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California Coastal Zone Consistency Certification (13-CA-c)

Congress passed the Coastal Zone Management Act of 1972 (CZMA), which created a partnership between federal and state agencies for the management of the nation’s coastal resources. The Act allows states to develop a coastal management program, which sets out the requirements for activities conducted on coastal lands. Once the management program is approved, a federal agency must conduct its activities in a manner consistent with the state’s program.

The California Coastal Management Program (CCMP) was certified by the federal government in 1977. The program designates the California Coastal Commission (CCC) as the state agency responsible for reviewing all consistency documents concerning coastal lands in California, except the San Francisco Bay (The San Francisco Bay Area is administered by the San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission). The goal of the CCC is to provide open communication and coordination with federal agencies and developers and to provide the public with an opportunity to participate in the process in order to minimize the impacts of coastal resources.

A consistency determination is required for federal activities and development projects. The federal agency conducting the federal activity or development project will prepare the consistency determination for the CCC to review. A consistency certification is also required for a project that will require the issuance of federal leases, permits, or licenses. For a project requiring a federal license or permit, the developer seeking the license or permit will apply to the CCC for consistency certification. The federal agency responsible for issuing the license or permit may not issue the license or permit to the developer until the developer has received the consistency certification. 15 CFR § 930


Coastal Zone Consistency Certification Process

13-CA-c.1 – Does the Project Require a Lease, Permit, or License from a Federal Agency?

A proposed project in a coastal area requiring a lease, permit, or license from a federal agency (i.e., a right-of-way, a development permit, etc.) will need to apply to the CCC for consistency certification. Normally, projects developed on federal land that will affect land or water uses in a coastal zone will require a federal license or permit. For a list of federal licenses and permits that may be subject to certification for consistency see CCC Federal License and Permit List. The permitting agency may not approve the permit or license until the developer obtains a consistency certification from the CCC.

15 CFR § 930.57

13-CA-c.2 to 13-CA-c.3 – Is the Project a Federal Agency Activity or a Development Project?

Any federal agency activity or federal development project, taking place within or outside of a coastal zone, that will affect the land or water uses of a California coastal zone, must meet the requirements of the federal consistency provisions of the CZMA. A federal agency activity is any function performed by or on behalf of a federal agency in exercise of its statutory responsibilities. This includes rulemaking, planning, physical alteration, and exclusion of uses. A federal development project includes any federal activity involving the planning, construction, modification, or removal of public works facilities or other structures, and the acquisition, utilization, or disposal of land or water resources. 15 CFR § 930.31(b)

If the proposed project is considered a federal agency activity or a federal agency development project, the proposed project will either need a negative determination or a consistency determination approved by the CCC.

16 U.S.C. § 1456(c)

13-CA-c.4 – Is a Consistency Determination Needed for the Project?

A consistency determination is required when a federal agency undertakes a federal agency activity or a federal development project and the proposed project will affect the land or water uses in a California coastal zone. If a federal agency determines that the proposed project will have no effect on coastal uses or resources, a full consistency determination may not be required. The agency may prepare a negative determination when the agency determines that the project will affect any coastal lands.

15 CFR § 930.35

13-CA-c.5 – Negative Determination

The agency undertaking the federal activity or federal development project must prepare a negative determination if the project will not affect the coastal zone. A negative determination is a brief description of the proposed project, which states the agency’s reasoning for determining that the project will have no effect on coastal lands. The level of detail contained in the agency’s negative determination may vary based on the scope of the proposed project. The negative determination must include enough information for the CCC to evaluate whether effects to California coastal lands are reasonably foreseeable.

15 CFR §930.35

13-CA-c.6 to 13-CA-c.7 – Does the CCC Approve the Negative Determination?

If the CCC approves the federal agency’s negative determination, the proposed project will satisfy the federal consistency requirements and the developer may continue with the project as planned. A federal agency submitting a negative determination may assume that the CCC has approved the negative determination if the CCC does not respond to the agency within 60 days after receiving the prepared documents. If the CCC objects to the negative determination because the CCC determines the proposed project will have an effect on California coastal lands, the proposed project will be subject to a full consistency determination.

