California Department of Transportation


Last Updated: Thursday, January 5, 2012 12:08 PM

Natural Studies Laws

Caltrans complies with all state and federal laws governing natural resoures as they apply to our activities. The major state and federal laws governing, regulating and protecting natural resources, with which Caltrans' projects are commonly involved, include:

Section 404 of the Clean Water Act - 33 U.S.C. Section 1251-1543

This legislation established a permit program administered by the Army Corps of Engineers (ACOE) regulating the discharge of fill material into waters of the United States (including wetlands). Implementing regulations by the ACOE are found at 33 CFR Parts 320-330. Guidelines for implementation are referred to as the Section 404 (b)(1) Guidelines and were developed by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in conjunction with the ACOE (40 CFR Part 230). The Guidelines allow the discharge of dredged or fill material into the aquatic system only if there is no practicable alternative which would have less adverse impact. In addition to wetlands, 404 permits must also address endangered species, and archaeological and scenic resources.

Caltrans uses Section 404 for partial compliance with NEPA. In 1994, Caltrans, together with ACOE, EPA, Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), Federal Transit Administration (FTA), U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, National Marine Fisheries Service, and the Arizona and Nevada DOTs, completed Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) for the NEPA and Section 404 Integration Process for Surface Transportation Projects in Arizona, California. The MOU covers FHWA and FTA actions under NEPA that require 404 individual permits and provides for cooperation between the agencies in developing projects that comply with both laws. Under the stipulations of the MOU, the transportation agencies agree to document wetlands and sensitive species, and to consider avoidance alternatives at early stages in the process. The resource/regulatory agencies agree to participate in systems planning, project programming and project development stages. Concurrence on issues will not be revisited later in the process.

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Endangered Species Act of 1973, as Amended (16 U.S.C. Section 1531-1543 et seq.)

This act and the subsequent amendments provide for the conservation of endangered and threatened species and the ecosystems upon which they depend. Section 7 of the Act requires federal agencies, in consultation with and with the assitance of the Secretary of the Interior, ensure that actions they authorize, fund or carry out are not likely to jeopardize the continued existence of threatened or endangered species or result in the destruction or adverse modification of critical habitat for these species.

Caltrans uses the Endangered Species Act for partial compliance with NEPA. Because of the extended lead time for our projects, Caltrans treats candidate species as listed species.

Caltrans has sponsored research projects for the protection and or study of endangered species.

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California Endangered Species Act - Fish and Game Code 2050 et seq.

By this law the State established that it is its policy to conserve, protect, restore, and enhance threatened or endangered species and their habitats. State agencies are prohibited from approving projects which would jeopardize the continued existence of threatened or endangered species if reasonable and prudent alternatives are available that would avoid jeopardy. The law requires State lead agencies to consult with the Department of Fish and Game (DFG) during the CEQA process. DFG must issue a written finding as to whether a project would jeopardize threatened or endangered species and to specify reasonable and prudent alternatives which would avoid jeopardy.

Caltrans has completed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Department of Fish and Game that establishes specific procedures for endangered and threatened species consultation between the two agencies, and defines the specific areas of responsibility for each.

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Sections 1601-1603 of the California Fish and Game Code

Under these sections, agencies are required to notify the Department of Fish and Game (DFG) prior to any project which would divert, obstruct or change the natural flow or bed, channel or bank of any river, stream or lake. When an existing fish or wildlife resource may be adversely affected, DFG is required to propose reasonable project changes to protect the resource. These modifications are formalized in a "streambed alteration agreement" which becomes part of the plans, specifications and bid documents for the project.

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