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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
First of all, I would like to welcome Phil Stolarski back to the Division Chief role. Beginning in October 2018 with Phil taking on the role of Design Division Chief, I was given the opportunity to be the Acting Division Chief for Environmental. This change came with new responsibilities and an opportunity to see our Division from a new perspective.
The changes within our Division have also resulted in opportunities for Jody Brown to work in the role of Assistant Division Chief, Alex Neeb to work as our acting Cultural Studies Office Chief, and allowed David Price to step into Alex's role of Section 106 Coordinator. These are just a few of the changes within the Division of Environmental Analysis (DEA) over the last several months. We have had new hires come on board, several rotations, and many out-of-class assignments.
Despite the constant of change I have been pleased that our strong and capable team of professionals has continued to deliver direction, tools, training and advice to practitioners across the State. This should come as no surprise because we in Environmental are used to managing change. It is at the core of what we do. A physical change to the environment occurs and we evaluate that change from a range of disciplines. We apply best available science to baseline and future environments to inform decision makers, the general public, and other agencies on expected outcomes from transportation improvements. We help facilitate change by offering suggestions to mitigate the negative consequences.
Our ability to manage change will continue to be tested as the State embarks on an effort to infuse funds from SB 1 into its transportation infrastructure. Statewide, our Department has worked diligently to bring on and train additional staff to handle this increased workload and we continue to employ efficiencies to make it easier for our practitioners to meet the demand of the dynamic regulatory landscape in which we work. Ultimately our Division seeks to meet its mission of "Guiding People and Projects to Balance Environmental and Transportation Needs."
One recent statewide effort that DEA has been very involved in is the AB 1282 Permitting Task Force. The Task Force includes members from various transportation stakeholders and state resource agencies. The taskforce will develop a structured coordination process for early engagement of all parties in the development of transportation projects to reduce permit processing time, establish reasonable deadlines for permit approvals, and provide for greater certainty of permit approval requirements. This team will look to build off previous coordination efforts with the Coastal Commission, California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW), and the State Water Resources Control Board.
One such ongoing effort with the CDFW is our Lean 6 Sigma effort to improve the acceptance rate of permit applications. Various methods such as checklists, enhanced coordination, and training have been employed to great success. Prior to the Lean 6 effort our permit application acceptance rate was 49%. We are currently approaching 90% acceptance rate. This is a great accomplishment by Environmental staff statewide and our partners at CDFW.
Our efforts on the AB 1282 Permitting Task Force was one of the efficiencies that I was able to present at a recent meeting of the California Transportation Commission (CTC). Additionally, our ongoing efforts on NEPA Assignment were shared as was our work on our Advance Mitigation Program.
NEPA Assignment continues to be an effective program resulting in dollar and time-savings for transportation projects. Our leadership as the first state in the program has now been followed by 7 other states. While we have had our NEPA Assignment program for over a decade, we have just begun our Advance Mitigation Program. Last November, Caltrans released draft Advance Mitigation Program Guidelines for review and is currently working to finalize the Guidelines in consideration of input received. The Advance Mitigation Program is anticipated to result in accelerated project delivery, improved environmental outcomes, and enhanced communication with stakeholders.
These are just a few of the many efforts underway at DEA. Whether it is in response to recent regulatory changes such as the new CEQA Guidelines including the upcoming changes to transportation impact analysis or maintaining existing tools and guidance for our practitioners, DEA is committed to its values of Dedication, Expertise, Adaptability, Quality, Integrity, Collaboration (DEAQIC).
Assistant Division Chief
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