SMARA Reclamation Plan Submittal Procedure

Under the Surface Mining and Reclamation Act of 1975 (SMARA) Section 2774 (c), local lead agencies are required to submit reclamation plans and plan amendments to the Director of the Department of Conservation (i.e., DMR) for review prior to approving such documents. However, DMR often receives submittals that are incomplete or inadequate, resulting in delays to the review process. This letter addresses the types of supporting documentation that should be included with a submittal, and the minimum standards under state law regarding the preparation of documents by qualified professionals.

According to SMARA Section 2772(b): “All documentation for the reclamation plan shall be submitted by the lead agency to the department at one time”; and under SMARA Section 2772(d), any document prepared as part of the permit application or CEQA process may be included in the reclamation plan by reference if it is attached to the reclamation plan when submitted for review. It then becomes part of the reclamation plan. Further, according to Section 2774(c): “Prior to approving a surface mining operation’s reclamation plan, financial assurances…or any amendments…the lead agency shall submit the plan, assurances, or amendments to the director for review. All documentation for that submission shall be submitted to the director at one time. When the lead agency submits a reclamation plan or plan amendments to the director for review, the lead agency shall also submit to the director, for use in reviewing the reclamation plan or plan amendments, information from any related document prepared, adopted, or certified pursuant to Division 13 (commencing with Section 21000) and shall submit any other pertinent information.”

Notwithstanding the above clearly stated requirements, DMR has in the past accepted incomplete reclamation plan documents for review. This occurs when, during the review process, DMR reviewers discover that documents referenced in and integral to the reclamation plan are missing and request them from the lead agency. Because the statutory 30-day review period only starts with the receipt of the entire reclamation plan package, the submittal of incomplete reclamation plans drags out the review period, resulting in delays for the mine operator. To better serve lead agencies and mine operator applicants, prevent these unnecessary delays, and expedite reclamation plan review, DMR will no longer accept incomplete reclamation plans or plan amendments, but will return them immediately for completion and resubmittal.

Types of Documents to Be Included for Review

The following is a (not exclusive) list of the kinds of documents that, if applicable to the mine in question, must be included as part of the reclamation plan review submittal:

  • Use permit conditions of approval that relate to reclamation
  • CEQA documents containing required mitigation measures
  • Slope stability studies, including supporting data and calculations prepared by a qualified professional
  • Erosion and sediment control plans prepared by a qualified professional
  • Groundwater/aquifer studies, including data and calculations prepared by a qualified professional
  • Documentation demonstrating that surface and groundwater will be protected in accordance with the Porter-Cologne and Clean Water Acts, and Regional Water Quality Control Board requirements
  • Settling ponds and spillway designs prepared by a qualified professional
  • Documentation that California Department of Fish and Wildlife has been consulted and requirements addressed
  • Full-scale proposed final topography maps and scaled cross-sections prepared by a qualified professional
  • Mining and reclamation phasing maps at full scale, prepared by a qualified professional
  • Recent biological surveys including sensitive species surveys done according to California Department of Fish and Wildlife standards
  • Vegetation baseline studies with cover, density and species richness, including data and species lists
  • Topsoil map with estimates of topsoil depths and amounts
  • A weed management program with thresholds for active management.

Professional Standards

DMR is adopting the policy of the State Mining and Geology Board (Board) regarding submittals. Since the Board establishes state policy for SMARA, DMR relies on the Board’s May 13, 2004 Internal Policy on Validating and Accepting Professionally Prepared Reports and Other Documents Submitted for Consideration when evaluating the need for certain components of a reclamation plan to be signed by a licensed professional. The Board’s policy can be found here.

Also pertinent to this is the fact that pursuant to the Professional Engineers Act, Geologist and Geophysicist Act, and Professional Land Surveyors’ Act (Business and Professions Code Sections 6700 – 6799, 7800 – 7887, and 8700 – 8805, respectively), all applicable documents shall be prepared by a California-licensed professional, shall include his or her license number and name, and shall bear the signature and seal of the licensee. When reviewing documents submitted pursuant to SMARA Section 2774, DMR must have confidence that the documents are complete and genuine, and have been prepared by or under the supervision of licensed professionals if and as required by law and regulation. Therefore, at least one copy of any document submitted to DMR which must be prepared by or under the supervision of licensed professionals, should bear an original signature, stamp impression or seal, and date affixed by the author.

In Summary

Incomplete document submittals result in delays in reclamation plan reviews and potential project delays as a result. Lead agencies should understand the types of supporting documentation that are required for reclamation plans and ensure that all pertinent information is included with their submittals. For further information and answers to questions contact Beth Hendrickson at (916) 445-6175 or via email: