Agency or authority
What this CEQA compliance pathway covers
The CEQA Statutory Exemption for Restoration Projects (SERP) provides a statutory exemption from CEQA for fish and wildlife restoration projects that meet certain requirements. SERP is a historical milestone that, consistent with CDFW’s trustee mandate, will play a significant role in California’s effort to increase the pace and scale of restoration projects benefitting fish and wildlife across the State.
CDFW’s Cutting the Green Tape (CGT) Program is responsible for coordinating with lead agencies seeking SERP concurrence.
For restoration projects that do not qualify for the SERP, consider using the CEQA Programmatic EIR for the Water Board Statewide Restoration General Order (SRGO PEIR). For projects 5 acres or less in size, consider using CEQA Categorical Exemption 15333.
Required lead agency determinations and CDFW concurrence
Details of Public Resources Code section 21080.56.
(a) In order to qualify for this statutory exemption, a project must exclusively be one of the following:
(1) A project to conserve, restore, protect, or enhance, and assist in the recovery of California native fish and wildlife, and the habitat upon which they depend.
(2) A project to restore or provide habitat for California native fish and wildlife.
(b) An eligible project may have incidental public benefits, such as public access and recreation.
(c) To qualify for this exemption a project must do both of the following:
(1) Result in long-term net benefits to climate resiliency, biodiversity, and sensitive species recovery.
(2) Include procedures and ongoing management for the protection of the environment.
(d) This section does not apply to a project that includes construction activities, except for construction activities solely related to habitat restoration.
(e) The lead agency shall obtain the concurrence of the Director of Fish and Wildlife for the determinations required pursuant to subdivisions (a) to (d), inclusive. The director shall document the director’s concurrence using substantial evidence and best available science.
[This section shall remain in effect only until January 1, 2025, and as of that date is repealed.]
Lead agency and CDFW responsibilities
Both the CEQA Lead Agency and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) have specific roles under SERP.
Lead agency responsibilities
- For a project to qualify, the CEQA lead agency must first make its own independent determination that the statutory exemption applies, pursuant to subdivisions (a) and (d) above.
- Once the CEQA lead agency has done so, it must then seek concurrence from the CDFW Director that the project meets the qualifying criteria set forth in subdivisions (a) to (d), inclusive, of Public Resources Code section 21080.56.
- File a Notice of Exemption with the Office of Planning and Research (OPR) within 48 hours
- Upon request, review the lead agency’s determinations
- Provide the CDFW Director’s written concurrence with the Lead Agency’s determinations, based on substantial evidence and best available science
- Post the CDFW Director’s concurrence on CDFW’s website
CDFW has a goal of completing steps 1-3 in less than 60 days, though Public Resources Code section 21080.56 does not impose a mandatory timeline.
January 1, 2025
How to apply
To request a SERP consultation, send an email to:
The SERP process (PDF) is a collaborative approach that offers the opportunity for lead agency consultation with Cutting the Green Tape (CGT) staff, access to templates and other resources, online SERP request submittal, and CGT Program oversight. In most instances, CDFW will be able to complete SERP concurrences within 60 days of receiving lead agency requests.
1. Lead agency requests SERP consultation by sending an email to:
2. Lead agency submits concurrence request to the Environmental Permit Information Management System (EPIMS) Document Repository
3. Concurrence request review is assigned to CGT regional staff for review
4. CGT regional staff works with lead agency and CGT program staff as necessary during review
5. CGT regional staff prepares draft concurrence or nonconcurrence (lead agency may withdraw request if a nonconcurrence is anticipated)
6. Draft concurrence is transmitted to CDFW Director for review and signature
7. CGT staff transmits signed concurrence to lead agency
8. CDFW posts concurrence on its CEQA Notices and Documents webpage
May be used with:
- Water Board Statewide Restoration General Order (SRGO)
- USFWS Statewide Restoration Programmatic Biological Opinion (PBO)
- CDFW Restoration Management Permit (RMP)
- North Coast NMFS Programmatic Biological Opinion (PBO)
- Central Coast NMFS Programmatic Biological Opinion (PBO)
- Central Valley NMFS Programmatic Biological Opinion (PBO)
- South Coast NMFS Programmatic Biological Opinion (PBO)
- USACE Nationwide Permit 27 – Aquatic Habitat Restoration
See the full list of projects on the SERP Concurrences page.