Design Memorandum 05/24/2002
MEMORANDUM OF UNDERSTANDING
FEDERAL HIGHWAY ADMINISTRATION-CALIFORNIA DIVISION
CALIFORNIA DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION
USDA, FOREST SERVICE,
PACIFIC SOUTHWEST REGION And
TO PERFECT TITLE ALONG SEGMENTS OF EXISTING HIGHWAYS
ON FOREST SERVICE LANDS IN THE STATE OF CALIFORNIA
This MEMORANDUM of UNDERSTANDING (MOU) is made and entered into by and
between the Federal Highway Administration, California Division, hereinafter referred to as the
FHWA, the State of California Department of Transportation, hereinafter referred to as the
Department, and the USDA, Forest Service, Pacific Southwest and Intermountain Regions,
hereinafter referred to as the Forest Service, and for purposes of this agreement, hereinafter
referred to collectively as 'The Parties".
1. HISTORY and CONCEPT
Title 23 of the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR), Subpart F, Subsection 710.601, establishes
provisions and procedures whereby federal lands, or interests in lands owned by the United
States, may be transferred to a state highway department or it's designee, based upon the
documented need of those lands for a highway transportation project and the concurrence of the
Federal land owner. This procedure is known as a Federal Land Transfer.
In 1998, the United States Department of Transportation, Federal Highway Administration and
the USDA, Forest Service, signed a National MOU to establish a streamlined, consistent process
for Federal Land Transfers, whereby the FHWA, on behalf of the United States of America may
appropriate and transfer National Forest System Lands (NFSL) to the States for highway
purposes. This transfer is subject to the conditions of the Authorized Officer of the Forest
Service, acting on behalf of the Secretary of Agriculture. The conditions provide for the
adequate protection and utilization of NFSL while protecting the interests of the traveling public.
Prior to implementation of the National MOU, the Department and the Forest Service entered
into a Pilot Project on State Highway 4. This precedent-setting project allowed unrecorded
sections of the State highway system to be incorporated with other previously recorded highway
segments resulting in one continuous easement for the State of California along a sixty-five mile
tract within the Stanislaus and Toiyabe National Forests. The project utilized a simplified survey
and legal description process based on the premise that the existing highway is a physical
monument that can be referenced in the legal description.
2. PURPOSE and BENEFIT
The purpose of this MOU is to establish a process that will allow the parties to perfect title along
previously unrecorded segments of highway existing on Forest Service lands in the State of
California. The process calls for incorporating a narrative, streamlined format to describe the
easement interest that will be transferred to the State of California, versus the typical metes and
bounds description. The legal description will be "sufficient to describe", the lands to be
transferred and will fulfill recordation requirements. The benefits of this method are two fold: a
savings in staff time and resources typically allocated to surveying and mapping efforts; and a
more accurate inventory of the land interests of the United States in the State of California. The
ultimate result will be more effective and efficient use of the public's tax dollars.
This MOU calls for a partnering effort by the FHW A, the Department, and the Forest Service to
allow the highway easement across NFSL to be documented. It ensures the parties will continue
to refine their communication efforts to continue this streamlined project delivery process for
future efforts relating to both the interstate and state highway system. The parties recommend
this process be used as a national model to augment federal land transfer procedures.
This MOU is established in accordance with the following laws and regulations:
Title 23 USC, Sections 317 and 107(d)
Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century, 1998 (TEA 21), Sec 1309
National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) of 1969, 42 USC 4321 et. seq.
40 CFR, Parts 1500 through 1508 Council of Environmental Quality Regulations
23 CFR, Part 771-Environmental Impact and Related Procedures
23 CFR, Part 710, Subpart, Subsection 710.601, Federal Land Transfer
36 CFR, Part 219 - National Forests Management Act Regulations
4. THE PROCESS and HOW IT WILL BE IMPLEMENTED
Implementation of this MOU will be limited to those highways ancL'or segments of highways
across NFSL existing on the date this MOU is signed by the parties. It is not applicable to new
construction or proposed improvements outside such existing highways or segments of highways
that would be subject to the appropriate authority of 23 USC Sections 317 and 107(d). This
streamlined process is based upon the following criteria for project implementation:
1. The highway exists and is part of the Federal-aid system.
2. All parties agree the existing use of Forest Service land for the highway is
appropriate and necessary to serve the traveling public.
3. The land owned by the United States is reasonably necessary for the highway
4. The highway or segments of highway selected for inclusion in this process have
no evidence of appropriation to the State of California or its designee by a
recorded highway easement deed. However, existing areas of highway previously
appropriated may be incorporated with the unrecorded segments within NFSL in
order to create a single controlling document for the entire corridor.
5. There will be no change in land use affected by the implementation of this
B. National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA)
1. In keeping with the terms and conditions of the 1998 National MOU, the FHW A
is recognized as lead agency for those actions relating to the appropriation and·
transfer of NFSL for highway purposes. The Forest Service will serve as a
2. The action proposed is to perfect title for the operation and maintenance of
existing highways in conformance with individual Forest Land Management
Plans. Office of General Counsel, Department of Agriculture, and Federal
Highway Administration legal counsel agree that property right appropriation will
not precipitate provisions of the National Environmental Policy Act on the part of
the Forest Service because transfer of title, in this case a property right, from one
Federal agency to another does not constitute a significant Federal action on the
part of the transferor.
