CEQA Questions and Answers

General CEQA Questions

Does CDFW have templates for notices or for environmental documents?

CDFW does not have a standard set of templates for environmental documents or notices for filing with county clerk's or the State Clearinghouse. CDFW generally uses the templates found on the State Clearinghouse website.

I have general questions about CDFW permits and documentation.

Please contact the CDFW regional office that serves the county in which your project is located.

Project Opposition, CEQA, and CDFW

Is CDFW contacted about all CEQA environmental documents? How can I get involved in the CEQA process?

CDFW should be contacted whenever a CEQA project may impact fish or wildlife. CDFW often prepares comment letters to the lead agency when an environmental document may impact fish or wildlife. If you would like to get involved in the CEQA process, you can request to receive notices about a particular project from the lead agency (Pub. Resources Code, § 21092.2). Members of the public can comment on draft environmental documents (Cal. Code Regs., tit. 14, §§ 15201-15204) by contacting the lead agency.

I observed sensitive species in an area where a project is proposed. What can be done?

If you have information or a concern about the project, you should contact the CEQA lead agency. You may also contact the appropriate CDFW regional office if the project may impact fish and wildlife.

Environmental Document Filing

When must my environmental document be filed with the State Clearinghouse?

The CEQA lead agency must submit a draft environmental impact report (EIR) or negative declaration (including mitigated), to the State Clearinghouse when any of the following is true (Cal. Code Regs., tit. 14, § 15205, subd. (b)):

  • The lead agency is a state agency
  • There is a state responsible agency
  • There is a state trustee agency (CDFW is always a trustee agency whenever a project may have any effect on fish and wildlife of the state, even if that effect is considered less than significant by the lead agency)
  • A state agency otherwise has jurisdiction by law with respect to the project
  • The project meets the criteria for “statewide, regional, or area wide significance” set forth in California Code of Regulations, title 14, section 15206
  • A draft environmental impact statement, environmental assessment, or finding of no significant impact is prepared pursuant to the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).

Do I need to file a Notice of Determination (NOD) with the State Clearinghouse?

If the lead agency is a state agency, the lead agency must file the NOD with the State Clearinghouse within five days of project approval. For projects with a local lead agency, the NOD should be filed with the County Clerk in the county or counties where the project is located. If the project requires discretionary approval from any state agency, the local lead agency must also file the NOD with the State Clearinghouse within five days of project approval.

Our project covers more than one county. Do we need to file the NOD and pay the environmental document filing fee to each county?

You will need to file an NOD in each county (Pub. Resources Code, § 21152, subd. (a)). Each county may charge you a processing fee. However, only one environmental document filing fee is due per project (Cal. Code Regs., tit. 14, § 753.5, subd. (e)(3)). Attach a copy of the original environmental document filing fee cash receipt to each NOD filed (Cal. Code Regs., tit. 14, § 753.5, subd. (e)(4) & (e)(7)).

To which CDFW regional office do we send our environmental document?

For projects located in a single region, send your document to the appropriate regional office (not headquarters). To find our regional office boundaries and email address, see CDFW's region page.

For statewide projects or projects that span across multiple CDFW regions, send the document to each regional office within the project boundary and to the headquarters office at CEQA@wildlife.ca.gov.

Environmental Document Filing Fee

Why do I have to pay an environmental document filing fee when I file the NOD for my CEQA document?

The Legislature authorized CDFW to impose and collect an environmental document filing fee to defray the costs of managing and protecting California’s fish and wildlife resources, which include consulting with public agencies, reviewing environmental documents, recommending mitigation measures and developing monitoring requirements (see Fish & G. Code, § 711.4, subd. (a)). For more information and the current environmental document filing fee schedule visit the environmental document filing fee page.

When did CDFW begin collecting environmental document filing fees?

Assembly Bill 3158, signed by Governor Deukmejian in 1990, established the requirement for CDFW to impose and collect environmental document filing fees (Stats. 1990, ch. 1706, § 4, pp. 8175- 8176).

Why are the environmental document filing fees increasing?

