Report 2018-119 All Recommendation Responses

Report 2018-119: California Department of Fish and Wildlife: It Is Not Fulfilling Its Responsibilities Under the California Environmental Quality Act (Release Date: June 2019)

Recommendation #1 To: Fish and Wildlife, Department of

To ensure that it consistently prioritizes and reviews projects with potentially significant impacts on the environment, the department should establish a departmentwide policy for prioritizing CEQA documents for review and comment by December 2019 and require regional offices to adopt region-specific procedures by March 2020.

6-Month Agency Response

The Department has established an internal policy for prioritizing California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) review and comment in accordance with the requirements set forth in Title 14, California Code of Regulations (CEQA Guidelines). Additionally, the Department will be holding two training opportunities to review the policy and answer questions from staff. (Documents submitted to Auditor)

  • Completion Date: December 2019
  • Response Date: December 2019

California State Auditor's Assessment of 6-Month Status: Fully Implemented

The Department provided its new department-wide policy. Although the Department did not require the regional offices to adopt region-specific procedures, it requires the regional offices to follow the department-wide procedures until the regional office develops supplemental policies and obtains approval from the Department. In our judgement, this is sufficient to address our recommendation.


60-Day Agency Response

The Department has begun drafting a Departmentwide Policy for prioritizing CEQA document review and comment and the procedures that outline the Departmentwide expectations for CEQA review and comment. Once finalized, the Department intends to begin development of region-specific policies and procedures, as appropriate. The Department has not yet determined whether the new policies and procedures, once final in substance, will need to be promulgated as regulations consistent with the Administrative Procedure Act. Additionally, the Department has begun an evaluation of the current CEQA training opportunities with the intent of formalizing a standard approach to initial and ongoing CEQA training for Department personnel.

  • Estimated Completion Date: December 2019/March 2020
  • Response Date: August 2019

California State Auditor's Assessment of 60-Day Status: Pending


Recommendation #2 To: Fish and Wildlife, Department of

To ensure that it consistently prioritizes and reviews projects with potentially significant impacts on the environment, the department should develop policies and procedures outlining departmentwide expectations for CEQA review and comment by December 2019 and require regional offices to develop region-specific policies and procedures for CEQA review by March 2020.

6-Month Agency Response

The Department has established an internal policy and procedures outlining departmentwide expectations for staff participation in lead agency environmental review efforts conducted by other state and local agencies under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). These expectations apply to the review of CEQA documents prioritized for review in accordance with the Department Policy for Prioritizing CEQA Documents for Review and Comment - December 2019. Additionally, the Department will be holding two training opportunities to review the policy and answer questions from staff. (Documents submitted to Auditor)

  • Completion Date: December 2019
  • Response Date: December 2019

California State Auditor's Assessment of 6-Month Status: Fully Implemented

The Department provided its new department-wide policy. Although the Department did not require the regional offices to adopt region-specific procedures, it requires the regional offices to follow the department-wide procedures until the regional office develops supplemental policies and obtains approval from the Department. In our judgement, this is sufficient to address our recommendation.


60-Day Agency Response

The Department has begun drafting a Departmentwide Policy for prioritizing CEQA document review and comment and the procedures that outline the Departmentwide expectations for CEQA review and comment. Once finalized, the Department intends to begin development of region-specific policies and procedures, as appropriate. The Department has not yet determined whether the new policies and procedures, once final in substance, will need to be promulgated as regulations consistent with the Administrative Procedure Act. Additionally, the Department has begun an evaluation of the current CEQA training opportunities with the intent of formalizing a standard approach to initial and ongoing CEQA training for Department personnel.

  • Estimated Completion Date: December 2019/March 2020
  • Response Date: August 2019

California State Auditor's Assessment of 60-Day Status: Pending


Recommendation #3 To: Fish and Wildlife, Department of

To ensure that it consistently prioritizes and reviews projects with potentially significant impacts on the environment, the department should develop ongoing training for environmental scientists that covers subjects including the complexities and technical aspects of CEQA review by June 2020.

1-Year Agency Response

The Department has finalized internal Departmentwide Policies for prioritizing CEQA document review and comment and for identifying the Departmentwide expectations for CEQA review and comment. The Department held two training opportunities to review the policy and answer questions from staff, one in January 2020 and one in February 2020. Additionally, the Department has implemented a CEQA Training Policy that formalizes ongoing training requirements for staff working on CEQA relate activities and has made all of the CEQA training materials available to our staff through the Department's CEQA intranet website.

  • Completion Date: June 2020
  • Response Date: June 2020

California State Auditor's Assessment of 1-Year Status: Fully Implemented

The department developed a CEQA training policy that includes a requirement for ongoing training.


6-Month Agency Response

The Department has finalized internal departmentwide policies for prioritizing CEQA document review and comment and for identifying the departmentwide expectations for CEQA review and comment. The Department will be holding two training opportunities to review the policy and answer questions from staff, one in January 2020 and one in February 2020. Additionally, the Department has begun an evaluation of the current CEQA training opportunities with the intent of formalizing a standard approach to initial and ongoing CEQA training for Department personnel.