3. The parties agree that the required NEPA action for this process to perfect title is
a Categorical Exclusion (CE), in accordance with 23 CFR 771. 117( e) and that a
CE also satisfies the requirements of the California Environmental Quality Act
4. The Department is the initiating party and will work in partnership with the
FHW A Division Administrator in the preparation of the joint CEQAJNEP A
5. The Forest Service is not taking an action subject to NEPA and is not required to
sign the environmental documents.
C. Route/Corridor Selection
1. Proper timing and scheduling is crucial to the success of this program. The
Department, as the initiating party, will prioritize existing highway routes upon
which the State desires to perfect title by means of a highway easement deed.
2. Each of the Department's Regional/District, Deputy District Directors for
Planning will provide a prioritized listing of routes to the designated Forest
Service representative on each Forest no later than January 20th of each
calendar year. A copy of the listing will also be provided to the FHWA.
3. The Forest Service will concur with those priorities based on its ability to
support the selected routes and respond via a Letter of Support no later than 30
days subsequent to receiving the Department's nominated routes. A copy of
each Forest's Letter of Support will be forwarded to their respective Forest
Service Regional Office. When a route has been selected, the parties will meet
to determine the following:
(1). Agree on the action and responsibilities of each agency for the
development of the easement deed.
(2). Develop a timeline with names of persons responsible for
completing specific items.
b. Right-of-Way (R/W) Width
(1) Establish the default r/w width using a standard distance
from the centerline and existing highway post mile markers for
location of features. Typically, this distance will be 100 feet
from the centerline. Any necessary deviations shall be
incorporated into the description.
The Forest Service and the Department will meet to discuss each
proposed r/w width and select the appropriate method/means to
describe the proposed easement area. If necessary, and upon
concurrence of the parties, other methods may be developed to
sufficiently describe the r/w width for incorporation into the
highway easement deed.
(2) Identify special features, i.e., cultural resource sites, existing uses,
planned uses, road intersections, utility easements, drainage
facilities, etc. within the proposed r/w width that may cause an
adjustment to the r/w width.
c. Field Verification
(1) Establish a team to verify, in the field, actual ground conditions
that will require deviations from the standard easement width
designated for the route/corridor that will be identified in the legal
description of the highway easement deed. The following are
recommended as team members:
Forest Service: Ranger District Representative
Forest Cadastral Surveyor
Caltrans: Local Maintenance Superintendent
District R/W Engineering Representative
(2) The team will ground proof r/w widths and document them for
incorporation into the highway easement deed.
5. LEGAL DESCRIPTION
The Department's District R/W Engineering Staff, in collaboration with Forest Service
surveyors, will prepare the legal description for the highway easement deed. The description
will reflect the fact that the highway exists in its present location. A copy of the description
will be provided to the Forest Service for inclusion in its Letter of Consent. The parties will
ensure that the legal descriptions in both documents are a complete match and error free.
Subsequently discovered minor errors, e.g. typographical errors or a reversed bearing, will
not be cause for nullification-of the new highway easement.
The description will be in a format appropriate to the existing conditions as agreed upon by
the Department's District R/W Engineering Staff and the Forest Service surveyors. It will be
"sufficient to describe" the r/w area required for the corridor and will meet State of
California requirements for recordation. Intersecting Forest Service roads, trails, structures,
and facilities will be excluded. Waste and borrow sites permitted by Special Use
Authorizations will also not be included in the legal description. The parties recognize that
these legal descriptions may be incorporated into a National Integrated Land System, a joint
project partnership between the Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management allowing
land parcel information to be placed in a Geographic Information System (GIS) environment.
These legal descriptions may also be incorporated into the Department's Digital Highway
Inventory Program. The parties agree to share land description technologies under this
6. DOCUMENT PREPARATIONS and EXECUTION
The Department's District/Regional ROW Federal Land Transfer Coordinator (FLTC) will
notify the FHWA Division Administrator of the State's need for r/w across NFSL and will
prepare the appropriate documentation referenced in Title 23, CFR, Part 710, Subpart F,
Subsection 710.601. The FHWA Division Administrator will notify the R5 Regional
Forester, Natural Resource Management Staff, of the State's request, within 30 days, and
whether the FHWA finds the request reasonable and necessary for appropriation. For r/w
across R4, the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest, the FHW Division Administrator will
notify the Forest Supervisor, Humboldt-Toiyabe NF directly.
A Letter of Consent, authorizing the appropriation of NFSL, will be prepared by the R5
Forest Service Regional Office, Natural Resources Management Staff. The document will be
signed by the Regional Forester or his/her designated representative and sent to the FHW A
Division Administrator. For R4, the Forest Supervisor, Humboldt-Toiyabe NF has been
delegated authority by the Regional Forester, Interrnountain Region to prepare and sign
Letters of Consent authorizing the appropriation of lands within the Humboldt-Toiyabe NF.
