California Department of Transportation

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Last Updated: Tuesday, July 16, 2013 7:47 AM

Chapter 2 - State Requirements


Chapter 2 sets forth California law and regulations applicable to transportation projects.  California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) compliance is required for all projects for which a public agency has a discretionary action unless the project is exempted by statute in an act of the Legislature.   Please refer to SER Chapters 34-36 for the preparation and processing of CEQA-only categorical exemptions, initial studies, negative declarations, and environmental impact reports. SER Chapter 37 discusses joint CEQA and NEPA environmental documentation. In addition, a number of code sections affect how Caltrans develops transportation facilities.


The California Resources Agency developed a flowchart of the CEQA process to illustrate the general steps.  An interactive version of the flowchart is available at link exits the SER website.

Click image below to view larger or printable version

CEQA Decision Tree (22KB)



Physical Environment

Natural Environment

Special Status Land Use


Cultural Resources


Purpose: The California Clean Air Act, established in 1988, provides a framework for air quality planning and other actions to meet the health-based State Ambient Air Quality Standards.  The Act requires air quality management and air pollution control districts that are nonattainment for ozone to adopt and enforce transportation control measures designed to increase the average vehicle occupancy (AVO) to 1.5 by 1999, with no net increase in vehicle emissions after 1997, and rank control measures in order of their cost effectiveness (CARB, 1990).  Air quality standards established under the California Clean Air Act are more stringent than those set through the Federal Clean Air Act.  Emission reductions from mobile sources (such as automobiles themselves) are the responsibility of the California Air Resources Board, while emission reductions from stationary sources and some uses of mobile sources are the responsibility of the air quality management and air pollution control districts. 

General Procedures: The CARB sets statewide rules for mobile and many stationary sources, as well as toxic air pollutants; the air districts set rules for stationary sources and permits in their areas, and sometimes have rules that affect vehicle fleets and construction-related activities.



Purpose: This act established a permanent State Coastal Commission and reestablished the six temporary regional Commissions that had been created under the Coastal Initiative (Proposition 20) in 1972. The Act required that each local government within the Coastal Zone (15 counties and 53 cities) prepare a Local Coastal Plan (LCP). Upon approval of the LCPs, the regional commissions were phased out.  Any development within the Coastal Zone requires a Coastal Development Permit.

General Procedures: Consultation with local coastal zone management agencies.



Purpose: These sections concern the State Park System and states that “ No person shall destroy, disturb, mutilate, or remove earth, sand, gravel, oil, minerals, rocks, paleontological features, or features of caves” (14 CCR 4307) and  “no person shall remove, injure, disfigure, deface, or destroy any object of archaeological, or historical interest or value”  (14 CCR 4308) within a State Park.

General Procedures: This code only applies if a transportation project affects a State Park. Coordinate with the appropriate State Park managers to avoid disturbance to paleontological and archaeological resources.



Purpose: The California Desert Native Plants Act was passed in 1981 to protect non-listed California desert native plants from unlawful harvesting on both public and privately owned lands. Harvest, transport, sale, or possession of specific native desert plants is prohibited unless a person has a valid permit, or wood receipt, and the required tags and seals.

Applicability: The provisions are applicable within the boundaries of the Counties of Imperial, Inyo, Kern, Los Angeles, Mono, Riverside, San Bernadino, and San Diego.



Purpose: The California Endangered Species Act (CESA) (Fish and Game Code 2050 et seq.) establishes the policy of the State to conserve, protect, restore, and enhance threatened or endangered species and their habitats.  CESA mandates that State agencies should not approve projects that would jeopardize the continued existence of threatened or endangered species if reasonable and prudent alternatives are available that would avoid jeopardy. 

General Procedures: There are no state agency consultation procedures under CESA.  For projects that affect both a state and federal listed species, compliance with the Federal Endangered Species Act (FESA) may satisfy CESA if the Department of Fish and Game (DFG) determines that the federal incidental take authorization is "consistent" with CESA under F&G Code Section 2080.1.  For projects that will result in a take of a state-only listed species, Caltrans must apply for an incidental take permit under F&G Code Section 2081(b).


  • Fish and Game Code sections for CESA: Scroll to appropriate subsection.

Fish and Game Code Chapter 1.5.  Endangered Species

Sections This link exits the SER website.

General Provisions


Listing of Endangered Species


Taking, Importation, Exportation, or Sale


Incidental Take Associated with Routine and Ongoing Activities




Recovery Strategy Pilot Program



Purpose: The California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), as amended, requires public agencies to regulate activities which may affect the quality of the environment so that major consideration is given to preventing damage to the environment. 

General Procedures: The Governor’s Office of Planning and Research publishes “The Guidelines for the Implementation of the California Environmental Quality Act” which are binding regulations for public agencies’ implementation of the act.


CALIFORNIA FISH AND GAME CODE Sections 1600 et seq. (Streambed Alteration)

Under these sections of the Fish and Game Code, Caltrans and other 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.  Preliminary notification and project review generally occur during the environmental process.  When an existing fish or wildlife resource may be substantially 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.

