These grants are structured differently than other WECR grants in that they support a cohort of organizations to participate in a one-year federal policy advocacy program, anchored by PolicyLink. The program provides frontline water and climate leaders an on-ramp to federal policy.

Grants support staff time for learning; priority setting; policy work planning; training and peer learning to develop the skills necessary for navigating federal relationships and policy processes; and the development of policy briefs on topics including, but not limited to: water affordability, water quality, climate resilience, and more.

2024 Federal Policy Cohort

In 2024, WECR Caucus Steering Committee members selected five teams through a competitive application cycle to receive a total of $200,000 to participate in our inaugural 2024 Federal Policy Cohort. This year’s Cohort is focusing on diverse policy priorities in frontline communities in the Southern, Western, and Great Lakes regions of the United States. 

Cohort members are working closely with a policy advisor to identify local priorities and build advocacy strategies to address these priorities at the federal level. Participation in the Federal Policy Cohort includes monthly one-on-one meetings; quarterly peer learning exchanges with the full Cohort; access to quarterly federal policy trainings; support in shaping policy recommendations and key messaging; and opportunities to practice federal advocacy through developing policy briefs, submitting comment letters, meeting with Congressional and federal agency representatives, and more. Our 2024 Cohort and their work on key policy priorities includes:

Bayou City Waterkeeper & The Water Collaborative of Greater New Orleans: As Co-Chairs of the WECR Southern Water Regional Workgroup (hyperlink to Regional WG page), Bayou City Waterkeeper in Houston, TX and The Water Collaborative in New Orleans, LA are leading frontline communities across the South in development of regional policy priorities and intersectional solutions for water and climate justice. 

Policy Priority: The two organizations have teamed up in the Federal Policy Cohort to elevate the visibility, investment, and national buy-in toward Southern water/climate policies, particularly ensuring Southern communities receive and are involved in federal funding streams. Read more.

Participation Goals: Identify federal resources (including, but not limited to, the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law’s addition to State Revolving Funds); provide insight on ways for Southern communities to access these funds; build relationships and policy levers with key federal champions; and create spaces to empower frontline leaders in policy advocacy efforts across the South. 

Policy Advisor: Julian Gonzalez, Earthjustice

Choices Interlinking: Choices Interlinking works at the intersection of climate change, environmental justice, and social justice in Arizona and Texas to seek systemic solutions to longstanding problems of racial inequities, especially those impacting underserved marginalized youth and young adults of color.

Policy Priority: Reparations pathways and accountability mechanisms for equitable access to clean water, air, safe affordable housing, and just treatment under the law. Read more.

Participation Goals: Better understand how different federal programs and policies can be used to reduce or eliminate systemic racial discrimination and disparities in clean water and housing access. 

Policy Advisor: Sonia Kikeri, Emerald Cities Collaborative

Rio Grande International Study Center: The Rio Grande International Study Center (RGISC) works to preserve and protect the Rio Grande-Rio Bravo, its watershed and environment, through awareness, advocacy, research, education,stewardship and bi-national collaboration for the benefit of present and future generations.

Policy Priority: Protection and restoration of the Rio Grande River and watershed. Read more.

Participation Goals: Urgent: Advocate for Congress to revoke Section 102 of the Real ID waiver (PL 109-13), which allows the Secretary of Homeland Security to bypass climate and environmental regulations along the Rio Grande to expedite border wall construction. Short-term: Uplift the protection of the hardest-hit ecosystems and communities in the Rio Grande through opportunities presented by major legislation such as the Clean Water Act, Clean Water State Revolving Funds, Waters of the United States, SCOTUS rulings, etc. Long-term/ongoing: Connect local policy priorities to national movements, including advocating for dam removal (e.g., Klamath Dam), to restore healthy river ecosystems and preserve a limited water supply.

Policy Advisors: Kyle Jones and Celina Mahabir, Community Water Center

Sacred Places Institute for Indigenous Peoples: The Indigenous Waters Program at Sacred Places Institute for Indigenous Peoples (SPI) works with Native Nations, universities, environmental organizations, institutions, and agencies to protect fresh, salt waters, and coastal waters/areas that are significant to Native Nations and Indigenous Peoples. 

Policy Priority: Restore local tribal control of land and waters. Read more.

Participation Goals: Develop understanding of differences between federally and non-federally recognized tribes and water laws; build capacity to effectively interact with federal agencies that impact tribal lands and understand how to advocate with them for local tribal control of lands/waters (BoR within DOI, NOAA, EPA); and create and practice strategic talking points/testimony to deliver at hearings, briefings, etc.

Policy Advisor: Max Gomberg, WECR Caucus Consultant

Wisconsin Green Muslims: Based in Milwaukee, Wisconsin Green Muslims is a grassroots environmental justice group formed in 2005 connecting faith, environmental justice, sustainability, and healing through education and service. 

Policy Priority: PFAS prevention and remediation. Secondary goal of lead prevention and remediation. Read more.

Participation Goals: Identify policy and advocacy strategies to regulate and prevent water pollution; build skills to review proposed rules and submit public comments on lead/copper and PFAS; develop a policy brief on PFAS prevention and remediation, connect local and state action on PFAS to federal advocacy efforts; build federal connections and policy strategies to strengthen contributions to Wisconsin PFAS-free Coalition and Great Lakes PFAS Action Network.

Policy Advisors: Alexandra Campbell-Ferrari and Luke Wilson, Center for Water Security & Cooperation