Under this expedited process, the Forest Service will provide the Letter of Consent to the
FHWA within 30 days of the request date. FHWA will provide notice of the receipt of the
Letter of Consent to the Department's District/Regional FLTC.
The Department will prepare the highway easement deed, utilizing the narrative legal
description format, described in 5. Legal Description above, and forward it to FHWA for
review. In accordance with 23 CFR, Part 701.601, the Department's attorney must review
the deed and sign the statement certifying it meets State requirements for form and
procedure. All Department actions will be completed within 30 days of receipt of the Letter
of Consent from FHWA.
Following review by the FHWA R/W Staff, the FHWA Division Administrator will forward
the deed to the FHWA Western Legal Services Office for review. Upon determination of
legal sufficiency, the FHWA Division Administrator will execute the deed. All FHWA
activities will be completed within 30 days of receipt of the highway easement deed.
The deed will then be forwarded to the District/Regional FL TC of the Department for
recording in the appropriate county of record. Notice of recording will be provided to the
FHWA California Division Office. A copy of the recorded highway easement deed will be
provided to the Forest Service for its r/w records.
7. CONFLICT RESOLUTION
All parties agree to work cooperatively to avoid and resolve conflicts at the lowest possible
level. If disagreements emerge which cannot be resolved, the following procedure will be
A. All parties involved must agree that an impasse exists.
B. All parties involved must be able to respond in the affirmative to the following
1. The position taken is consistent with my agency's mission.
2. The position taken is legal and ethical.
3. The position taken is good for our customers and acceptable to all
4. The position taken makes efficient use of resources.
5. Each party accepts full responsibility for the position he/she is taking.
C. If each party has honestly answered, "yes" to the above statements
and an impasse still remains; the impasse shall be escalated as follows:
FOREST SERVICE THE DEPARTMENT FHWA
Assistant Forest Engineer District/Regional FLTC R/W Staff
I I I
Forest Engineer District Director R/W Officer
Engineering Staff I I
I Deputy Director FHWA Division Administrator
Regional Engineer Project Delivery
D. When the parties at the lowest level are unable to come to a solution, the problem
must be escalated to the next working level. The parties from both levels will
establish a meeting date within 5 working days of the documented date of
disagreement and will continue to discuss items in an attempt to reach resolution.
If an agreement still cannot be reached, the issue will then be escalated to the
highest level. A meeting will be held within 5 working days of the documented
date of disagreement to affect a resolution that is mutually agreeable among the
parties. The resolution achieved will be binding among all parties.
8. OBLIGATION OF FUNDING
This MOU is neither a fiscal nor a funds obligation document and none of the parties are
obligated to contribute or invest any money as a result of this MOU. Specific studies,
activities and/or projects which involve the transfer of money, services, or property between
the parties to this MOU will require execution of agreements or contracts wholly separate
from this agreement.
9. PARTICIPATION IN SIMILAR ACTIVITIES
This MOU does not restrict any of the parties from participating in similar activities or
arrangements with other public or private agencies, organizations, or individuals.
10. OFFICIALS NOT TO BENEFIT
Pursuant to Section 22, Title 41, U.S.C., no member of, or delegate to Congress shall be
admitted to any share or part of this agreement, or any benefits that may arise thereof as a
result of this agreement.
11. DOCUMENT REVISION
This MOU may be revised as necessary by mutual consent of the parties, by the issuance of a
written amendment signed and dated by the parties. The amendment shall become a part of
this MOU as if originally written therein.
12. NOTICE OF TERMINATION
The parties may terminate this MOU by providing a sixty-day notice of termination. That
notice, if given, shall be in writing and will be provided to the Regional Office of each of the
parties at the following addresses listed below:
USDA, Forest Service
RS - Pacific Southwest Region
Attn: Regional Engineer
1323 Club Drive
Vallejo, CA 94592
State of California, Dept of Transportation
Attn: R/W Project Delivery
1120 N Street
Sacramento, CA 95814
FHWA California Division
Attn: R/W Officer
980 9th Street, Suite 400
Sacramento, CA 95814-2724
USDA, Forest Service
R4 - Intermountain Region
Attn: Regional Engineer
324 25th Street
Ogden, UT 84401
Unless terminated by written notice, this MOU will remain in full force and effect for ten years
from the last date of acceptance by all parties. The parties shall meet annually to review and
assess the effectiveness of this agreement and, if necessary, make any needed revisions to the
document as specified in Condition 11 of this agreement.
In witness whereof, the parties hereto have executed this agreement as of the last date written
APPROVED BY_Signed _________ _ 10/30/01 __ _
Bradley E. Powell, Regional Forester Date
USDA FOREST SERVICE
PACIFIC SOUTHWEST REGION
APPROVED BY __ Signed________ 10/23/01 __ _
Jack A. Blackwell, Regional Forester Date
USDA, FOREST SERVICE
APPROVED BY __ Signed______ 12/3/01____
Brent Felker, Chief Engineer Date
STATE OF CALIFORNIA
DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION
APPROVED BY __ Signed ______ _ 12/7/01 __ _
Michael G. Ritchie, Division Administrator Date
FEDERAL HIGHWAY ADMINISTRATION