Environmental document filing fees are adjusted annually based on changes to the Implicit Price Deflator for State and Local Government Purchases of Goods and Services, as published by the U.S. Department of Commerce (Fish & G. Code, § 713).

To whom should I make the check payable? Do I need two checks, one for the environmental document filing fee and one for the county clerk processing fee?

For local lead agency projects, generally, only one check is needed and it is payable to the County Clerk for the county in which the project is located (e.g., Sacramento County Clerk). Check with your County Clerk for specific instructions. State agencies should make checks payable to the Department of Fish and Wildlife for filing with the State Clearinghouse (Fish & G. Code, § 711.4, subd. (d)).

If my project is categorically or statutorily exempt from CEQA, do I still have to pay the environmental document filing fee?

No – projects that are categorically or statutorily exempt are not subject to environmental document filing fees; however, County Clerks may require you to pay the county document processing fee when you file the notice of exemption (Fish & G. Code, § 711.4, subds. (d)(1) & (e)).

My environmental document was completed last year, but I have not filed the NOD with the County Clerk. Do I have to pay the current environmental document filing fee or the fee that was in place when the document was completed?

Current environmental document filing fees are due at the time the NOD is filed with the county clerk (Cal. Code Regs., tit. 14, § 753.5, subd. (b)(3) & (4)).

Do I need to pay the environmental document filing fee if I paid the fee for a previous document?

Only one environmental document filing fee shall be paid per project unless the project is tiered or phased, or separate environmental documents are required (Fish & G. Code, § 711.4, subd. (g)). Separate environmental documents include environmental impact reports (EIRs), negative declarations, subsequent EIRs and negative declarations, and supplements to EIRs. Only one environmental document filing fee would be required if you used an existing certified EIR for multiple project approvals that would result in no additional effect on fish and wildlife. An additional environmental document filing fee is required if approval of any separate environmental document would result in an effect on fish and wildlife not previously addressed in a certified EIR, Master EIR, Program EIR, Staged EIR, or General Plan EIR (Cal. Code Regs., tit. 14, § 753.5, subd. (e)(3)).

Where can I get environmental document filing fee receipt books?

CDFW discontinued printing hard copy of environmental document filing fee receipt books in 2015, and is now using electronic receipts. You can find the current environmental document filing fee receipt here.

Do county clerks need to get approval to use an alternative environmental document filing fee receipt?

Yes – County Clerks must submit alternative environmental document filing fee receipts to CDFW at CEQA@wildlife.ca.gov  prior to use. CDFW will issue a letter of approval if the alternate environmental filing fee receipt contains all required information (Cal. Code Regs., tit. 14, § 753.5, subd. (e)(7)). Submit the draft alternative environmental document filing fee receipt to CDFW at CEQA@wildlife.ca.gov. CDFW will process your request and respond within 30-days. 

My project was cancelled after I filed the NOD, can I get an environmental document filing fee refund?

No – The environmental document filing fee is due at the time the NOD is filed and is independent of whether the project actually goes forward (Fish & G. Code, § 711.4, subd. (c)(3)).

How long does it take to get a environmental document filing fee refund?

Once CDFW approves the refund, it typically takes 2 to 3 weeks for the check to be mailed. However, it could take longer, because when a environmental document filing fee is submitted to the county, the county cashes the check and the money is deposited into the State Treasury within 30 days of the month of filing. CDFW must wait for the State Treasury to receive the funds, and for the county to transmit the associated paperwork, before initiating the refund process. We highly recommended that you give yourself enough time to apply for an No Effect Determination (NED) to avoid paying the environmental document filing fee and requesting a refund.

How are environmental document filing fee payments made for Certified Regulatory Program (CRP) documents?

Prior to filing a notice of decision with the California Natural Resources Agency pursuant to Public Resources Code section 21080.5, the lead agency must either pay an environmental document filing fee or receive a No Effect Determination from CDFW. Environmental document filing fees for CRP documents are paid directly to CDFW (Fish & G. Code, § 711.4, subd. (d)((4)), unless the project has been determined by CDFW to have no effect on fish and wildlife (Cal. Code Regs., tit. 14, § 753.5, subd. (a)(6)).

