California Department of Transportation

This site is produced by the Caltrans Division of Environmental Analysis (DEA) and Division of Local Assistance (DLA).

Adobe Acrobat Reader is required to view and print PDF files. Adobe Acrobat is required to edit online forms and save them to your computer.

acrobat reader


Last Updated: Tuesday, November 4, 2014 3:24 PM

Chapter 18 - Coastal Zone


The focus of this chapter is on compliance with federal and state laws that protect coastal resources. Background on the applicable laws is given, followed by a general discussion of when those laws apply to a proposed project and what must be done if those laws do apply. References and links to more specific guidance on coastal resources issues are also provided.



Federal Laws

State Law

Further Reference


The Coastal Zone Management Act of 1972 (CZMA) is the primary federal law enacted to preserve and protect coastal resources. The CZMA sets up a program under which coastal states are encouraged to develop coastal management programs. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is the federal agency responsible for approving the states’ coastal management plans and overseeing their subsequent implementation. Coastal states that develop a coastal management program compatible with the standards and goals of the CZMA are eligible for financial and technical incentives from the federal government. In addition, states with an approved coastal management plan are able to review federal permits and activities to determine if they are consistent with the state’s management plan. Broadly stated, the goals of the CZMA are:

  1. Protecting, restoring, or enhancing the existing coastal wetlands base, or creating new coastal wetlands
  2. Preventing or significantly reducing threats to life and destruction of property by eliminating development and redevelopment in high-hazard areas and by managing development in other hazard areas
  3. Increasing opportunities for public access to coastal areas of recreational, historical, aesthetic, ecological, or cultural value
  4. Reducing marine debris entering the Nation's coastal and ocean environment
  5. Development and adoption of procedures to assess, consider, and control cumulative and secondary impacts of coastal growth and development
  6. Preparing and implementing special area management plans for important coastal areas
  7. Planning for the use of ocean resources
  8. Facilitating the siting of energy facilities and Government facilities and energy-related activities and Government activities which may be of greater than local significance
  9. Facilitating the siting of aqua culture operations
  10. Protecting sensitive biological, cultural and visual resources
  11. Protecting water quality from non-point sources

California has developed a coastal zone management plan and has enacted its own law, the California Coastal Act of 1976, to protect the coastline. The policies established by the California Coastal Act are similar to those listed above for the CZMA; they include the protection and expansion of public access and recreation, the protection, enhancement and restoration of environmentally sensitive areas, protection of agricultural lands, the protection of scenic beauty, the facilitation of energy producing facilities, and the protection of property and life from coastal hazards. The California Coastal Commission is responsible for implementation and oversight under the California Coastal Act.

Just as the federal CZMA delegates power to the coastal states to develop their own coastal management plans, the California Coastal Act delegates to local governments (15 coastal counties and 58 cities) the power to enact their own local coastal programs (LCPs). LCPs determine the short- and long-term use of coastal resources consistent with the California Coastal Act goals.

After an LCP has been finally approved, the Coastal Commission’s permitting authority over most new development is transferred to the local government. However, the Commission retains permanent permitting jurisdiction over development proposed on the immediate shoreline (tidelands, submerged lands and public trust lands). It also hears appeals from certain local government coastal permit decisions and must review and approve any amendments to previously certified LCPs.

The Bay Conservation and Development Commission (BCDC), created prior to the California Coastal Act, retains oversight and planning responsibilities for development and conservation of coastal resources in the Bay Area.


Coastal Zone (for purposes of California Coastal Act):

"Coastal zone" means that land and water area of the State of California from the Oregon border to the border of the Republic of Mexico extending seaward to the state's outer limit of jurisdiction (3 miles offshore) including all offshore islands, and extending inland generally 1,000 yards from the mean high tide line of the sea. In significant coastal estuarine, habitat, and recreational areas it extends inland to the first major ridgeline paralleling the sea or five miles from the mean high tide line of the sea, whichever is less, and in developed urban areas the zone generally extends inland less than 1,000 yards.

