Chapter 19 - Wild and Scenic Rivers
- What Does the Topic Include?
- Wild and Scenic Rivers Decision Tree
- Laws, Regulations, and Guidance
- National Wild and Scenic River System
- California Wild and Scenic River System
- Wild and Scenic Rivers Descriptions and Management Agencies
- Interagency Coordination
- Discussion Points: Early Coordination Meeting
- Report Content and Recommended Format
- Preparer Qualifications
- Timing the Studies with the Environmental Process
- Technical Report Processing and Approval
- Information Needed for Project Delivery
- Permit Requirements
- Activities that May Occur During the Project Design Phase
- Activities that May Occur During Construction
What does this Topic Include?
- All river reaches officially designated as being part of the National Wild and Scenic River System and official "study" river.
- All river reaches officially designated as "wild", "scenic", or "recreational" by the California Resources Agency.
Wild and Scenic Rivers Decision & Tree
Laws, Regulations, and Guidance
See also SER Volume 1, Chapter 1 - Federal Requirements, Chapter 2 - State Requirements, and Chapter 38 - NEPA Assignment
- 16 USC 1271-1287 – Wild and Scenic Rivers Act
- 36 CFR, Part 297, Subpart A – Water Resources Projects on Wild and Scenic Rivers
- Technical Advisory T6640.8A, Guidance for Preparing and Processing Environmental and Section 4(f) Documents, October 30, 1987 (FHWA)
- National Wild and Scenic Rivers System; Final Revised Guidelines for Eligibility, Classification and Management of River Areas – Posted in the Federal Register, Vol. 47, No. 173, Tuesday, September 7, 1982
- Section 5093.50 et seq. of the Public Resources Code (PRC) – California Wild and Scenic Rivers Act
National Wild and Scenic River System - California
National Designated Rivers (PDF)
- American River (Lower)
- American River, North Fork
- Big Sur River
- Black Butte River
- Eel River System
- Feather River, Middle Fork and Kern River
- Kings River
- Klamath River System
- Merced River
- Sespe Creek
- Sisquoc River
- Smith River System
- Trinity River System
- Tuolumne River
National Study Rivers (PDF)
- Little Sur River
- Lopez Creek
- Matilija Creek
- Merced River, North Fork
- Piru Creek
- Sespe Creek
California Wild and Scenic Rivers System(Public Resources Code Section 5093.50 et seq.)
Designated Rivers (PDF)
- Albion River
- American River
- Cache Creek
- Carson River
- Eel River
- Gualala River
- Klamath River
- McCloud River
- Salmon River
- Scott River
- Smith River
- South Yuba River
- Trinity River
- Van Duzen River
- West Walker River
Special Rivers (PDF)
- Mill Creek
- Deer Creek
Note: The designated California rivers are also included in the national system and must be considered along with the federally listed rivers
Wild and Scenic Rivers Descriptions and Management Agencies
This document lists and describes nationally designated wild and scenic rivers (PDF) in California and provides the contact information for the appropriate management agencies.
This document lists and describes national study rivers (PDF) in California and provides the contact information for the appropriate management agencies.
California Wild & Scenic River System
This document lists and describes state wild and scenic rivers (PDF) in California and provides the contact information for the appropriate management agencies.
The Public Resources Code (PRC) defines "wild rivers" as being "those rivers or segments of rivers that are free of impoundments and generally inaccessible except by trail, with watersheds or shorelines essentially primitive and waters unpolluted." [PRC 5093.53(a)]
The PRC defines "scenic rivers" as being "those rivers or segments of rivers that are free of impoundments, with shorelines or watersheds still largely primitive and shorelines largely undeveloped, but accessible in places by roads." [PRC 5093.53(b)]
The PRC defines "recreational rivers" as being "those rivers or segments of rivers that are readily accessible by road or railroad, that may have some development along their shorelines, and that may have undergone some impoundment or diversion in the past." [PRC 5093.53(c)]
River Managing Agency
Each state or federally designated wild and scenic river is managed by one or more agency or, in some cases, tribal governments. The description of the particular river reach that is designated includes the managing agency(ies)
National Park Service Pacific West Regional Office
National Park Service
333 Bush Street, Suite 500
San Francisco, CA 94104-2828
Consult with the designated river managing agencies as identified in the list of Wild and Scenic Rivers Decision Tree. It may be necessary to also consult with the National Park Service (NPS) Regional Office in San Francisco.
