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California State Land Right-of-Way (3-CA-b)

Information current as of 2020
A developer will need to obtain a right-of-way lease from the California State Lands Commission (Commission) if any portion of the project, such as roads, power lines, or pipelines, will cross over or occupy certain state land under the jurisdiction of the Commission. Cal. Pub. Res. Code § 6224.3

The Commission has jurisdiction and management control over sovereign state land and California school lands (school lands). Sovereign state land consists of any land underlying the state’s navigable and tidal waterways. This includes the beds of California’s navigable rivers, lakes, and streams. The Commission also manages the state’s tide and submerged lands along the coastline and offshore islands from the mean high tide line to three nautical miles offshore. Approximately 4 million acres of sovereign state land is held by the Commission subject to the public trust which reserves the use and enjoyment of the land for statewide public purposes. When considering a lease dealing with sovereign state land the Commission must take into consideration a multiple use management policy that ensures the greatest possible public benefit is derived from the land. The Commission will also consider factors such as the size, location, intended use, and environmental impacts associated with the proposed project. The Commission can approve, condition, or deny any application based on its discretion or other issues raised during the application process. Cal. Pub. Res. Code § 6009

School lands are also managed and controlled by the Commission through its Land Management Division (LMD). California still maintains approximately 468,000 acres of school lands which were originally granted to the state by Congress in 1853 for the benefit of public education. The LMD is responsible for administering surface resources on school lands, with the exception of mineral activities. Power plant and transmission developers should note that over half of all school lands are located in the California Desert. Cal. Pub. Res. Code § 6501.1

The proposed project needing a right-of-way over land managed by the Commission must meet the requirements of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). The Commission may allow other governmental agencies to act as lead agency if the other agency has jurisdiction over some part of the project. For example, if part of the project falls on private property, the county will have jurisdiction and may act as CEQA lead. The Commission, if acting as lead agency, will not issue any lease if the project does not comply with CEQA regulations. Cal. Pub. Res. Code § 6502

State Land Right-of-Way Process

3-CA-b.1 to 3-CA-b.2 - Is the Land Under the Jurisdiction of the California State Lands Commission?; Contact the Relevant State or Local Agency with Jurisdiction

As stated above, the Commission has jurisdiction over sovereign state land or school lands. The application process outlined below only applies to projects on lands that fall under the jurisdiction of the Commission or on other state lands where leasing authority has been transferred to the Commission. If the project is on state land that is under the jurisdiction of another state or local agency, such as the California Department of General Services, Caltrans, the California Department of Fish & Wildlife, or a county, that agency should be contacted directly to determine if alternate leasing procedures apply.

3-CA-b.3 – Right-of-Way Application

A developer needing a right-of-way over state lands managed by the Commission must submit an application to the Commission. The application must include an outline of the proposed project, data supporting environmental compliance, and all applicable fees or deposits required by the Commission. The developer is encouraged to contact the Commission prior to filing an application for assistance determining specific information needed for a proposed project.

For specific application requirements see Application Guidelines

For a right-of-way lease application see Application Form

3-CA-b.4 to 3-CA-b.5 – Review Application for Completeness

The Commission will review the application to determine if it contains all the necessary information. To be deemed complete the application must include:

  • Information sufficient to allow the Commission to locate and describe the nature and extent of state-owned land that will be utilized in the project;
  • All deposits and fees required by the Commission;
  • Project specific information and environmental data sufficient for the Commission to determine the level and scope of environmental review required;
  • Information sufficient for the state to determine the fair rental price to be paid to the state for the use of the land; and
  • Information sufficient to allow the Commission to begin an analysis to determine if the application is: (a) consistent with Commission policies, practices and procedures; (b) conducive to public access; (c) consistent with environmental safeguards and policies of the State; and (d) otherwise in the best interests of the state.

If the application is not complete, the Commission will notify the developer of the information necessary to complete the application. If the developer does not send the requested information within a reasonable time, the Commission may close the application file and keep any fees or deposits that have been paid.

See Application Guidelines

3-CA-b.6 – Initiate California Environmental Process

Once the Commission determines that the application is complete, the proposed project must meet the applicable environmental review requirements. The developer will be responsible for any costs associated with conducting an environmental review.

State Environmental Review Process:

3-CA-b.7 to 3-CA-b.8 – Does the Commission Approve the Right-of-Way?

The Commission must approve or reject the application either within 180 days of receiving it or within 90 days after the completion of an environmental impact report, if one is required, whichever occurs later. However, 270 days after receiving the application is the maximum time allowed for the Commission to approve or reject the application. Cal. Pub. Res. Code § 6502

If the Commission approves the right-of-way application, a final lease will be presented to the developer which will include the cost of rent, the length of lease, and other specific terms that the right-of-way will be subject to. If the developer accepts the terms of the final lease, the right-of-way will be recorded and the developer may begin the proposed project. Cal. Pub. Res. Code § 6501.2

If the Commission does not approve the application then the developer will not receive access over the state land.

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Contact Information

Edit California State Lands Commission
Lead Attorney for Geothermal Leasing and Geotechnical Permitting 916-574-0398

Edit California State Lands Commission
Lead Geothermal Negotiator