San Francisco Bay (for defining the jurisdiction of BCDC)

  • The open water, marshes and mudflats of greater San Francisco Bay, including Suisun, San Pablo, Honker, Richardson, San Rafael, San Leandro and Grizzly Bays and the Carquinez Strait.
  • The first 100 feet inland from the shoreline around San Francisco Bay.
  • The portion of the Suisun Marsh-including levees, waterways, marshes and grasslands below the ten-foot contour line.
  • Portions of most creeks, rivers, sloughs and other tributaries that flow into San Francisco Bay.
  • Salt ponds, duck hunting preserves, game refuges and other managed wetlands that have been diked off from San Francisco Bay.



National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)

Administration of the CZMA at the federal level is handled by the National Coastal Zone Management Program within the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Office of Coastal Management. The National Coastal Zone Management is responsible for advancing national coastal management objectives and maintaining and strengthening state and territorial coastal management capabilities. It approves the coastal states’ management plans and supports states through financial assistance, mediation, technical services and information, and participation in priority state, regional, and local forums. The CZMA leaves day-to-day management decisions at the state level in the 34 states and territories with federally approved coastal management programs.


California Coastal Commission (CCC)

The California Coastal Commission, in partnership with coastal cities and Counties, plans and regulates the use of land and water in the coastal zone (see definition above). Development activities, which are broadly defined by the Coastal Act to include (among others) construction of buildings, divisions of land, and activities that change the intensity of use of land or public access to coastal waters, generally require a coastal permit from either the Coastal Commission or the local government. The Commission is an independent, quasi-judicial state agency.

Bay Conservation and Development Commission (BCDC)

In the San Francisco Bay and surrounding tributaries, development is regulated by the Bay Conservation and Development Commission.

Local Governments

If a local government has developed a local coastal program (LCP) that has been approved by the California Coastal Commission, then coastal permitting authority over most new development is transferred to the local government. To find out if an area has an approved LCP, check the Coastal Commission’s website or call the local Coastal Commission District Office.


Early and continuous coordination with CCC/ BCDC and local jurisdictions is recommended for transportation projects wholly or partially within the jurisdiction of these agencies. Emphasis should be placed on early involvement in order to avoid delays, redesign, additional costs, or permit denials. If an EIS will be required for the project, then those agencies must be invited to be participating agencies under 23 USC 139, the efficient environmental review process.

CCC, BCDC, or other local agency responsible for issuing a coastal approval should be formally invited to join the full Project Development Team (PDT) any time a transportation project is located within their jurisdiction. Copies of the written invitations and the responses must be placed in the project file and be referenced in the “Coordination and Consultation” section of the environmental document.

Jurisdictional issues, project scope, scheduling, identification of potential impacts, alternatives analysis and/or potential mitigation should be discussed during the CDP/BCDC permit coordination process occurring during the project development process.

Permit applications must be prepared and submitted along with supporting information before the permitting agency can make a determination on the type of permit and application completeness. Depending on the type of permit required, hearings(s) for the project may be scheduled for action by CCC, BCDC, or the local jurisdiction.

CCC, BCDC, or the local jurisdiction may then certify that the project is consistent with their plan by approving the federal consistency determination or permit, or they may deny the permit or other approval. Note: coordinating with Commission or local jurisdiction early and often lessens the likelihood that the permit or approval will be denied.

Early Coordination

The following items should be discussed at the early coordination meeting:

  1. Clarify project proponents, lead agency status.
  2. Purpose and need of project
  3. Project schedule
  4. Jurisdictional determination: Establish appropriate agency jurisdiction for the project. Determine local coastal jurisdictions, if any, and their roles. Ensures jurisdictional agencies are represented in this early coordination meeting
  5. Other resource agencies involvement (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, California Department of Fish and Wildlife, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, etc.) See 23 USC 139 for additional information
  6. Public access issues
  7. Alternatives analysis
  8. Project impacts
  9. Avoidance measures (no project, re-design, downscope)
  10. Minimizing impacts
  11. Mitigation (on-site, off-site, mitigation fees)
  12. Monitoring
  13. Identify special interest groups

For complex projects, BCDC encourages the submittal of a draft permit application.


Sample Technical Document

Preparation of a separate technical report for coastal resources is not required. As part of the permitting process, the following technical reports are often used to support the permit application: water quality reports, visual assessments, community impact assessments, natural environment studies, biological assessment, and geotechnical reports. In addition, the permitting agencies will require a copy of the approved final environmental document as well as documentation of consultation with resource and regulatory agencies including permits and approvals from these agencies or, lacking that, copies of permit applications to these agencies.

