CSAC Bulletin Article

Administration’s Proposed California Endangered Species Act Fee

May 5, 2016

The Governor’s Budget proposes several changes to address shortfalls in the Environmental License Plate Fund (ELPF). One of the Administration’s proposals to address this shortfall is establishing a new fee to cover costs associated with processing California Endangered Species Act (CESA) incidental take permits. These permits are required for projects that might result in the “take” of an endangered or threatened species, and are processed by the Department of Fish and Wildlife (DFW).

According to DFW, the fee would offset “some” of their costs for processing these permits. The Budget Trailer Bill vehicle for this proposal may be viewed here: CESA_Fee_Language.

The fee proposed is on sliding scale related to cost of the project and is proposed at $7,500 for projects of less than $100k and $30,000 for projects over $500k. Additional fees of $10,000 can be required if needed and permit modifications can be up to $15,000. The fees could be imposed on a wide range of county projects including flood control, road and bridge work and water management activities.

The fee proposal was approved by the Assembly Budget Subcommittee No. 3 on Resources and Transportation on Wednesday, April 27. The Senate Budget Subcommittee No. 2 on Resources, Environmental Protection, Energy & Transportation approved the trailer bill language on Thursday, May 5, with the following fee exceptions: (1) the project purpose is voluntary habitat restoration and the project is not required as mitigation; and, (2) the project is not part of a regulatory permit for non-habitat restoration or enhancement construction activity, a regulatory settlement, a regulatory enforcement action, or a court order. These recommended amendments to the trailer bill language are intended to conform to action by the Assembly Budget Subcommittee No. 3.

CSAC has expressed opposition to the proposed CESA fee. We believe that the fees are excessive and could result in counties having to defer important public projects due to cost issues. Of particular concern is the impact on local projects that provide flood protection for people and property. While both Budget Subcommittees have approved the proposal there is still time to obtain amendments and/or influence its passage. We will continue to keep counties apprised of its status.

On a related note DFW recently issued a Notice of a Proposed Rulemaking that includes an increase to their existing fee schedule for Lake and Streambed Alteration Agreements. According to their announcement all fees in the existing fee schedule would increase by 129%. The proposed rulemaking would also establish for the first time an additional fee for marijuana cultivation sites that require remediation. CSAC staff would welcome comments from counties regarding the proposed rulemaking.

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