15 CFR § 930.35

13-CA-c.8 – Consistency Determination

The federal agency engaged in a federal activity or a federal development project must submit a federal consistency determination to the CCC if the proposed project will foreseeably affect California coastal lands. A consistency determination must include a statement that the proposed project will comply with the CCMP to the fullest extent possible. The statement must be based on an evaluation of the enforceable policies of the CCMP, found in Chapter 3. In addition, the consistency determination must include a detailed description of the activity, its associated facilities, the coastal effects of the activity, and data and information supporting the agency’s determination.

15 CFR § 930.39

13-CA-c.9 to 13-CA-c.10 – Review Application Materials for Completeness

The CCC will review the agency’s consistency determination to ensure that all the necessary information is included in order for the CCC to make an informed evaluation of the proposed project. If the consistency determination is missing necessary information, or is incomplete in any way, the CCC must inform the agency of any missing data or information.

15 CFR § 930.39

13-CA-c.11 to 13-CA-c.12 – Has the CCC Responded to the Agency Within 60 Days?

Once the CCC has determined that the agency has submitted a completed consistency determination, a 60-day review period will commence. If the CCC does not respond to the agency within 60 days, the agency may assume that the CCC has approved the consistency determination. The CCC may request a 15 day extension from the agency that will be automatically granted, or the CCC and the agency may mutually agree to and extension of longer than 15 days. If the CCC does not respond or no extension has been agreed to, the agency may continue with the project as planned.

The CCC may issue a conditional concurrence by attaching terms and conditions to the consistency concurrence. If the agency does not abide by the attached terms and conditions, the conditional concurrence is treated as an objection by the CCC. 15 CFR § 930.4.

13-CA-c.13 – Staff Report and Recommendation for Commission Action

Once the CCC has reviewed a completed consistency determination, the CCC will develop a staff report and recommendation for commission action at the earliest practicable time. The report is the CCC’s initial determination of whether the proposed project will comply with the requirements of the CCMP.

15 CFR § 930.58

13-CA-c.14 – Provide Public Notice

After the CCC has prepared its staff report, the report will be published to provide public notice. Public notice will be provided for the areas of the coastal zone that will likely be affected by the proposed activity. The report will include the CCC’s determination, its reasons for making its decision, and alert the public of upcoming public hearings. The public will have an opportunity to review the report prior to the public hearings. Notice may be listed by the CCC in a local state gazette, a local newspaper serving the areas of the coastal zone likely to be affected, individual state mailings, a management program newsletter, or electronic notice.

15 CFR § 930.61

13-CA-b.15 – Hold Public Hearings

After the public has had an opportunity to review the CCC’s staff report, the CCC will hold public hearings. The public hearings are open to any interested party and provide the opportunity for individuals to express any concerns for the project or raise any issues that have not been addressed in the staff report.

13-CA-c.16 to 13-CA-c.18 – Final Decision

After review period and public notice, the CCC will prepare a final decision stating whether the proposed project meets the requirements of federal consistency. If the CCC approves the consistency determination without objections or modifications, the CCC will notify the agency that the proposed project has been deemed to be consistent with the CCMP. If the CCC notifies the agency of its approval, the developer may continue with the project as planned. If the CCC objects to the agency’s consistency determination, the CCC must describe the reasons for the objection and notify the agency that the consistency determination has not been approved. 15 CFR § 930.43

13-CA-c.19 to 13-CA-c.20 – Does Either Party Seek Mediation by ORCM of Secretary of Commerce?

After objection to a consistency determination, either party may seek mediation by the [National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration] (NOAA) Office of Coastal and Resource Management (OCRM) or the Secretary of Commerce to resolve conflicts. 15 CFR § 930.43 and 930.44.

13-CA-c.21 to 13-CA-c.22 – Consistent to Maximum Extent Practicable Description (sent to CCC)

Notwithstanding the state’s objection, a federal agency may proceed with the activity if the federal agency describes in writing to the state agency how the activity is consistent to the maximum extent practicable. 15 CFR § 930.43 and 930.44.