The purpose of this consultation is to determine whether the proposed project could have an adverse effect on the free-flowing characteristics of the river and whether the action could have the potential to alter the river segment's ability to meet the criteria that classify it as wild, scenic, or recreational The results of this consultation must be included in the environmental documentation. If the consultation results in the determination that there would be an adverse effect, subsequent coordination would be required to develop appropriate mitigation measures.
Discussion Points: Early Coordination Meeting
- Will the proposed project have an adverse effect on the free-flowing characteristics of the river?
- Does the action have the potential to alter the river segment's ability to meet the criteria used to classify it as wild, scenic, or recreational?
- Can impacts be avoided by using an alternative design?
- Is mitigation possible and feasible?
Report Content and Recommended Format
There is no separate report to address wild and scenic rivers. Input from resource agencies during the early coordination meeting will determine whether or not an official finding or statement must be included in the environmental document.
The environmental document shall discuss the issue, all coordination among agencies, any impacts to the qualities that support the river's designation, and any mitigation measures.
Refer to the FHWA Technical Advisory.
Refer to the list of rivers in the decision tree.
There are no special qualifications required for persons addressing Wild and Scenic Rivers in an environmental document.
Timing the Studies with the Environmental Process
Wild and Scenic Rivers issues should be considered at initiation of the environmental process, during early coordination meeting with regulatory agencies.
Technical Report Processing and Approval
Local Assistance: Processing of CE's is covered in SER Volume 1, Chapter 38, NEPA Assignment and SER, Volume 1, Chapter 30. For information on technical reports associated with local assistance project CEs, see the Local Assistance Procedures Manual, Chapter 6, Section 6.2.
When technical studies indicate that the project does not support a CE, the local agency should refer to SER Volume 1, Chapter 31 or 32 for detailed instructions on preparing and processing an EA or an EIS.
Caltrans: The results of discussions with resource agencies should be summarized in the environmental document/determination.
Information Needed for Project Delivery
There is no separate technical report to address wild and scenic rivers.
For a CE, document the coordination with the river managing agencies and the results of the consultation in the project file.
For an EA/FONSI or an EIS, document the coordination with the river managing agencies and the results of the consultation in the environmental document.
Regional Transportation Plan
This information should be documented in the environmental impact report (EIR) prepared for the Regional Transportation Plan (RTP) and serve as a building block in subsequent decision making.
An RTP requires the preparation of a CEQA environmental document, normally a program or master EIR. Caltrans encourages the MPO/RTPAs to include the following information, as appropriate, in the environmental document for the plan:
- Presence/absence of state or federal officially designated wild and scenic rivers and study rivers.
Project Initiation Document
This information should be included in the Preliminary Environmental Analysis Report (PEAR) prepared as part of the Project Initiation Document (PID).
The "Guidelines for the Preparation of Project Study Reports" dated November 3, 1999 stipulate that PSRs and project study report equivalents contain an "inventory of environmental resources, identification of potential environmental issues and anticipated environmental processing type." Standard PSRs must include potential mitigation requirements and associated costs.
For projects off the SHS, complete the Preliminary Environmental Study (PES) form. The information required for the PES satisfies the environmental requirement for the PSR equivalent.
For projects on the SHS, the following level of information is recommended to fulfill the requirements of the guidelines:
Verification of all information from the RTP stage and:
- Official classification of reach of river within project area as "wild", "scenic", or "recreational".
- Identification of the management agency of the reach of river within project area.
Draft Project Report
This information should be presented in the Draft Environmental Document or used as supporting documentation for a Categorical Exemption (CE), as appropriate.
Verification of information from RTP and PID stage and:
- Documentation of consultation and coordination with agency managing the reach of river within project area.
- Impacts to the values or functions of its classification
- Potential mitigation measures.
This information should be presented in the Final Environmental Document.
- Final mitigation measures;
- Documentation of concurrence by managing agency of mitigation measures.
- Cost estimates for mitigation measures
There are no permits required specifically for involvement with Wild and Scenic Rivers.
However, in order to comply with other laws permits or agreements may be required, such as a Clean Water Act Section 404 Permit, 401 Certification, National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) Permit, Fish and Game Code Section 1602 Streambed Alteration Agreement, or Endangered Species Act Section 7 Consultation for endangered species that would be affected.
Activities that may Occur During the Project Design Phase
Consider alternatives that avoid impacts to Wild and Scenic Rivers.
Early coordination with all appropriate regulatory agencies.
Activities that may Occur During Construction
Resident Engineer should refer to the environmental document and the environmental commitment record (ECR) in order to avoid impacts on rivers designated as Wild and Scenic.
(Last content update: 1/25/13: MCS)