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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.