California Department of Fish and Wildlife

Environmental Impact Report

The decision to prepare an EIR will be made either during preliminary review or at the conclusion of the Initial Study. An EIR shall be prepared if there is substantial evidence that the project may have a significant effect on the environment. The determination of whether a project may have a significant effect on the environment calls for careful judgment, based to the extent possible on scientific and factual data. In cases where it is not clear whether there is substantial evidence that a project may have a significant effect on the environment, an EIR shall be prepared when there is serious public controversy concerning the environmental effect of a project (CEQA Guidelines, Section 15064).

When any of the following conditions occur the lead agency shall find that a project may have a significant effect on the environment which will require a Mandatory Finding of Significance. Such a finding shall require an EIR to be prepared (CEQA Guidelines Section 15065):

  • When a project has the potential to substantially degrade the quality of the environment, substantially reduce the habitat of a fish or wildlife species, cause a fish or wildlife population to drop below self-sustaining levels, threaten to eliminate a plant or animal community, reduce the number or restrict the range of an endangered, rare or threatened species, or eliminate important examples of the major periods of California history or prehistory;
  • When a project has the potential to achieve short-term goals to the disadvantage of long-term environmental goals;
  • When a project has possible environmental effects which are individually limited but cumulatively considerable;
  • When the environmental effects of a project will cause substantial adverse effects on human beings, either directly or indirectly.

CEQA provides protection not only for State-listed or Federally-listed species, but also for any species that can be shown to meet the criteria for listing (CEQA Guidelines Section 15380). Species that meet these criteria are often considered species of special concern by the Department. This includes some animals designated as Species of Special Concern (SSC) (see Operations Manual Section 1198.3) by the Department, and some plants (see Operations Manual Section 1198.4).

The Department has prepared EIRs for such projects as the Use of Rotenone for Fisheries Management and for wildlife area management plans. The general process for the preparation and adoption of an EIR is described in the CEQA Guidelines in Sections 15080 - 15112. The contents of an EIR are described in CEQA Guidelines Sections 15120 - 15132. EIR preparation consists of the following basic steps:

  • Decision to prepare an EIR (CEQA Guidelines, Section 15065 and 15081).
  • Early consultation (CEQA Guidelines, Section 15083).
  • Send Notice of Preparation to the SCH with a distribution list (CEQA Guidelines, Section 15082).
  • Prepare Draft EIR and send 15 copies with Notice of Completion to SCH for filing as stated in CEQA Guidelines, Section 15085. That starts the 45 day public review period (CEQA Guidelines, Section 15105).
  • As with a Negative Declaration, the lead agency must provide public notice of its intent to adopt a draft EIR prior to making that determination (PRC Section 21092, and CEQA Guidelines, Section 15087).
  • Respond to comments received (CEQA Guidelines, Section 15088).
  • Prepare and certify Final EIR (CEQA Guidelines, Section 15089_15090).
  • Make decision to approve or disapprove the project (CEQA Guidelines, Section 15092).
  • File Notice of Determination (CEQA Guidelines, Section 15094).

Early Consultation

Early consultation is mandatory with responsible and trustee agencies and voluntary with any person or organization which may be concerned with the environmental effects of a proposed project. It provides an opportunity to resolve many potential problems that could arise in more serious form later in the review process. The consultations should occur as early in the review process as feasible to better define areas of concern and to focus the EIR on these problems (CEQA Guidelines, Section 15082_15083).

Procedure for Early Consultation

  • The author of the EIR should consult with the appropriate personnel in the region or branch that is primarily involved with the proposed project as well as coordinate with other Regions, Branches, and Divisions when appropriate. HCPB should be contacted for advice and assistance on procedure and policy issues.
  • The contents of an EIR are specified beginning with Section 15120 of the CEQA Guidelines.
  • When early consultation and the document are completed, the EIR is sent to the Regional Manager (or Branch Chief for Headquarters projects) for approval and signature. Once it is signed, the lead unit prepares 17 copies for transmittal to the State Clearinghouse (SCH) and additional copies for other involved units of the Department. The lead unit files 15 copies of the proposed EIR with the SCH to provide an opportunity for federal, State, and local agencies, and members of the public to respond to the findings. The public review period shall be at least 45 days to provide interested parties with sufficient time to respond to the proposed finding before the EIR is approved. The lead unit will have the two additional copies date-stamped by the SCH. One stamped copy is delivered to HCPB, and the appropriate region or branch keeps the other stamped copy for the record.
  • The lead unit provides public notice of the intent to adopt a draft EIR per CEQA Guidelines, Section 15087. The minimum review period between release of the Draft EIR and final date for receipt of comments is 45 days, unless a shorter date is approved by the SCH (CEQA Guidelines, Section 15105 and 15111).
  • The Draft EIR shall be included as part of the review and approval process whenever a public hearing is held on the project. Such public hearings are not held until at least 45 days after release of the Draft EIR for review and comment.
  • The project lead unit evaluates the significance of comments received on the Draft EIR and respond in the Final EIR to those comments found to raise significant environmental issues.
  • The Final EIR is presented to the Regional Manager (or Branch Chief for Headquarters projects) for certification (CEQA Guidelines, Section 15092).
  • The Department makes a decision following certification whether to proceed with the project.
  • Within 5 days after the decision on the project, the Department's lead unit files a Notice of Determination and record of project decision (CEQA Guidelines, Section 15094) and when appropriate, a Statement of Overriding Considerations (CEQA Guidelines, Section 15093).

Email Link Contact CEQA Program – CDFW staff cannot make decisions or intercede on CEQA projects under the jurisdiction of another lead agency. Please address project-specific comments to the project's lead agency.