Coastal Act Policy Resource Information

The California Coastal Commission (Commission) or local government agencies with certified Local Coastal Programs (LCPs) evaluate Caltrans permit applications for consistency with California Coastal Act policies related to specific resources like wetlands, visual resources, or coastal hazards. Select any resource area of interest below to learn more about the resources the Commission or local agencies will be reviewing, and how to incorporate that information into a coastal policy consistency analysis within your environmental documents and permit applications. The material provided on the following pages includes information about protections of resources within the coastal zone, Coastal Act policies pertaining to these resources, and important issues to consider for these resources as your project develops and you prepare to submit a coastal development permit (CDP) application.

This overview is intended to be a general guide. It provides background on policies and key considerations when developing your project and preparing a CDP application. Early coordination with the Commission and/or local agency staff is advised for further guidance.

Environmentally Sensitive Habitat Areas

Caltrans projects are often linear in nature and located in habitat areas that support sensitive species or unique habitat values, such as wetlands, riparian areas, coastal prairies, woodlands and forests, or other types of natural resource areas. The Coastal Act sets high standards for the protection of these environmentally sensitive habitat areas (ESHAs) in the coastal zone. There have also been some important changes in recent years that affect the identification and protection of ESHAs stemming from new scientific research (such as the identification of new sensitive species) or from court decisions interpreting the requirements of the Coastal Act.

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Public Access

Caltrans projects provide inherent coastal access and recreation benefits by increasing roadway reliability, efficiency, and safety. One of the fundamental goals of the Coastal Act is to provide maximum public access to the coast. This includes protecting existing public access, and providing new public access. As the owner of the state highway system, Caltrans holds responsibility not just for safely moving automobiles along the coast, but also for providing and expanding multimodal, alternative means of transportation. Caltrans does this through adhering to state laws, including the Coastal Act, in its planning and project processes and through local and regional partnerships.

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Coastal Hazards and Shoreline Development

Many of Caltrans’ facilities have been sited near a shoreline or coastal water body and some of these existing facilities are now, or may be in the future, at risk from flooding and erosion. Shoreline protective devices, such as seawalls or rock slope protection, may be necessary to protect existing facilities at risk from coastal hazards. The California Coastal Act provides standards under which shoreline protective structures may be considered to respond to coastal hazards.

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Agricultural Resources

Caltrans projects sometimes propose direct or indirect impacts to agricultural land due to the need for facility expansion or reconfiguration where no alternative siting options are feasible. The Coastal Act sets high standards for protection of agricultural resources in the coastal zone.

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Caltrans facilities often span or encroach into marine and coastal water resources, such as wetlands. The Coastal Act sets high standards for the protection of wetland resources in the coastal zone. The definition and identification of wetlands under the Coastal Act differ from those used to meet U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) requirements.

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Coastal Scenic and Visual Resources

Constructing new facilities or improving existing Caltrans facilities along the shoreline or in other coastal areas could potentially impact scenic and visual resources. The Coastal Act requires protection of scenic resources and consideration of visual impacts that go beyond structural considerations in project siting and design.

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