Information for Environmental Documentation

The environmental document must identify needed permits and approvals, including permits or determinations needed from CCC, BCDC or a local jurisdiction. The document also needs to summarize comments from and coordination with these coastal resource agencies. The permit application process will be more expeditious if the environmental document clearly states potential impacts to coastal resources, the feasibility of potential avoidance or minimization alternatives, and the proposed mitigation measures.

Given the sensitivity of the coast, special planning may be required for construction activities. Potential construction impacts must be clearly identified and assessed as part of the environmental documentation and permit application processes. CCC/BCDC or local jurisdictions will often require that project proponents develop and implement measures to avoid or minimize these types of impacts. Some of the activities that should be evaluated, in terms of potential impacts, include, but are not limited to:

  1. Work Schedules
  2. Implementation of Protective Measures for Environmentally Sensitive Areas (ESAs)
  3. Construction envelope(s)
  4. Staging areas
  5. Storage
  6. Presence of Hazardous Materials
  7. Vehicle/equipment Maintenance and Wash-out Areas
  8. Access roads/Construction Equipment ingress and egress
  9. Excavation and Disposal Sites
  10. Construction Crew Parking
  11. Traffic Detours/Road Closures/One-Way Controls
  12. False work
  13. Obstructions to coastal access including parking restrictions


The following section covers basic information regarding coastal permitting. Unless otherwise specified, the information given is applicable to permits needed from the California Coastal Commission, as well as BCDC. As of October 2014, 76 coastal counties and cities currently have certified LCPs, some of which have elected to divide their coastal zone jurisdictions into separate geographic segments resulting in approximately 128 separate LCP segments. For general information regarding the processing, approval or denial, and appeal of a local coastal program permit, please see Title 14, Division 5.5, Chapter 5, Section 13330 et seq. of the California Code of Regulations. For specific information regarding local programs, contact the appropriate city or county staff.

When is a coastal permit needed?

Whenever a project proposes development within the coastal zone (Title 14, Division 5.5, Chapter 5, Section 13330 et seq. of the California Code of Regulations ), a coastal development permit or verification of a waiver (see “waivers” below) will be required.

  1. Placement or erection of any solid material or structure. "Structure" includes, but is not limited to, any building, road, pipe, flume, conduit, siphon, aqueduct, telephone line, and electrical power transmission and distribution line.
  2. Discharge or disposal of any dredged material or of any gaseous, liquid, solid, or thermal waste.
  3. Grading, removing, dredging, mining, or extraction of any materials.
  4. Change in the density or intensity of use of land.
  5. Change in the intensity of use of water, or of access thereto
  6. Construction, reconstruction, demolition, or alteration of the size of any structure, including any facility of any private, public, or municipal utility; and
  7. Removal or harvesting of major vegetation other than for agricultural purposes, kelp harvesting, and timber operations.

Exemptions (CCC)

The following activities are generally exempt from the Coastal Commission’s permit requirements:

  1. Repair or maintenance dredging of less than 100,000 cubic yards in existing navigational channels
  2. Repair or maintenance that will not enlarge an existing structure
  3. Installation, testing, or replacement of necessary utility connections for developments approved by the Commission
  4. Construction of development projects in categories that the Commission has determined will not harm coastal resources or public access to the coast
  5. The replacement of any structure (except public works facilities) that is destroyed by a disaster
  6. Any project that has obtained an acknowledgment of vested rights under the California Coastal Zone Conservation Act of 1972 or the California Coastal Act of 1976
  7. The CCC has developed a detailed list of road maintenance activities contained in the Repair, Maintenance, and Utilities Hook Up Exclusions From Permit Requirements Agreement (September 5, 1978) that do not require a coastal permit.

Waivers (CCC)

An applicant, such as the Department, may apply to the Executive Director of the Coastal Commission for a waiver of permit requirements for projects that have no potential for adverse effects, either individually or cumulatively, on coastal resources and that will be consistent with the policies of the Coastal Act. The waiver takes effect only after the next regularly scheduled Commission meeting, provided four or more commissioners do not object to the Executive Director's issuance of the waiver.

What is the timing of the application for a coastal permit? How do I apply for a permit? What type of information is needed?

