When a CEQA lead agency determines that a project is statutorily exempt from CEQA pursuant to SERP and CDFW issues its SERP concurrence, we generally expect a reduction in overall amount of time needed to complete the CEQA environmental review process for a restoration project. However, the SERP statute specifies that exempt projects remain subject to all other applicable federal, state, and local laws and regulations, and use of the exemption cannot weaken or violate any applicable environmental or public health standards. Environmental review pursuant to the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and other federal, state, or local permits will still apply. (See Pub. Resources Code, § 21080.56, subd. (f).)
CDFW provides project-specific guidance to lead agencies and project proponents during pre-concurrence consultation meetings and throughout the SERP process. CDFW has also developed a voluntary template for lead agency concurrence requests, which is provided following consultation meetings. Lead agencies may directly contact the Cutting the Green Tape team for additional assistance.
Dedicated Cutting the Green Tape (CGT) CDFW staff will implement the process according to CDFW’s SERP flow-chart (PDF). This includes review by regional CGT staff with oversight by CGT program staff. With certain exceptions, CDFW expects most concurrences will take no longer than 60 days and we hope to reduce this timeline as the process is refined.
In general, if CDFW issues a concurrence prior to January 1, 2025, and there are no subsequent changes to the project that affect or otherwise change the Lead Agency’s determination following CDFW’s concurrence, the project may rely on the SERP exemption and be implemented after January 1, 2025.
No. Although some qualifying restoration projects may have incidental public benefits, others may not. For example, a qualifying restoration project implemented on private land that is not open to the public might not have any incidental public benefits.
Public Resources Code section 21080.56 allows all CEQA lead agencies, which would include CDFW when it serves in that capacity, to use the SERP exemption, subject to the concurrence of the CDFW Director. CDFW may utilize the SERP exemption for restoration projects that are SERP-eligible and for which CDFW has a discretionary CEQA action, considered on an individual basis. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
In general, when a public agency approves a project under CEQA subject to required mitigation, CEQA requires the agency in its pre-approval environmental review to address and consider the environmental impacts that may result from the required mitigation as part of the whole of the action. SERP eligibility for restoration required as a condition of approval for a non-restoration CEQA project would be an unusual and unique situation. In any such circumstance, the restoration project would have to meet all the qualifying criteria in Public Resources Code section 21080.56 to be eligible for the SERP exemption.