Chapter 2 - State Requirements

What does this topic include?

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/Mitigated Negative Declarations, and Environmental Impact Reports. SER Chapter 37 discusses joint CEQA and National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) environmental documentation. In addition, a number of California code sections affect how the Department develops transportation facilities.

  • NOTE: All California Code of Regulations (CCR) citations can be found at the Office of Administrative Law searchable database: California Code of Regulations
  • Department of Transportation and California Transportation Commission Regulations to Implement CEQA (2004) can be found at 21 CCR 1501 et seq.
  • Access to all California Law - LegInfo

CEQA Process Overview

View the CEQA Decision Tree (PDF) (20 KB)

Laws, Regulation, and Guidance


Physical Environment

Natural Environment

Special Status Land Use


Cultural Resources

California Clean Air Act of 1988 

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.  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 (CARB), 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.


California Coastal Act of 1976

Purpose: This act established a permanent State Coastal Commission required that each local government within the Coastal Zone prepare a Local Coastal Plan (LCP). Any development within the Coastal Zone requires a Coastal Development Permit.

General Procedures: Consultation with local coastal zone management agencies.


California Code of Regulations Sections 4307 and 4308

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.


California Desert Native Plants Act

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 Bernardino, and San Diego.


California Endangered Species Act

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 California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) determines that the federal incidental take authorization is "consistent" with CESA under Fish & Game Code § 2080.1.  For projects that will result in a "take" of a state-only listed species, the Department must apply for an incidental take permit under Fish & Game Code § 2081(b).


California Environmental Quality Act of 1970

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, the Department and other agencies are required to notify the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) 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, CDFW 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.


California Government Code Section 65080 (Regional Transportation Plans)

Under this section of the California Government Code (GC), each transportation planning agency designated under GC § 29532 or 29532.1 is required to prepare and adopt a regional transportation plan directed at achieving a coordinated and balanced regional transportation system, including, but not limited to, mass transportation, highway, railroad, maritime, bicycle, pedestrian, goods movement, and aviation facilities and services.


California Government Code Section 65086 (Long-Term State Highway System Planning)

Under this section of the California Government Code, the Department of Transportation, in consultation with transportation planning agencies, county transportation commissions, counties, and cities, is required to carry out long-term State Highway System planning to identify future highway improvements.


California Government Code Section 65302 (Provision of Noise Contour Maps)

Applicability: This section requires the Department 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 of the Health and Safety Code (HSC) 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 to disturb, mutilate, or remove 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 of Hazardous Substances)

Purpose:  This section establishes a continuing program for the purpose of preventing contamination from, and improper storage of, hazardous substances stored underground.  This section 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.


The California Land Conservation Act of 1965 (“Williamson Act”)

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 (DOC) estimates that more than half of the state's irrigated (mostly prime) farmland is protected by the act.

General Procedures:  51291(b) 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 of the Penal Code (PC) 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.


California Public Park Preservation Act Of 1971

Purpose: This act provides 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, the 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 Sections 5097.94, 21073, 21074, 21080.3.1, 21080.3.2, 21082.3, 21083.09, 21084.2, and 21084.3 (Native Americans: California Environmental Quality Act [Assembly Bill 52, September 25, 2014])

Assembly Bill 52 amended the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) to address California Native American tribal concerns regarding how cultural resources of importance to tribes are treated under CEQA.

Purpose: CEQA now specifies that a project that may cause a substantial adverse change in the significance of a tribal cultural resource [as defined in PRC 21074(a)] is a project that may have a significant effect on the environment.

General Procedures: The CEQA lead agency must begin consultation with a California Native American tribe that is traditionally and culturally affiliated with the geographic area of the proposed project, if the tribe requested to the lead agency, in writing, to be informed by the lead agency of proposed projects in that geographic area and the tribe requests consultation. These changes to CEQA are applicable to projects that will file a Notice of Preparation for an Environmental Impact Report or Notice of Intent to Adopt a Negative Declaration or Mitigated Negative Declaration on or after July 1, 2015. For more information, please see the SER, Vol. 2, Chapter 2, "Cultural Resources Procedures" and Vol. 1, Chapter 28, "Cultural Resources".

