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The Division of Environmental Analysis (DEA) administers Caltrans' responsibilities under federal and state environmental law. The Program develops and maintains Caltrans environmental standards, policies, procedures, and practices that are implemented by the Department's 12 District Environmental Branches. Program staff work with the districts to identify and assess the effects of Caltrans projects on the state's natural and cultural environments, and identify ways to avoid or mitigate those effects.
DEA acts as the Department compliance lead and assists the Districts and our transportation partners in:
DEA is headquartered in Sacramento, though each of the twelve district offices, located throughout the state. The Program, administratively under the Deputy Director for Project Delivery, is headed by a Program Chief who also serves as the Agency Preservation Officer. DEA has a highly-trained, professional staff of planners, engineers and environmental specialists who work with the District Environmental Branches to help their staff and project managers with the environmental project process.
Assistant Division Chief
Assistant Division Chief
This month I asked Jeremy Ketchum, Assistant Division Chief of the Division of Environmental Analysis, to author the following message.
Happy New Year to everyone!
This past summer I was privileged to attend the AASHTO convention in Des Moines, Iowa. At the convention it was apparent that many of the challenges in California are felt by environmental staff throughout the country. All states are challenged to find new ways to expedite delivery, while continuing to uphold the laws passed to protect the environment. I also left the convention with a great deal of pride for all the accomplishments of our Environmental Program in a state as complex and diverse as California. California has a large program with many of our Districts larger in population and/or land area than other states. Many other states are either implementing or contemplating innovative efforts that are already well entrenched in how we do business in the California Environmental Program. Our tools, such as the Standard Environmental Reference, are used by environmental practitioners across the nation. From NEPA Assignment to our partnering with resource agencies to our data tracking and usage of Geographic Information Systems, California is a leader. This is a tribute to the fine professionals that we have throughout our state.
The volume of workload processed by our state is tremendous. Since the inception of our NEPA Assignment program, a little over 10 years ago, there have been over 11,000 Categorical Exclusions processed and over 200 environmental documents. This means safer facilities, less potholes, smoother roads, less flooding, and, in some cases, more fish spawning, to name just a few of the benefits of these projects.
Our NEPA Assignment and our Section 106 Programmatic Agreement are now both over a decade old. Many of our practitioners have not worked in an environment without those efficiencies in place. We did have a small taste of a world without NEPA Assignment when a lapse occurred in early 2017 due to the expiration of our waiver of sovereign immunity. I was heartened to see project delivery teams throughout the state expediting NEPA reviews in order to reach completion before the lapse took place. Staff also prepared documentation so that as soon as the lapse was lifted, NEPA documents could be completed. Despite these efforts some delays did occur, which underscores the importance of maintaining these agreements. Our headquarters staff is already looking toward the next Memorandum of Understanding with Federal Highway Administration to further extend NEPA Assignment, while simultaneously requesting that legislation be introduced to extend the waiver of sovereign immunity.
In his last message, our Division Chief Phil Stolarski shared that we have embarked upon developing a Strategic Direction for the Environmental Program. I hope that many of you reading this message had the opportunity to provide input on that Direction which will help guide our efforts in the upcoming years. For this fiscal year, Headquarters Environmental is working on key initiatives that go beyond the routine tasks performed by our staff. A few examples of the elements in the plan include the development of the Advance Mitigation program, Lean 6 Sigma for 1600 Agreements, and collaboration related to Assembly Bill 1282 (AB 1282) from 2017. The effort to allow Advance Mitigation is expansive, involving the development of guidelines to allow the Districts to develop and utilize mitigation credits. The Lean 6 Sigma effort on 1600 Agreements is aimed at improving the acceptance rate on our 1600 Agreements with California Department of Fish and Wildlife (preliminary results have shown a substantial improvement thus far). AB 1282 establishes a task force to develop a process for early engagement for all parties in the development of transportation projects, establish reasonable deadlines for permit approvals, and provide for greater certainty of permit approval requirements. This is only a small sample of all the valuable work being conducted by our Headquarters environmental staff.
In parting, I want to express my thanks to our statewide Environmental team, internal and external partners for all their efforts. Our past record of leadership, innovation, and collaboration makes me confident that we will meet the challenges on our path ahead.
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