13-CA-c.23 – Consistency Certification

In order to comply with federal consistency requirements in 16 U.S.C. § 1456(c)(3), a developer applying for a federal permit or license for a proposed project that will affect California coastal lands must apply for consistency certification through the CCC. A consistency certification must include a description of the proposed activity and a statement by the developer that the project will comply with the CCMP. The developer must submit the certification with the necessary data and information to enable the CCC to adequately review the project and make a determination of whether the project meets the federal consistency requirements of the Chapter 3.

15 CFR § 930.57

13-CA-c.24 to 13-CA-c.25– Review Application Materials for Completeness

The CCC will review the developer’s application in order to ensure that all the necessary information has been submitted. If the application is not complete, the CCC will inform the developer of the necessary information needed. The CCC review process will not begin until the application is complete.

15 CFR § 930.60

13-CA-c.26 – Initiate Commission Review

Once the CCC has received a completed application, the review process is initiated. The review process may last as long as 6 months before the CCC is required to issue a final decision.

15 CFR § 930.60

13-CA-c.27 – Has the CCC Responded to the Developer Within 6 Months?

If the CCC has not responded to the developer within six months of receiving a completed application, the developer may assume that the CCC has approved the certification. If the CCC has not issued a decision within three months of receiving a completed application, the CCC must notify the developer and the agency issuing the license or permit of the status of the application. If the six-month time period has passed and the developer has not received a final decision from the CCC, the developer may continue with the proposed project as planned.

15 CFR § 930.60

13-CA-c.28 – Staff Report and Recommendation for Commission Action

Once the CCC has reviewed a completed application for consistency certification, the CCC will develop a staff report and recommendation for commission action at the earliest practicable time. The report is the CCC’s initial determination of whether the proposed project will comply with the requirements of the CCMP.

15 CFR § 930.58

13-CA-c.29 – Provide Public Notice

After the CCC has prepared its staff report, the report will be published to provide public notice. Public notice will be provided for the areas of the coastal zone that will likely be affected by the proposed activity. The report will include the CCC’s determination, its reasons for making its decision, and alert the public of upcoming public hearings. The public will have an opportunity to review the report prior to the public hearings. Notice may be listed by the CCC in a local state gazette, a local newspaper serving the areas of the coastal zone likely to be affected, individual state mailings, a management program newsletter, or electronic notice.

15 CFR § 930.61

13-CA-b.30 – Hold Public Hearings

After the public has had an opportunity to review the CCC’s staff report, the CCC will hold public hearings. The public hearings are open to any interested party and provide the opportunity for individuals to express any concerns for the project or raise any issues that have not been addressed in the staff report.

15 CFR § 930.61

13-CA-c.31 to 13-CA-c.34 – Final Decision

Once the CCC has reviewed the comments provided at the public hearings, the CCC will issue a final decision concerning the consistency certification. If the CCC approves the consistency certification without objections or modifications, the CCC will notify the developer and the agency issuing the license or permit that the proposed project has been deemed to be consistent with the CCMP. If the CCC notifies the developer of its approval, the agency may issue the license or permit and the developer may continue with the project as planned. If the CCC objects to the developer’s consistency certification, the CCC must describe the reasons for the objection and notify the agency and developer that the consistency determination has not been approved. The objection and appeals process is described below, starting in 13-CA-b.28.

15 CFR § 930.61

13-CA-c.35 to 13-CA-c.37 – Are there Alternative Measures that Would Allow the CCC Approve?

If the CCC objects to the proposed project because it is inconsistent with the CCMP, the CCC may describe alternative measures that would allow the CCC to approve the project as consistent with the CCMP. If the agency or the developer agrees to implement the alternative measures, the project will receive federal consistency certification.

15 CFR § 930.63

13-CA-c.38 to 13-CA-c.41– Is the CCC’s Decision Appealed?

If, the CCC objects to the proposed project, the CCC must inform the agency or the developer of their right to appeal the decision to the Secretary of Commerce. The agency or the developer may appeal the decision within 30 days of receiving notice of the objection. If no appeal is filed with the Secretary, the CCC’s decision will be final and the proposed project may not continue as planned. If the CCC’s decision is appealed to the Secretary, the Secretary may overturn the CCC’s objection if the proposed project is consistent with the objectives or purposes of the CZMA or if the project is necessary in the interest of national security. If the Secretary approves the proposed project, the project may continue as planned.

15 CFR § 930.64




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