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, the Department abate noise from freeways to specified levels when the noise exceeds specified levels in school classrooms.


California Wild and Scenic Rivers Act

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.


Department of Transportation and California Transportation Commission Regulations to Implement CEQA

Purpose: CEQA Section 21082 requires that each public agency adopt regulations to implement the act. The Department and the California Transportation Commission (CTC) jointly 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.


Executive Order B-10-11

Purpose: Governor’s Executive Order B-10-11 (September 9, 2011) establishes the role and responsibilities of the Governor’s Tribal Advisor and directs that every state agency and department under the Governor’s executive control communicate and consult with federally recognized tribes and other California Native Americans, and permit elected officials and other representatives of tribal governments to provide meaningful input into the development of legislation, regulations, rules, and policies on matters that may affect tribal communities.

Summary of procedures: The Department’s Director’s Policy No. 19 and the California State Transportation Agency’s Tribal Consultation Policy provide the underlying philosophy and direction for communication and consultation with tribal governments and other California Native Americans. The Executive Order applies to all of Caltrans, but for projects on the State Highway System consultation is carried out in concert with CEQA compliance.


Executive Order W-26-92 (Stewardship of State-owned Historical Properties)

Purpose: Executive Order (EO) 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.  For the Department, the Historic Preservation Officer is the Environmental Division Chief.

General Procedures: Compliance with EO 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 the Headquarters Division of Environmental Analysis to request assistance in meeting the requirements of these laws.


Fish and Game Code Section 711.4 (Environmental Filing Fees)

Applicability: When filing the Notice of Determination (NOD) with the California State Clearinghouse (SCH), the District must submit proof of payment of an environmental filing fee to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) if the document identified any potential impacts on fish or wildlife resources. A check made out to CDFW should be sent to the SCH along with the NOD. If the project will have no effect on fish and wildlife, the district can seek to have the fee waived by contacting the CDFW region in which the project is located, and obtaining CDFW's determination and documentation that the project is exempt from the fee. For further information, including current fees, please see the CEQA Environmental Document Filing Fees.


Hazardous Waste and Substances Site List (“Cortese List”)

Purpose: This list consolidated the lists of hazardous waste sites compiled by the California Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC), the Regional Water Quality Control Boards (RWQCBs), 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.


Native Plant Protection Act

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 notifying CDFW at least 10 days in advance of any change in land use.  This allows CDFW to salvage listed plant species that would otherwise be destroyed.  The Department is required to conduct botanical inventories and consult with CDFW during project planning to comply with the provisions of this act and sections of CEQA that apply to rare or endangered plants.


Porter-Cologne Water Quality Act

Purpose: The Porter-Cologne Act (Water Code, Division 7) is the basic water quality control law for California. The act is implemented by the State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB) and the nine RWQCBs. The RWQCBs 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.


Suisun Marsh Preservation Act (California Public Resources Code Sections 29000-29612)

Purpose: Recognizing the threats to the Suisun Marsh from potential residential, commercial, and industrial developments, and the need to preserve this unique wildlife resource for future generations, the California government enacted the Nejedly-Bagley-Z'berg Suisun Marsh Preservation Act of 1974. This act directed the Commission and the California Department of Fish and Game (now CDFW) to prepare a Suisun Marsh Protection Plan "to preserve the integrity and assure continued wildlife use" of the Suisun Marsh. In December 1976, the Commission submitted the Suisun Marsh Protection Plan to the Governor and the Legislature. The Suisun Marsh Preservation Act was enacted in 1977 to incorporate the findings and policies contained in the plan into state law.


Surface Mining and Reclamation Act (SMARA)

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. The SMARA also encourages the production, conservation, and protection of the state's mineral resources.

General Procedures: SMARA, Chapter 9, Division 2 of the PCR 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 updated daily by the Department of Conservation.


State Senate Concurrent Resolution No. 17 -Oak Woodlands

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, Englemann, 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.