(Annapolis, Md) - The Maryland Department of Natural Resources invites local governments and nonprofit organizations to apply for funding to help restore the Chesapeake Bay and improve water quality.

The department is seeking to fund community projects aimed at mitigating and reducing nonpoint source pollution caused by excess nutrients and sediment through the Chesapeake and Atlantic Coastal Bays Trust Fund. The department plans to allocate and award about $25 million in 2018.

Interested applicants are encouraged to submit letters of intent by Jan. 20, 2017, and full proposals by March 31, 2017.

"The Chesapeake and Atlantic Coastal Bays Trust Fund is a true partnership that leverages resources and talents, and produces measurable and tangible benefits for all," said Maryland Natural Resources Secretary Mark Belton. "The program has quickly become one of the most cost-effective and innovative water quality financing programs in the nation, and is essential to the state's efforts to meet our Chesapeake Bay Watershed Agreement goals and obligations. It incorporates the latest scientific knowledge, and focuses on accountability and results."

The fund helps the state accelerate bay restoration goals by focusing its limited resources on specifically-designed and -implemented projects, and has directed over $350 million to over 2,000 projects. To date, it has removed 27,000 tons of sediment from entering the Chesapeake Bay, and helped restore over 550 acres of wetlands and 222,000 linear feet of stream while supporting 2,000 jobs.

In January 2016, Governor Larry Hogan dedicated $53 million for the Chesapeake and Atlantic Coastal Bays Trust Fund, the first time in state history that revenue dedicated to Chesapeake Bay restoration was not diverted or raided. Last year, the fund was able to award funding to 21 individual projects, ranging from Allegany to Wicomico count