Emergency Projects: Environmental Process and Requirements

This page provides information and links related to emergency projects and environmental compliance including the requirements and processes to engage other agencies and parties on projects which require specific actions necessary to prevent or mitigate an emergency. It also defines and distinguishes the definition of an emergency pursuant to CEQA and NEPA. 

Project Guidance

Guidance on "emergency projects" and what is considered an "emergency" and associated requirements under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) and National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) is provided in the 2021 "Caltrans Emergency Projects Permitting Guidance and Frequently Asked Questions," and may be found at the following link:

Caltrans Emergency Projects Permitting Guidance and Frequently Asked Questions (PDF) (300 KB)

Specifically, the guidance states: "It is essential to note that the definition of emergency for environmental compliance and Federal-aid emergency relief differs from the definition used for emergency contracting purposes. California Public Contract Code, Section 10122(a), which authorizes Director’s Orders for emergency contracting, includes "threat of failure" as an emergency. For Federal-aid assistance and under most environmental laws, threat of failure does not qualify as an emergency. This means that environmental approval and permitting will still be needed for some Director's Order projects."

Additionally, the Department's policy on Director's Orders, Deputy Directive 26-R-2 of July 2009, states that "The Department may implement exceptions to the formal bidding, advertising, and award requirements of the State Contract Act by using Director's Orders to authorize contracts or Day Labor for emergency projects." Deputy Directive 26-R-2 affirms that the use of a Director's Order does not waive environmental, permit, and right-of-way requirements. Additionally, it states that "When a Governor's Executive Order relieves the Department of laws and procedures, the Department continues to use the Director's Orders to document the deliberate decision to use an emergency contract or day labor." Director's Orders may be used for projects that address highway planting such as replanting, rehabilitation of irrigation systems, or drought issues. Many of these projects do not meet the environmental compliance definition of an "emergency" and will still require the usual CEQA/NEPA compliance and processing. For current Emergency Declarations, please refer to the 'Declarations' listing.


The below links reflect federal and state laws and regulations pertaining to environmental resources and how these integrate with environmental processes and requirements during an emergency. Policies and/or contact information for federal and state land managing and regulatory agencies that have jurisdictional authority and responsibilities are provided directly or by hyperlink. In the event that a project involves land owned or administered by another federal or state agency, that agency shall be contacted in order to ascertain specific requirements they may have relative to their jurisdiction. Additionally, whenever feasible the Department complies with local ordinances concerning resources.

See the SER, Chapter 1 and 2 for Federal and State Laws.

Contact Info

Encanta Engleby, Senior Environmental Planner, EMO
Jennifer Heichel, Office Chief of Environmental Management Office