Link to text of Fish and Game Code 1600 et seq. This link exits the SER website.
Link to Caltrans Environmental Handbook Volume 3 “Biological Resources”

CALIFORNIA GOVERNMENT CODE Section 65302 (Provision of Noise Contour Maps)

Applicability: This section requires Caltrans to provide cities and counties with noise contour maps along state highways.


CALIFORNIA HEALTH AND SAFETY CODE SECTIONS 7050.0, 7052, 8100 (Definition of a Cemetery)

Purpose: Section 8100 provides that six or more human bodies buried at one place constitute a cemetery.  Section 7052 makes it a felony for anyone found guilty of mutilating or removing any human remains from a cemetery without authority of law.  Section 7050.0 makes it a misdemeanor for anyone who disturbs, mutilates or removes human remains from any location other than a cemetery. 

Applicability: This section applies most often to archaeological investigations but would also apply to remains found during maintenance activities. It requires any person to stop disturbing ground in the vicinity of discovered human remains and to call the county coroner.


CALIFORNIA HEALTH AND SAFETY CODE SECTIONS 25280 et seq. (Underground Storage Tanks)

Purpose:  This section establishes a continuing program for the purpose of preventing contamination from, and improper storage of, hazardous substances stored underground.  Establishes orderly procedures that will ensure that newly constructed underground storage tanks meet appropriate standards and that existing tanks be properly maintained, inspected, tested, and upgraded.



Purpose: The California Land Conservation Act of 1965, commonly known as the Williamson Act, provides incentives, through reduced property taxes, to deter the early conversion of agricultural and open space lands.  Farmland need not be considered "prime" in order to be placed under provisions of the Williamson Act.  All lands defined by the state as "prime farmland," "other than prime farmland," and "open space land" are eligible for coverage by a Williamson Act contract.  Land other than prime farmland and open space land can be placed under contract if the lands are located in an area designated by the county or city as an agricultural preserve.  The California Department of Conservation (CDC) estimates that more than half of the state's irrigated (mostly prime) farmland is protected by the Act.

General Procedures: Section 51291(b)  This link exits the SER website. of this act requires that a public agency notify the Director of the Department of Conservation when land enrolled in a Williamson Act contract is being considered for acquisition for a public improvement project.  Public agencies are to avoid using contracted, primarily prime farmland, whenever possible.


CALIFORNIA PENAL CODE Section 622 (Destruction of Archaeological Sites)

Purpose: This section makes it a misdemeanor for anyone (except the owner) to willfully injure or destroy anything of archaeological interest or value whether on private lands or within any public park or place.



Purpose: This act procides that a public agency that acquires public parkland for non-park use must either pay compensation that is sufficient to acquire substantially equivalent substitute parkland or provide substitute parkland of comparable characteristics.


CALIFORNIA PUBLIC RESOURCES CODE Section 5024 (State-owned Historic Buildings)

Purpose: This section requires each state agency to formulate policies to preserve and maintain state-owned structures, when prudent and feasible, that are listed in or eligible for inclusion in the California Register of Historical Resources, National Register of Historic Places or registered as or eligible for registration as a State Historical Landmark or Point of Historical Interest.  All state-owned structures over 50 years of age shall be inventoried.  Until the initial inventory is completed, state agencies shall assure that any structure which might qualify is not inadvertently transferred or altered. 

Section 5024.1 establishes the California Register of Historic Places. Section 5024.5 allows for the adoption of feasible measures that can avoid or mitigate adverse effects on state-owned historic properties.


CALIFORNIA PUBLIC RESOURCES CODE Section 5028 (Demolition of Historic Buildings)

Purpose: This section restricts the demolition of historic buildings following a natural disaster.


CALIFORNIA PUBLIC RESOURCES CODE Section 5097.5 (Cultural Resources on Public Lands)

Purpose: This section makes it a misdemeanor for anyone to knowingly disturb any archaeological, paleontological, or historical features situated on public lands.


CALIFORNIA PUBLIC RESOURCES CODE SECTION 5097.9 ET SEQ. (Native American Religious Freedom)

Purpose: These sections prohibit a public agency or private party from interfering with the free expression or exercise of Native American religion, or from causing severe or irreparable damage to any Native American sanctified cemetery, place of worship, religious or ceremonial site, or sacred shrine located on public property, "except on a clear and convincing showing that the public interest and necessity so require".  Section 5097.9 also established the Native American Heritage Commission (NAHC) in 1977 and stipulated that no public agency could alter, modify, disturb, remove, destroy, or damage any Native American sanctified cemetery, place of worship, religious or ceremonial site, or sacred shrine except with the consent of the NAHC. In addition, the NAHC can mediate disputes relating to treatment of remains and designate “most likely descendants” of encountered remains.  Section 5097.991 states: “It is the policy of the state that Native American remains and associated grave artifacts shall be repatriated.”


