HREA Questions and Answers

Why should I utilize HREA for my restoration project?

HREA can be an excellent tool for restoration project proponents looking for a streamlined permitting process. There are many benefits to pursuing an HREA approval, which include:

  • Approved HREA projects do not require additional approvals from CDFW such as a Lake and Streambed Alteration agreement or CESA Incidental Take permit.
  • Fees for an HREA approval request are much smaller than fees for a CESA ITP, which are commonly above $30,000.
  • Approval timelines are expedited. CDFW is required to provide a determination on HREA approval requests within 30 or 60 days depending on the approval pathway.
  • Small habitat restoration projects under 5 acres are categorically exempt from CEQA (Cal. Code Regs., tit. 14, § 15333).

What does "pre-consultation" mean?

Pre-consultation is opening a dialogue with CDFW early in the planning process, before an approval request is submitted. Pre-consultation can help avoid incomplete requests or delays in the approval process, and can help with the development of appropriate species protection measures. Communicate with the CDFW Region where the project will be completed in order to discuss project details and ensure the project’s eligibility under the HREA.

How do I start planning a habitat restoration project?

Prior to acquiring federal, other state or local permits or approvals, there are other components of planning restoration or enhancement projects. For example, a project proponent may need to finalize project plans and designs, produce cost estimates, and secure funding prior to applying for agency permits, clearances, and approvals.

thumbnail of project flow diagram, showing steps to design and plan a restoration project
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What makes a restoration project "voluntary"?

A restoration project has the primary purpose of improving fish and wildlife habitat and is considered voluntary if:

  • The project is not being done as compensatory mitigation; and
  • The project is not part of a regulatory permit for a non-habitat restoration or enhancement construction activity, a regulatory settlement, a regulatory enforcement action, or a court order.

Do I need other permits?

Projects authorized under the Act do not require any other permits, agreements, or approvals from CDFW such as a Lake or Streambed Alteration agreement or California Endangered Species Act permit.

There may be other federal, state, or local agencies that will require permits or approvals for restoration or enhancement projects. These may include City/County/Regional agencies, State Water Resource Control Board, US Fish and Wildlife Service, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration/National Marine Fisheries Service, and Army Corps of Engineers

thumbnail of permit approval times chart, showing lengths of time to gain approval for different permits
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How detailed does my project description need to be?

Please make your project description as detailed as possible in order to avoid delays in the approval process. Refer to link opens in new windowCalifornia Fish and Game Code sections 1652 and 1653 (PDF) for specific requirements. For further guidance on project descriptions please contact the CDFW Region where your project is located.

What about CEQA?

The California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) applies to all discretionary projects to be conducted or approved by a California public agency, including HREA approvals. Before issuing an HREA approval, CDFW must comply with CEQA.

HREA projects must be eligible for a categorical exemption under California Code of Regulations title 14, section 15333, “Small Habitat Restoration Projects”, in order to meet the eligibility requirements for the link opens in new windowState Water Resources Control Board’s Order for Clean Water Act Section 401 General Water Quality Certification for Small Habitat Restoration Projects (PDF). Note: Other CEQA documents and Notices of Exemption may be used, including for projects under programmatic CEQA documents, so long as the project could be completed as a stand alone project and would otherwise be eligible for the Categorical Exemption.

What if there is a threatened or endangered species at my site?

HREA requests must include species protection measures to avoid or minimize impacts to potentially present species protected by state or federal law including threatened or endangered species. Further CESA permitting is not required. Please see the link opens in new windowCDFW Special Animals List (PDF) and the link opens in new windowList of State and Federally-Listed Endangered, Threatened and Rare Plants of California (PDF).

What sort of monitoring/reporting is required?

Projects approved pursuant to section 1652 are required to submit to CDFW a monitoring report describing whether the restoration project is meeting each of the restoration goals stated in the project application. Each report shall include photographs with a descriptive title, date taken, photographic monitoring point, and photographic orientation. Project proponents may submit the report required by the link opens in new windowState Water Resources Control Board’s Order for Clean Water Act Section 401 General Water Quality Certification for Small Habitat Restoration Projects (PDF)(401 SHRP certification) in lieu of this requirement.

Projects approved pursuant to section 1653 are required to submit to CDFW the monitoring plan and monitoring report as required by the 401 SHRP certification.

How do I submit?

You may submit your request digitally online or as a hardcopy by mail. To file online via the EPIMS Document Repository, visit the EPIMS page and follow the provided directions. To file by hardcopy, please mail all appropriate documents to the local CDFW Regional Office.

What happens after I submit my HREA request?

After submitting your request, along with all applicable fees, CDFW will review it for eligibility, completeness, and consistency with Fish and Game Code. CDFW will make a determination on the request within 60 days for section 1652 approval requests or 30 days for section 1653 approval requests. CDFW may contact you if additional information is required.

Who do I contact if I have project specific questions?

For project and site specific questions, or to begin pre-consultation, please contact the CDFW region your project is located in.

Is there any additional guidance for HREA approvals?

Sustainable Conservation, a sponsor of the HREA, provides their own guidance on HREA. Guidance can be found through the link opens in new windowSustainable Conservation website.