terry Husseman Account. Last year, the City Stream team received a grant to restore 1000 feet of the waterway, but they are currently looking for funds to expand their restoration efforts. Garrison Creek is of particular importance to the bull trout and steelhead native to this area, as migrating fish cannot travel through the Walla Walla stretch of Mill Creek, and are diverted to Garrison and Yellowhawk Creeks. (The Walla Walla portion of Mill Creek is mostly human-constructed for flood prevention, which makes it inhospitable to fish life.) Because of this, a restoration project on Garrison Creek would not only help the riparian and aquatic life in general and beautify the Park for public enjoyment, but also particularly benefit the population of fish traveling its waters.
This coming Wednesday, I will attend a “Creek Walk” with all the parties involved to find out the specifics that they had in mind for the restoration project. Mr. Nicholson found a copy of the previous year’s grant and e-mailed me the electronic copy. This has really helped expedite the grant writing process because I have used this grant as a template to work on the current grant application. Although I have done much of the writing for this years grant, I am still waiting for the Creek Walk in order to get the details necessary to finish the grant.
As previously mentioned, I also alerted Mr. Nicholson to various grant opportunities that the City could apply for. The projects that I found grants to fund include: increasing bike mobility in Walla Walla, re-configuring traffic flow through construction of a new road to help reduce congestion, researching and cleaning-up two brownfield sites (sites that could or do have hazardous substances, pollutants, or contaminants present). These sites, both inside the city limits, already have plans for development when they are deemed safe (all are contingent upon funding, of course). Also, Mr. Nicholson was particularly interested in several grants I found for achieving energy-efficiency objectives that could possibly be applied to a currently inefficient mode of methane purification at the water treatment plant.
I have learned many invaluable skills from this internship. First and foremost, I have been given a unique peek into the world of grants. Through learning about the grant system, I gained confidence in my abilities to fully utilize grant opportunities. Grants no longer seem like intimidating, unattainable funds, but rather are a viable option to complete good projects that might otherwise not be funded. This process has also given me an insider’s view into the structure of local government, and the difficult financial issues they face. Furthermore, I feel that I have strengthened the bond between Whitman and the Walla Walla community through the positive interactions with Mr. Nicholson, my internship sponsor. Lastly, my internship has taught me patients. The grant process is lengthy and time consuming. Even after all the paperwork is done, it still can be many months before I hear if Walla Walla was awarded the funds. There is also the possibility that no grants will work out, despite my best efforts.
In addition to the positive aspects of my internship, I have experienced some frustrations. At first, I felt that I did not know enough about the city to search for grants. I feel that the internship has taught me a lot about specific issues concerning Walla Walla. Also, it can be frustrating to wait. For much of the semester, I wanted to get started on an actual grant application because I knew how the last few weeks of my semester quickly slip away. Even though, just as I suspected, I received a grant application to work on right at the end of the semester, when I was already quite busy with other classes and finals, I was still glad to receive a grant to write. I really wanted to apply for a grant, to be able to positively give back to Walla Walla after it has given me so many things during my education here. There is also always the slight worry in the back of my mind that I will come up empty handed, despite my hardest efforts, since there is no guarantee that the grant will be funded (It will especially be harder to get the funds this year since the project has already been funded once). But, even if the project is not funded, still many positive things have come from the process. Lastly (and this is both a blessing and a negative), the extremely independent nature of the internship forced me to be diligent in my research. I set my own four hours a week of grant searching. If I was not careful in my time management, it can mean four hours all at once at the end of the week (to be sure that I get in my full time commitment each week, one week, I was in the library until 1:00am on a Saturday night researching!). I take the scheduling freedom very seriously. A lot of trust and independent responsibility was given to me, and I want to be sure that I live up to the expectations of the internship. While actually writing the grant during phase two, I probably spent more than four hours a week on the internship.
Overall, I was very satisfied with the internship. I would recommend this internship to anyone who is an independent, self-motivated worker, because the vast majority of the work was done on my own. Also, a grant writer needs discipline for of long hours of computer work. I would also recommend that this internship be one year long, instead of just a semester. Lastly, a grant writer must be flexible with time issues, due to the lengthy nature of grant writing. Hopefully, I will be done writing the grant by the end of next week. The deadline for the application is in January, 2004. Then, we will find out in late spring how the grant funds were awarded!
Grant Funded Spring of 2004
Photos From Funded Project