  • Estimated Completion Date: June 2020
  • Response Date: December 2019

California State Auditor's Assessment of 6-Month Status: Pending


60-Day Agency Response

The Department has begun drafting a Departmentwide Policy for prioritizing CEQA document review and comment and the procedures that outline the Departmentwide expectations for CEQA review and comment. Once finalized, the Department intends to begin development of region-specific policies and procedures, as appropriate. The Department has not yet determined whether the new policies and procedures, once final in substance, will need to be promulgated as regulations consistent with the Administrative Procedure Act. Additionally, the Department has begun an evaluation of the current CEQA training opportunities with the intent of formalizing a standard approach to initial and ongoing CEQA training for Department personnel.

  • Estimated Completion Date: June 2020
  • Response Date: August 2019

California State Auditor's Assessment of 60-Day Status: Pending


Recommendation #4 To: Fish and Wildlife, Department of

To ensure that it consistently prioritizes and reviews projects with potentially significant impacts on the environment, the department should incorporate the policies
and procedures into regulations in full compliance with the Administrative Procedure Act, should it determine that the new policies and procedures create rules of general application.

6-Month Agency Response

The Department has finalized internal departmentwide policies for prioritizing CEQA document review and comment and for identifying the departmentwide expectations for CEQA review and comment. The Department has determined at this time it need not promulgate the polices as regulation.

  • Completion Date: December 2019
  • Response Date: December 2019

California State Auditor's Assessment of 6-Month Status: Resolved

The Department has determined that at this time it does not need to incorporate the policies and procedures into regulations. Therefore, this recommendation is resolved.


60-Day Agency Response

The Department has begun drafting a Departmentwide Policy for prioritizing CEQA document review and comment and the procedures that outline the Departmentwide expectations for CEQA review and comment. Once finalized, the Department intends to begin development of region-specific policies and procedures, as appropriate. The Department has not yet determined whether the new policies and procedures, once final in substance, will need to be promulgated as regulations consistent with the Administrative Procedure Act. Additionally, the Department has begun an evaluation of the current CEQA training opportunities with the intent of formalizing a standard approach to initial and ongoing CEQA training for Department personnel.

  • Estimated Completion Date: As appropriate
  • Response Date: August 2019

California State Auditor's Assessment of 60-Day Status: Pending


Recommendation #5 To: Fish and Wildlife, Department of

To ensure regional staff enter data into the project tracking database accurately and consistently, the department should, by December 2019, develop, implement, and provide training on departmentwide written policies and procedures that outline the requirements and process for entering data related to CEQA review into the department's project tracking database.

6-Month Agency Response

The Department has finalized a job-aid for staff entering data into our project tracking database, which are now posted to our Department's HCPB CEQA intranet page. Overview of these materials will be discussed at the January 2020 HCPB Manager's meeting with training ongoing and available as needed. As discussed with the auditors, the current project tracking database is antiquated and set to be replaced with an updated version of our current Environmental Permitting and Information Management System (EPIMS) utilizing FY 19-20 funding. Current transition for all CEQA related tracking activities to move to the updated EPIMS system is anticipated for Fall of 2020. (Documents submitted to Auditor)

  • Completion Date: December 2019
  • Response Date: December 2019

California State Auditor's Assessment of 6-Month Status: Fully Implemented

The Department has developed a departmentwide procedure that outlines the requirements and process for entering data related to CEQA review into the department's project tracking database. The department has also implemented this procedure, provided training to staff, and posted the guidance on its intranet page.


60-Day Agency Response

The Department has begun to develop job-aids for staff entering data into our project tracking database, which includes the use of staff to provide "help desk" support. Additionally, we are working to develop a training schedule that incorporates immediate future needs as well as a path for continuing education. As discussed with the auditors, the current project tracking database is antiquated and set to be replaced with an updated version of our current Environmental Permitting and Information Management System (EPIMS) utilizing FY 19-20 funding. As logistics continue for this project, the Department will finalize a development schedule with anticipated roll-out timelines and associated trainings.

  • Estimated Completion Date: December 2019
  • Response Date: August 2019

California State Auditor's Assessment of 60-Day Status: Pending


Recommendation #6 To: Fish and Wildlife, Department of

To ensure that it complies with state law requiring it to use CEQA fees only for CEQA activities, the department should immediately begin tracking and monitoring CEQA revenues and expenditures separately from other program activities within the nondedicated account in the Fish and Game Preservation Fund.

6-Month Agency Response

The Department has the financial structure to track these funds separately in place and begun doing so on July 1, 2019. Additionally, we are working with the Department of Finance to establish a separate fund specifically for CEQA.

  • Completion Date: July 2019
  • Response Date: December 2019

California State Auditor's Assessment of 6-Month Status: Fully Implemented

The Department has provided documentation to demonstrate that the Department of Finance has established a separate fund for CEQA. We now consider this recommendation fully implemented.


60-Day Agency Response

The Department has the financial structure to track these funds separately in place and begun doing so on July 1, 2019. Additionally, we are working with the Department of Finance to establish a separate fund specifically for CEQA.