The CCC will usually not accept an application for a coastal permit unless all governmental agencies have granted at minimum their preliminary approvals for the proposed project. This includes as appropriate: approval of the final environmental document, the Section 404 permit, the Section 401 water quality certification, Section 10 permit, local government coastal development permit and the lake and streambed alteration agreement. This is customary practice for BCDC as well.

Applications for a coastal development permit from CCC are sent to the local CCC office. Application forms may differ from office to office; for informational purposes, see the North Central Coast District’s application. Federal consistency determinations are sent to the San Francisco office. In addition, the Department also funds positions with the CCC; they serve as liaisons between the Department and the CCC and work to facilitate the permitting and coordination process.

The CCC permit application form requires at least the following items:

  1. Adequate project description, including maps, plans, photographs, etc. Note: If maps, plans, photographs or other exhibits are larger than 8 ½” x 11” then enough copies must be sent with the application to allow for the distribution to those persons on the CCC’s mailing list and the CCC’s staff and commissioners.
  2. Description of feasible alternatives or mitigation measures to substantially lessen any significant adverse impact on the environment.
  3. Description and documentation of applicant’s legal interest in all the property upon which work would be performed.
  4. Dated signature attesting to the truth, completeness and accuracy of application.

For additional details, see Title 14, Division 5.5, Chapter 5, Section 13053.5 of the California Code of Regulations.

BCDC issues permits under two separate programs—San Francisco Bay permits and Suisun Marsh development permits—each with its own legal mandate. BCDC processes the San Francisco Bay permits and Suisun Marsh development permits is a similar manner. Under these two programs, BCDC issues three different permit types:

  • Region wide permit—used for routine maintenance work that qualifies under a region wide permit already approved by the Commission. These permits can be approved very quickly without commission review or a public hearing.
  • Administrative permit—used for minor repairs or improvements. These permits can be obtained relatively quickly and generally without a public hearing.
  • Major permit—used for more extensive work. A public hearing is required and the application may be reviewed by engineers and designers who advise the commission.

The information required for a permit from BCDC will vary based on the project size, location and impacts. Detailed instructions on applying for a coastal permit with BCDC along with the permit application form can be found on BCDC’s website.

What are the noticing requirements?

For CCC permits, the applicant must provide a list of the addresses of all residences and property owners located within 100 feet of the perimeter of the real property of record on which the development is proposed. The applicant must also provide a list of names and addresses of all persons known to be interested in the project. Along with the lists, the applicant is to provide addressed, stamped envelopes with the words “Important. Public Hearing Notice.” prominently placed on the front of the envelope. At the time the application is filed with the CCC, a notice of application for the proposed development permit must be posted as close as possible to the proposed development site. A standardized form is available from the CCC.

BCDC has similar notice requirements. All owners and residents within 100 feet of the proposed project must be listed on the permit application. Interested persons and agencies must also be listed on the application. After BCDC has determined that the application is complete and is ready to be filed, BCDC’s staff will send a pending application notice to the applicant who must post the notice at the project site. The applicant must return a form to the Commission to indicate that the notice has been posted before the application can be filed.

What happens after turning in permit application?

After the permit application is filed, CCC or BCDC has 30 days to determine if the application packet is complete. A filing determination is then sent to the applicant. If the application is incomplete, then the filing determination must state what information is missing and what additional information is required. Once the application is re-filed with the required information, another 30-day filing determination period begins.

After the application is deemed complete and filed, CCC or BCDC staff members complete a staff report for the permit. The report contains the maps, plans, photographs, etc., of the proposed project, a summary of significant questions of fact, a summary of applicable policies, a copy or summary of public comments, a summary of the legal adequacy of the application and the staff’s recommendation for approval, conditional approval or denial of the permit. For more specific information, please see Title 14, Division 5.5, Chapter 5, Section 13057 of the California Code of Regulations and/or the Coastal Commission’s Procedural Guidance for the Review of Wetland Project’s in California’s Coastal Zone.

For CCC permits, a public hearing on the application must be held no later than 49 days following the date on which the application is filed. Notice of the public hearing must be sent to owners and residents within 100 feet of the proposed project and interested agencies and members of the public at least 10 days prior to the public hearing. If the Executive Director of the Commission determines that the application does not raise significant issues with respect to the purposes and objectives of the Coastal Act, then the proposed project will be grouped with other projects on the Commission’s Consent Calendar. If the project is seen to raise significant issues, then the proposed project’s application will remain a separate agenda item on the Commission’s calendar. Following the public hearing, the Commission will make a final decision on the permit.