To pay the environmental document filing fee, submit a check or money order payable to the Department of Fish and Wildlife by mail or hand delivery. Include with payment the lead agency name, contact person, address, project title, and State Clearinghouse number (if applicable). Include an email address if the lead agency would prefer to have the receipt emailed.

For mail:

Department of Fish and Wildlife
Accounting Services Branch
ATTN: Valeriya Kryuchkov, Cash Receipts Unit
PO Box 944209
Sacramento, CA 94244-2090

For hand delivery:

Department of Fish and Wildlife
Accounting Services Branch
ATTN: Valeriya Kryuchkov, Cash Receipts Unit
1416 9th Street, Suite 1244
Sacramento, CA

When the filing fee is received by CDFW’s Accounting Services Branch, CDFW will issue a receipt of payment to the lead agency. Agencies can expect to receive their receipts 3-5 business days after CDFW receives payment (i.e., check has cleared). Visit the California Natural Resources Agency web site for more information.

No Effect Determination

How do I know if my project will have no effect on fish and wildlife and be eligible for an environmental document filing fee waiver (i.e., No Effect Determination)?

If you believe your project meets the criteria for an No Effect Determination (NED), complete an NED Request Form and submit it to the appropriate CDFW regional office. For the assessment of environmental document filing fees, a project that causes any disturbance to the habitat on which fish and wildlife may depend, or causes direct harm to fish and wildlife is considered to have an effect on fish and wildlife. A environmental document filing fee is required regardless of project size, magnitude of the effect, or whether the effect on the environment is considered positive or negative (Cal. Code Regs., tit. 14, § 753.5, subd. (d)). CDFW will issue an NED if your project qualifies. Keep the original NED and submit two copies to the County Clerk or State Clearinghouse with the NOD (Cal. Code Regs., tit. 14, § 753.5, subd. (c)(1)). For more information visit the full NED page.

How long does it take to get an NED?

It typically takes 14 to 30 days for CDFW to make a determination if the documentation submitted is complete. If the initially submitted documentation is incomplete or the project is complex, it could take longer. Regardless of whether an NED request has been submitted or not, the filing fee must be paid at the time of filing the NOD for the project (Fish & G. Code, § 711.4, subd. (c)(3)). You should submit the written request for an NED when the environmental document is released for public review, or as early as possible in the public comment period. Requests should include sufficient documentation to support an NED. An NED will not be issued when insufficient documentation is submitted to CDFW (Cal. Code Regs., tit. 14, § 753.5, subd. (c)(1)(A)). For more information visit the NED page.

I paid the environmental document filing fee for my project, but subsequently received an NED from CDFW. Can I get a refund?

Yes – Contact CDFW by email CEQA@wildlife.ca.gov. You will need to provide CDFW with a copy of the following documents: the NOD for your project, the Environmental Document Filing Fee Cash Receipt, the cancelled check or credit card receipt, and the NED signed by CDFW. Upon verification, CDFW will process your refund.

Can I use a “de minimis” filing fee exemption?

No – The Governor signed Senate Bill No. 1535 (2005 – 2006 Reg. Sess.) into law on September 29, 2006. This bill eliminated the fee waiver for projects with a “de minimis” effect on fish and wildlife. This change became effective on January 1, 2007. Applicants who believe their project has no effect on fish and wildlife can request a No Effect Determination (NED) from the appropriate CDFW regional office. Only CDFW can issue an NED (lead agencies can no longer make this determination as it relates to a fee waiver).

If I filed an NOD using a de minimis fee exemption prior to January 1, 2007, can I use that environmental document filing fee receipt to file another NOD?

No – Environmental document filing fee receipts with a de minimis exemption are invalid for waiving current environmental document filing fees if a public agency is filing an NOD for the same environmental document (Fish & G. Code, § 711.4, subds. (c) & (d); Cal. Code Regs., tit. 14, § 753.5, subds. (b) & (e)(1)).