  • Completion Date: July 2019
  • Response Date: August 2019

California State Auditor's Assessment of 60-Day Status: Partially Implemented

Although the department has put the infrastructure in place to address the recommendation, it cannot yet produce reports from its financial system demonstrating that the tracking is working. When it can do so, we will consider this recommendation fully implemented.


Recommendation #7 To: Fish and Wildlife, Department of

To determine more accurately the resources that it needs to review all CEQA documents it receives, the department should implement a timekeeping mechanism by December 2019 that requires staff to track the hours they spend on CEQA-related activities.

6-Month Agency Response

The Department issued a memo finalizing the Departmentwide Policy for prioritizing CEQA document review and comment and a Policy identifying the Departmentwide expectations for CEQA review and comment. Additionally, that memo requires that staff immediately begin tracking hours spent on CEQA related activities using new service location codes in their monthly electronic timesheet reporting. (Documents submitted to Auditor)

  • Completion Date: December 2019
  • Response Date: January 2020

California State Auditor's Assessment of 6-Month Status: Fully Implemented

The Department provided a memo that indicates staff are expected to track time spent on CEQA-related activities and report this time in two specific categories. The memo also provides examples of the type of activities to be associated with these categories.


60-Day Agency Response

The Department has this capability within its existing time reporting system to track this and has taken the necessary steps to support implementation. Additional direction and instructions to employees on how to track hours spent on CEQA-related activities on their monthly electronic timesheets is currently in development. The Department has made progress toward this goal through recent training provided to all program staff during the Department's transition to FI$Cal. This training covered the correct application of fiscal coding, as well as procedures for tracking and monitoring of expenditures and staff time. The Department also implemented an electronic timekeeping system after the audit period that improves the accuracy of staff time reporting.

  • Estimated Completion Date: December 2019
  • Response Date: August 2019

California State Auditor's Assessment of 60-Day Status: Pending


Recommendation #8 To: Fish and Wildlife, Department of

To determine the costs for its CEQA review and set appropriate fees, the department should complete its five-year review of program costs and revenues and report the results to the Legislature by March 2020. To provide the Legislature with a more accurate estimate of the costs of CEQA activities, the department should prepare an update to this review no more than two years after it has modified its time-tracking procedures.

6-Month Agency Response

The Department has begun conducting an evaluation of program costs and revenues.

  • Estimated Completion Date: March 2020
  • Response Date: December 2019

California State Auditor's Assessment of 6-Month Status: Pending


60-Day Agency Response

The Department has begun conducting an evaluation of program costs and revenues.

  • Estimated Completion Date: March 2020
  • Response Date: August 2019

California State Auditor's Assessment of 60-Day Status: Pending


Recommendation #9 To: Fish and Wildlife, Department of

To ensure it receives all CEQA revenues to which it is entitled, the department should immediately begin collecting any unpaid fees it identifies in audits of counties.

60-Day Agency Response

The Department has begun evaluating any outstanding liabilities and working with the respective counties to ensure the debt is collected.

  • Completion Date: July 2019
  • Response Date: August 2019

California State Auditor's Assessment of 60-Day Status: Fully Implemented

The department has included in its audit program a step to initiate collections if there are unpaid liabilities. We consider this recommendation fully implemented; however, the department should ensure it consistently follows this new step in its audit program.


Recommendation #10 To: Fish and Wildlife, Department of

To reduce the risk of counties not collecting and remitting CEQA filing fees, the department should begin sharing any findings from internal audits with counties and reminding county officials of their responsibilities related to CEQA fees.

60-Day Agency Response

Beginning July 1, 2019 the Department will share internal audit findings and remind responsible parties of their responsibilities related to CEQA, as appropriate.

  • Completion Date: July 2019
  • Response Date: August 2019

California State Auditor's Assessment of 60-Day Status: Fully Implemented

The department has added a step to its audit program to share findings from its audits with other counties via the California State Association of Counties. We consider this recommendation fully implemented; however, the department should ensure it consistently follows this new step in its audit program.


Recommendation #11 To: Fish and Wildlife, Department of

To maximize the amount of time that environmental scientists have to review CEQA documents, the department should establish procedures for the electronic distribution of CEQA documents for review by December 2019. These procedures should include the utilization of the State Clearinghouse's electronic system when it becomes available.

6-Month Agency Response

The Department has finalized procedures for ensuring timely distribution and electronic sharing of CEQA documents, which are now posted to our Department's HCPB CEQA intranet page. Overview of these materials will be discussed at the January 2020 HCPB Manager's meeting with training ongoing and available as needed. (Documents submitted to Auditor)

  • Completion Date: December 2019
  • Response Date: December 2019

California State Auditor's Assessment of 6-Month Status: Fully Implemented

The Department provided its policy for CEQA notice distribution. This policy includes the utilization of the State Clearinghouse's electronic system.


60-Day Agency Response

The Department has begun an inventory of current practices and processes. Once completed, The Department intends to develop procedures for electronically distributing CEQA documents.

  • Estimated Completion Date: December 2019
  • Response Date: August 2019

California State Auditor's Assessment of 60-Day Status: Pending


All Recommendations in 2018-119

Agency responses received are posted verbatim.