For BCDC permits, the processing and review periods for BCDC permits varies based on the type of permit needed.

Major Permit Application—After the Commission's staff determines that an application is complete, the staff distributes a summary of the application to the Commission and the public. No sooner than 28 days after the application has been filed and at least 10 days after the summary has been distributed, the Commission holds a public hearing on the application. Unless the applicant agrees to provide the Commission with more time, the Commission must act on a permit application within 90 days of the filing of the application.

Administrative Permit Application—After the Commission's staff determines that the application is complete, the Commission's Executive Director summarizes the application on a listing that is sent to the Commission, state agencies, and the general public. On this listing, the Executive Director indicates whether the staff proposes to approve or deny the application. This action is taken shortly after the Commission meeting unless a majority of the Commission decides it wants to more fully consider the application. If the Commission makes this decision, the applicant is notified within five days after the Commission meeting that a public hearing is necessary. Complete administrative permit applications are typically processed in about five to eight weeks. [California Code of Regulations, Title 14, Division 5.5, sections 10600 et seq.]

Region wide Permit Application—After the Commission's staff determines that an application is complete, the staff has 14 days to determine whether the work proposed is authorized by an existing Commission region wide permit. Once this determination is made, the applicant is notified and work can begin if the application is approved. A complete region wide permit application takes no more than 44 days to process and does not require a public hearing.

What happens if the request for a coastal permit is denied?

Any time within 30 days following a final vote upon an application for a coastal development permit, the applicant may request, through the district office, the commission to grant reconsideration of the denial of the application. The applicant must show that there is relevant new evidence which could not have reasonably been presented at the original hearing or that an error of fact or law occurred.

The CCC must schedule a hearing on the reconsideration request at the next regularly scheduled meeting or as soon as practicable after the executive director distributes the notice of the hearing. Only the applicant and persons who participated in the original proceedings are eligible to testify.

Reconsideration will be granted if a majority of the commissioners present vote to grant the request. If reconsideration is granted, the application is re-processed as a new application, except no new fee is required.

What is a federal consistency determination and when is it needed?

Under the Coastal Zone Management Act, coastal states with an approved coastal management plan are able to review federal permits and activities to determine if they are consistent with the state’s management plan. The California Coastal Management Program (CCMP) was developed by the California Coastal Commission (CCC) in 1976 and approved by NOAA in 1977. This allows the CCC to review federal projects and activities to determine if they are consistent with the California Coastal Management Program.

Most of the Department’s projects have federal funding. Projects with federal funding that may affect land or water uses or natural resources need either a federal consistency determination or a negative determination. The consistency determination or negative determination must be sent to the CCC 90 days before final approval of the action. In most cases, this final approval will be a finding of no significant impact (FONSI) or record of decision (ROD). Note: In cases of joint state/federal projects, a federal consistency determination is not required if the CCC will be issuing a coastal development permit; the consistency determination is still required, however, if a local jurisdiction is issuing a coastal permit.

If it is determined that the project will not affect coastal uses or resources, then a negative determination is prepared and sent to CCC. The negative determination contains a brief description of the activity, the activity’s location and the basis for the determination that the activity will not affect any coastal use or resource. The CCC has 60 days from the day it receives the negative determination to respond. If the CCC has not responded within that time period, then the CCC’s concurrence can be presumed. However, if requested, the Department must grant the CCC one extension period of not more than 15 days.

A federal consistency determination includes a statement indicating that the proposed action will be undertaken in a manner that is consistent to the maximum extent practicable with the CCMP, meaning that the project must be fully consistent with the CCMP unless an existing law prohibits compliance. The consistency determination must evaluate the project relative to the enforceable policies of the CCMP (see Background above). It must also include a detailed project description, including any associated activities, and an assessment of the potential effects to coastal resources. The assessment must be based on comprehensive data. The comprehensive data requirement can be fulfilled by use of the technical reports developed during the environmental document process. Technical reports used to support the determination often include water quality reports, visual assessments, community impact assessments, natural environment studies and geotechnical reports. If the project does not fully comply with the CCMP, then the determination must also describe the legal authority that prevents full compliance. The CCC’s federal consistency webpage contains several sample determinations.

