Federal CEQA Project Review

Federal actions are subject to the National Environmental Policy Act (see summary below). When a project is subject to both CEQA and NEPA, State and local agencies are encouraged to cooperate with federal agencies, to the fullest extent possible, through such measures as joint planning, research, hearings, and preparation of environmental documents (CEQA Guidelines, Sections 15220-15229).

Scope of Federal Project Review

Many federal agencies plan projects and activities that have the potential to adversely impact the sensitive resources of the State. Federal agencies have proposed or constructed projects and carried out activities that have impacted the State's fish and wildlife resources. Future planning by these same agencies have the potential to further impact the State's fish and wildlife populations and habitats. The following list of federal agencies and their typical projects and activities is provided as an example of the kinds of plans the Department must be aware of and ready to seek appropriate mitigation for any impacts to fish and wildlife resources:

  • U.S. Forest Service- Timber harvesting, road building, and grazing of public lands.
  • U.S. Bureau of Land Management- Grazing, mining, and timber harvesting.
  • U.S. Bureau of Reclamation- Dam construction, other water-related projects.
  • U.S. Army Corps of Engineers- River bank protection and other water-related projects.
  • U.S. Department of Defense- Various projects and military operations.
  • U.S. Department of Agriculture- Pesticide applications and farming.
  • U.S. Soil Conservation Service- Various farming-related programs.
  • U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS)- Various refuge management programs.
  • Finally, not all plans developed by the above agencies result in projects or activities that have adverse impacts to fish and wildlife. For example, the USFWS prepares recovery plans for certain threatened and endangered species. The Department may review these plans to offer comments and recommendations designed to further the recovery efforts proposed in such plans.

Federal Land Use Plan Review Procedures

Projects planned on federal lands occurring within the State may have impacts to fish and wildlife resources. Federally sponsored and financed projects involving a State or local agency and a federal agency are subject to both NEPA and CEQA review. The various plans and equivalent documents that contain federally sponsored projects and activities are reviewed by the Department for their potential to adversely impact the State's fish, wildlife, and other sensitive resources. Regional and headquarters staffs conduct the review and respond with comments directly to the federal agency producing the draft planning document. Depending on the type or significance of the federal plan, either the appropriate Regional Manager or the Director may be the signatory for the Department on such comments.

Army Corps of Engineer Permit Project Review Procedures

Under the authority of the River and Harbor Act of 1899 and the Federal Water Pollution Control Act (PL 92-500), as amended by PL 95-217, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps), in its civil regulatory function, distributes "public notices" to interested agencies concerning public or private civil projects which may affect "navigable waters of the United States". The Corps has broad authority for regulatory jurisdiction on 'navigable' waters in California, including many waters not normally viewed as navigable. Regions should contact the Corps and HCPB for guidance on questions about regulatory jurisdiction for dredge and fill activities and information useful in crafting appropriate mitigation measures.

The following procedures have been adopted to govern the processing of the Corps’ public notices, relevant to fish and wildlife:

  1. Regions receive “public notices”and "letters of permission" directly from the Corps. The regions should contact the Corps or the sponsoring agency concerning details of the project, or to request an extension of the comment period.
  2. When the regions provide substantive comments, there should be a field inspection first, unless the area is well known to Department staff involved. Subsequent comments consistent with the Department's position may be sent directly from the affected region to the federal agency. Headquarters staff may be of assistance in developing comments involving certain sensitive resources that they may be tracking or for which they have extensive data base information available.
  3. Regions shall ensure that proper coordination on public notices is in affect with the USFWS, National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), and other appropriate agencies. Regions should work closely with Corps staff, applicant, USFWS, project sponsors, and other agencies to resolve any conflicts concerning fish and wildlife resources.
  4. Should the applicant and the agencies responsible for the protection of fish and wildlife fail to resolve the problem, the case may be elevated for consideration by the executive level of Department.
  5. Notices and correspondence concerning projects requiring action shall be retained as permanent records. Those not requiring action may be discarded or recycled after one year.

Federal Small Water Reclamation Project Review Procedures

Public laws 984 and 566 were enacted by Congress to promote and facilitate the construction of small reclamation projects. However, federal budget restrictions and administrative policies have greatly reduced activities under these programs.

Applications for federal construction loans or grants may be submitted by State agencies or political subdivisions, irrigation districts, and water user associations. Private companies or individuals are not eligible to submit applications for small reclamation projects .

Federal laws require applicants to consult with the USFWS and the Department during the project planning to ensure the protection of the fish and wildlife resources within the planned project area. The applicant must reach agreement with the BOR and the USFWS on the project's operation to ensure that any benefits to fish and wildlife are realized.

The responsibility of the Department is to review these projects for possible detrimental effects on fish and wildlife and to ensure that existing fish and wildlife resources are protected. Recommendations for appropriate protection, mitigation, compensation, enhancement, or combinations of these also may be required.

The regions have the primary responsibility for reviewing applications and project plans, consulting and negotiating with the project sponsors, local organizations, and other interested State and federal agencies, and transmitting comments and recommendations. Regional staffs are encouraged to be aware of the possibilities under these programs and to cooperate and work with landowners and local organizations even before official notice of a project has been received.

Summary of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA)

(42 U.S.C. 4321 et seq., amended)

The purposes of this Act are: To declare a national policy which will encourage productive and enjoyable harmony between man and his environment; to promote efforts which will prevent or eliminate damage to the environment and biosphere and stimulate the health and welfare of man; to enrich the understanding of the ecological systems and natural resources important to the Nation; and to establish a Council on Environmental Quality.

Information on the National Environmental Policy Act

To submit a NED Request, or if you have project and site specific CEQA questions, contact the CDFW Region where the project is located. 

For general CEQA questions, email CEQA Program Headquarters. NOTE: CDFW staff cannot make decisions or intercede on CEQA projects under the jurisdiction of another lead agency. Please address project-specific comments to the project's CEQA lead agency.