CALIFORNIA STREETS AND HIGHWAYS CODE Section 216 (Freeway Noise in Classrooms)

Applicability: This section, known as the Control of Freeway Noise in School Classrooms, requires that, in general, Caltrans abate noise from freeways to specified levels when the noise exceeds specified levels in school classrooms.



Purpose: This act preserves in their free-flowing state, certain designated rivers which possess extraordinary scenic, recreational, fishery or wildlife values.  The Resources Agency is responsible for coordinating activities of State agencies that may affect the rivers in the system.


 EXECUTIVE ORDER W-26-92 (Stewardship of State-owned Historical Properties)

Purpose: Executive Order W-26-92 (1992) requires State agencies to take specific measures to preserve significant State-owned properties and to administer historic properties under their control, regardless of ownership, in a spirit of stewardship.  It directs all State agencies to recognize, and to the extent prudent and feasible, to preserve and maintain the State’s significant historical resources.  It also requires each State agency to appoint a Historic Preservation Officer.  In Caltrans, the Historic Preservation Officer is the Environmental Division Chief.

General Procedures: Compliance with E.O. W-26-92 is coordinated with compliance with Public Resources Code Section 5024.5 review.  When a State-owned historical property may be affected by a proposed project (including maintenance work), District Environmental personnel shall contact the Chief, Historic Architectural Specialty Branch in Caltrans Headquarters Division of Environmental Analysis to request assistance in meeting the requirements of these laws.

Governor’s Executive Order W-26-92, 1992


Purpose: This list consolidated the lists of hazardous waste sites compiled by the California Department of Toxic Substances Control, the Regional Water Quality Control Board, and City and County Planning Departments.


McATEER-PETRIS ACT (Development in San Francisco Bay)

Purpose: This act created the San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission (BCDC) which is responsible for regulation of landfill and development in the San Francisco Bay portion of the California coastal zone.  Any filling or dredging of the Bay or development within a 100-foot strip inland from the Bay requires a permit from BCDC.



Purpose: California’s Native Plant Protection Act (NPPA) requires all State agencies to utilize their authority to carry out programs to conserve endangered and rare native plants.  Provisions of the NPPA prohibit the taking of listed plants from the wild and require notification of the Department of Fish and Game at least 10 days in advance of any change in land use.  This allows DFG to salvage listed plant species that would otherwise be destroyed.  Caltrans is required to conduct botanical inventories and consult with DFG during project planning to comply with the provisions of this act and sections of CEQA that apply to rare or endangered plants.



Purpose: The Porter-Cologne Act  This link exits the SER website. is the basic water quality control law for California. The act is implemented by the State Water Resource Control Board (SWRCB) and the nine Regional Water Quality Control  Boards (RWQCBs). The boards implement the permit provisions (Section 402) and certain planning provisions (sections 205, 208, and 303) of the federal  Clean Water Act.  This means that the State issues one discharge permit for purposes of both State and Federal law. Under State law, the permit is called a waste discharge requirement. Under Federal law, the permit is called a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit.

General Procedures: This law requires that anyone who is discharging waste or proposing to discharge waste which could affect the quality of the state’s water must file a “report of waste discharge” with that regional water quality control board.



Purpose: CEQA Section 21082  requires that each public agency adopt regulations to implement the Act.  Caltrans and the California Transportation Commission (CTC) jointed adopted regulations codified in Title 21 California Code of Regulations Chapter 11.  These regulations were amended in 1997 to adopt the CEQA Guidelines as the two agencies’ procedures to implement CEQA and were amended in 2004 to clarify the CTC's responsibilities. The operative sections are contained in this document.



Purpose: The Surface Mining and Reclamation Act (SMARA) was enacted in 1975 to provide a comprehensive surface mining and reclamation policy to regulate surface mining operations and ensure adverse environmental effects are minimized and mined lands are reclaimed to a usable condition. SMARA also encourages the production, conservation, and protection of the State's mineral resources.

General Procedures: SMARA, Chapter 9, Division 2 of the Public Resources Code requires the State Mining and Geology Board to adopt State policy for the reclamation of mined lands and the conservation of mineral resources (CCR, Title 14, Division 2, Chapter 8, Subchapter 1). Generally, the counties administer SMARA requirements. Under SMARA, State agencies are prohibited by the State Contracts Act from accepting mined mineral aggregate which is not SMARA compliant. Non-SMARA compliant materials are those materials from surface mines that are not exempt nor on the AB 3098 list published quarterly by the Department of Conservation.



Purpose: State Senate Concurrent Resolution No. 17 – Oak Woodlands is legislation that requests State agencies having land use planning duties and responsibilities to assess and determine the effects of their decisions or actions within any oak woodlands containing Blue, Engleman, Valley, or Coast Live Oak. The measure requests those state agencies to preserve and protect native oak woodlands to the maximum extent feasible or provide replacement plantings where designated oak species are removed from oak woodlands.


Last content update: 8/29/12: MCS