Nonpoint Source (NPS) Pollution Control Program – Vegetation Treatment General Order
California is experiencing an unprecedented wildfire crisis. Many agencies, under the direction of Governor Newsom, are taking steps to address wildfire threat, such as reducing fuel loads and restoring California’s forests to natural fire regimes.
The Board of Forestry and Fire Protection (BOF), in cooperation with the Water Boards and other state agencies, developed the California Vegetation Treatment Program (CalVTP) and an associated Programmatic Environmental Impact Report (PEIR) to help speed up actions to reduce wildfire risk.
The State Water Resources Control Board (State Water Board) adopted a statewide water quality order (Vegetation Treatment General Order) on July 6, 2021 for vegetation treatment activities that are within the scope of the CalVTP PEIR. The main goals of the Vegetation Treatment General Order are listed below:
- Maintain and protect water quality from potential waste discharges resulting from vegetation treatment activities.
- Support implementation of vegetation treatment to reduce wildfire risk in California.
- Streamline permitting requirements for certain vegetation treatment activities.
Below are answers to common questions about the State Water Board’s Vegetation Treatment General Order.
Frequently Asked Questions:
Vegetation treatment activities may result in discharge of waste that could affect the quality of waters of the state and therefore require a permit under California Water Code. The Vegetation Treatment General Order provides a mechanism for vegetation treatment projects that are within the scope of the CalVTP PEIR to comply with California Water Code.
Vegetation treatment activities require a permit under California Water Code because they may discharge waste that could affect the quality of waters of the state. Vegetation treatment activities described in the CalVTP include:
- Prescribed pile burning and broadcast burning,
- Mechanical treatment to cut, uproot, crush/compact, or chop existing vegetation,
- Manual treatment to cut, clear, or prune herbaceous or woody species,
- Prescribed herbivory to reduce target plant populations,
- Ground-level application of herbicides, and
- Maintenance of vegetation treatment activities.
Any of these types of projects, if they are within the scope of the CalVTP PEIR, are eligible for the Vegetation Treatment General Order.
No application to the State Water Board is necessary. Project Proponents prepare and submit a Project Specific Analysis to the Board of Forestry and CalFIRE per the instructions in the CalVTP. The Project Proponent documents the environmental impact assessment of the proposed project in the Project Specific Analysis and determines if the proposed project is “within the scope” of the CalVTP PEIR. A “within the scope” determination means the project does not have any additional significant environmental impacts than in the PEIR.
If the Project Proponent makes a “within the scope” finding, the State Water Board automatically enrolls the project in the Vegetation Treatment General Order using project information provided by the Board of Forestry. The State Water Board informs Project Proponents of their permit coverage by sending a Notice of Applicability to the primary contact listed in the Project Specific Analysis.
Any Public Agency providing funding for vegetation treatments or with land ownership, land management, or other regulatory responsibility in the treatable landscape who are implementing vegetation treatment projects that are “within the scope” of the CalVTP PEIR. Projects that are not “within the scope” of the Cal VTP PEIR may need permitting other than the Vegetation Treatment General Order.
Project Proponents may initiate vegetation treatments as soon as the they certify their Project Specific Analysis and post a Notice of Determination (NOD) on the state clearinghouse website.
During the project, Project Proponents must implement all Standard Project Requirements and mitigation measures identified in the Project Specific Analysis. After the project is completed, Project Proponents are required to submit a post project completion report to the Board of Forestry and CalFIRE that verifies work was completed according to the Project Specific Analysis and provides information on work dates and project location. Any deviations from the original Project Specific Analysis must be described and justified in the post project completion report.
The State Water Board wrote the Vegetation Treatment General Order to align with the BOF’s CalVTP PEIR. By building on BOF’s CEQA analysis, which included analysis of water quality impacts, the State Water Board is increasing efficiency and support of efforts to reduce wildfire risk. Alignment with the CalVTP allowed the Water Boards to develop the Vegetation Treatment General Order with minimal additional CEQA analysis, and to adopt water quality protections already identified in the CalVTP PEIR.
The BOF provides project information to fellow agencies that support the program, eliminating the need for Project Proponents to apply directly to the State Water Board for permit coverage. The State Water Board reviews the Project Specific Analysis and associated documents, and if the project is within the scope of the CalVTP PEIR, then the State Water Board issues a Notice of Applicability for the Vegetation Treatment General Order to cover waste discharges to waters of the state, at no cost to the project proponent.
No. Enrollment in the Vegetation Treatment General Order does not require an enrollment or annual fee.
Water Board staff, if requested, will consult with Project Proponents conducting a Project Specific Analysis on potential risks to water quality. See contact information in the table below for the appropriate Regional Water Quality Control Board to contact if you would like consultation. Pre-consultation is not required, but Water Board’s staff offer it as an option for Project Proponents who want to discuss potential water quality impacts of their project.
Water Board staff may conduct inspections and/or site visits on occasion to follow up on complaints, and/or to ensure identified standard project requirements and mitigation measures are being implemented appropriately.
See the websites below for more information on the CalVTP, including a helpful page on “How to Use the CalVTP” and a copy of the full CalVTP Programmatic Environmental Impact Report. In addition, the BOF maintains map viewers for planned and implemented vegetation treatment projects, and posts environmental documentation about planned and completed projects.
Board of Forestry Vegetation Treatment Program:
Table 1: Regional Water Board Contact Information for Vegetation Treatment Project Consultations
Outreach, Workshop, and Adoption Information
Comment and questions were accepted from March 5 to April 20, 2021. A The draft of the proposed Vegetation Treatment General Order and the public notice for comment that were are available below.
- Revised Public Notice for Draft Vegetation Treatment General Order (Public Order and Workshop)
- Proposed Vegetation Treatment General Order (Draft)
A Staff Workshop was held March 30, 2021 for outreach and education of stakeholders and the public.
- Workshop Presentation Recording [MP4, 577 MB]
- Workshop PowerPoint
On July 6, 2021, the State Water Board considered and adopted the proposed Vegetation Treatment General Order. The public notice for Board consideration of adoption and the proposed Vegetation Treatment General Order that was considered are below.