Once the consistency determination is submitted to the CCC, the CCC can either 1) concur with the determination, 2) conditionally concur (approve on the basis that project will be modified and conditions will be met), or 3) object. The CCC has 60 days from the day it receives the consistency determination and supporting documentation to respond. If the CCC has not responded within that time period, then the CCC’s concurrence can be presumed. However, if requested, the Department must grant one extension period of not more than 15 days. If the CCC does object to the consistency determination, then the CCC must state the reasons for that finding and describe alternative measures, if available, that would make the project consistent with the CCMP. If the alternative measures presented by the CCC are deemed unacceptable, then the CCC and the Department must attempt to resolve the dispute during the remaining days of the 90-day notification period. At the end of the 90-day period, if resolution has not been reached, then CCC or the Department can request mediation by the Secretary of Commerce or NOAA OCRM.

For projects in the Bay Area, BCDC is the agency responsible for making federal consistency determinations. BCDC developed the San Francisco Bay Plan in 1969 in response to the mandate of the McAteer-Petris Act. BCDC’s federal consistency review works in the same manner discussed above for the CCC.

More specific guidance on federal consistency is available on the CCC’s website.

What is the Permit Streamlining Act and how does it apply to coastal approvals?

The Permit Streamlining Act includes time limit provisions for taking action on a permit application after the environmental determination is made. This Act has provisions for the duration of the complete application determination as well as how long the agency has to act upon the permit upon receipt of a project application, an agency (CCC, BCDC, or local jurisdiction) has 30 calendar days to notify the applicant, in writing, of whether or not the project application is complete enough for processing. When rejected as incomplete, the agency must identify where deficiencies exist and how they can be remedied. The resubmittal of the application begins a new 30-day review period. If the agency fails to notify the applicant of completeness within either of the 30-day periods, the application is deemed to be complete. An application can only be deemed approved as a result of failure to act if the requirements for public notice and review have been satisfied (§65965). Two options are available to an applicant to ensure that these requirements are met (§65956(a) and §65956(b)): (a) the applicant may file an action pursuant to Section 1085 of the Code of Civil Procedure (civil mandamus) to force the agency to provide notice or hold a hearing, or both; (b) if the applicant has provided seven days advance notice to the permitting agency of intent to provide public notice, an applicant may provide public notice using the distribution information provided pursuant to §65941.5 no earlier than 60 days from the expiration of the time limits. The notice must include the required contents as provided for by §65956(b) and a statement that the project will be deemed approved if the permitting agency has not acted within 60 days. Notice by the applicant extends the time limit for action by the permitting agency to 60 days after the public notice is sent out.


Regional Transportation Plan

The Department encourages the MPO/RTPAs to include the following information, as appropriate, in the environmental document for the Regional Transportation Plan:

  • Coastal zone designation, if applicable, within study area or corridor
  • Any known potential impacts to and mitigation measures for environmental resources within the coastal zone

Project Initiation Document

The following information should be included in the Preliminary Environmental Analysis Report (PEAR) prepared as part of the Project Initiation Document (PID):

  • Coastal zone designation, if applicable, within study area or corridor.
  • Any known potential impacts to and mitigation measures for environmental resources within the coastal zone.
  • Preliminary determination of whether a coastal development permit or determination will be needed and if so, from what agency.

For projects off the State Highway System, complete the Preliminary Environmental Study (PES) form. See Instructions for completing the PES form.

It is also important to verify all information from the RTP stage.

Draft Project Report

This information should be presented in the Draft Environmental Document or used as supporting documentation for a Categorical Exemption, as appropriate.

Verify all information from the RTP and PID stages (see above) and:

Description of the affected portion of the Coastal Zone Management Program;

Potential impacts of the proposed project;

Coastal Zone Management Program requirements for development that pertain to the project;

Evidence of coordination with the managing agencies.

Project Report

This information should be presented in the Final Environmental Document.

Verify all information from the RTP, PID and Draft PR stages and:

State Coastal Management agency’s determination (preliminary) on the consistency of the project with the State Coastal Zone Management Program plan.


No construction activities are permitted in the Coastal Zone or BCDC jurisdiction during the design phase. However, surveying, mapping, or other data gathering activities may be undertaken with no permits. For soil boring activities, or other activities requiring soil disturbance, the appropriate Coastal Zone permitting agency having jurisdiction over the project should be contacted for authorization.

Note: Changes in the project design following approval of the environmental document may require amendment(s) to the coastal permit application or if a permit has already been obtained, then an amendment to the permit itself.

The process for amendments largely follows the same process as permits. If the proposed amendment is deemed to be material by the CCC, then the amendment must go through the same notice, hearing and approval process discussed above. If the amendment is not material, then notice is given to all interested persons and is posted at the project site. If no written objections are received within 10 days, then the determination of is deemed conclusive and the amendment is approved.


Copies of all coastal permits or determinations must be included in Resident Engineer Pending File and then the Resident Engineer’s Book so that Construction is aware of all the conditions of the coastal approval(s). The district’s environmental construction liaison or environmental coordinator actively monitors the construction activities to make sure that the permit conditions are being implemented in the field.

Substantial deviations from permit requirements without prior authorization by the permitting agency may result in a stop work order, additional conditions/mitigation or permit revocation.

If the method of construction changes or a contract change order (CCO) is needed for a change in project design, then it may be necessary to obtain an amendment to the coastal permit or determination. The amendment must be approved before the CCO or other change is approved and implemented.

The process for amendments largely follows the same process as permits. If the proposed amendment is deemed to be material by the CCC, then the amendment must go through the same notice, hearing and approval process discussed above. If the amendment is not material, then notice is given to all interested persons and is posted at the project site. If no written objections are received within 10 days, then the determination of is deemed conclusive and the amendment is approved.


Generally, repair/maintenance activities that do not result in enlargement of the facility being repaired/maintained, or which do not involve a substantial risk of adverse environmental impact are excluded from a permit requirement. However, activities involving excavation or fill outside the highway prism, or enlargement of the facility, will require a permit. Please see discussion of Exemptions and waivers above.

If an emergency arises that meets the conditions listed below, application may be made for an emergency permit by telephone, by letter, or in person, indicating the nature, location, and cause of the emergency, the proposed project, and the probable consequences of failure to carry it out. The Executive Director grants a request for an emergency permit if there is a bona fide emergency and if:

  1. The proposed work is necessary to prevent loss or damage to life, health, property, or essential public services;
  2. Time does not allow the Commission to follow normal procedures; and,
  3. The proposed work is consistent with the requirements and the policies of the California Coastal Act of 1976.

If time allows, the Executive Director will give other agencies and interested members of the public an opportunity to review the proposed project. Upon determining that a proposed project meets the criteria above, the Executive Director immediately grants a permit. The emergency permit may be subject to reasonable terms and conditions, including an expiration date and the necessity for a regular permit application later.

Please see the Coastal Commission Emergency Permit Procedures flowchart for additional information.

To address the ongoing maintenance needs of public agencies, BCDC may issue a region wide maintenance permit. Work that qualifies for approval under an existing Commission region wide permit can be authorized in a very short period of time by the Commission’s Executive Director without Commission review or a public hearing.

The Commission may also issue administrative permits for minor projects with no significant impacts. As with region wide permits, work that qualifies for approval under administrative permits does not require Commission review or a public hearing. Please see discussion on region wide and administrative permits above.

BCDC has issued a ten-year maintenance permit for the Department's maintenance activities within the 100-foot shoreline band. Typical activities include clean-up of culverts, rip-rap placement to protect shoreline, repair and maintenance of dikes, repair/resurfacing of existing roads, bike paths, sidewalks as long as there is no increase in the pavement surface, replacement of existing traffic control/safety devices, etc.

The following activities are exempt from BCDC permit requirements:

  1. Emergency repairs necessary to maintain service
  2. Emergency projects to maintain, repair, or restore an existing highway subject to the following conditions:
    1. Project is not on a designated scenic highway
    2. Project must be within the existing right-of-way and cannot expand or widen the highway, and
    3. Project must be undertaken within one year of the damage

However, the project proponent or lead agency must notify the BCDC not later than the first working day following commencement of the emergency project.


(Last content update: 11/04/2014: JH)