Laws and regulations

BCDC is a California state agency responsible for carrying out several state laws. We also coordinate with the federal government under the federal Coastal Zone Management Act.

McAteer-Petris Act

The McAteer-Petris Act is the state law that created BCDC.

It gives BCDC the power and responsibility to:


Suisun Marsh Preservation Act

The Suisun Marsh:

  • Is the largest remaining wetland in San Francisco Bay
  • Contains more than 10 percent of California’s remaining wetland area
  • Is wildlife habitat of nationwide importance

The Suisun Marsh Preservation Act gives BCDC permitting and enforcement responsibilities for the Marsh. BCDC shares these responsibilities with other agencies and local governments.


Senate Bill 272 (2023)

In response to rising sea levels, Senate Bill 272 (Laird, 2023) requires local governments along the Bay shoreline to develop subregional shoreline resiliency plans.

Under the law, BCDC will:



BCDC has regulations that help to interpret the laws above and make them more specific.

The regulations lay out the processes for how BCDC does things like:

  • Run a public meeting
  • Issue or deny a permit
  • Amend a plan


Coastal Zone Management Act

The Coastal Zone Management Act is a federal law that gives BCDC authority to:

  • Develop a coastal management program for San Francisco Bay
  • Receive federal funds to support its work
  • Review federal projects, federally financed projects, and projects receiving federal licenses and permits


Public trust doctrine

The public trust doctrine is a legal principle at the core of BCDC’s mission.

Under the public trust doctrine, “sovereign lands,” such as tidelands and the the Bay itself, are held in trust by the State of California for the benefit, use and enjoyment of the public.

The McAteer-Petris Act and the Bay Plan are an exercise of authority by the Legislature over public trust lands. When BCDC takes any action affecting lands subject to the public trust, it considers whether its actions are consistent with the public trust needs for the area.


Other laws that protect San Francisco Bay

Besides BCDC, San Francisco Bay is protected by the work of various other agencies that administer critical environmental laws.

United States Army Corps of Engineers

The federal Clean Water Act regulates placement of dredged or fill material into waters of the United States.

The federal Rivers and Harbors Act of 1889 protects and maintains navigable capacity of the nation's waters.

United States Environmental Protection Agency

The federal Clean Water Act establishes the basic structure for regulating discharges of pollutants into the waters of the United States and regulating quality standards for surface waters.

United States Fish and Wildlife Service

The federal Endangered Species Act protects federally listed species and their critical habitat.

The federal Wildlife Coordination Act prevents loss of wildlife and their habitat by requiring consultation with federal and state wildlife agencies when a water body or stream is modified.

The federal Migratory Bird Act protects migratory birds and their habitat.

NOAA Fisheries (National Marine Fisheries Service)

The federal Endangered Species Act protects federally listed species and their critical habitat.

The federal Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act manages and protects essential fish habitat.

The federal Marine Mammal Protection Act protects whales, dolphins, porpoises, seals, and other marine mammals.

California Department of Fish and Wildlife

The California Endangered Species Act protects state listed species and their habitat.

The state Fish and Game Code protects the beneficial uses of waters of the state, and requires streambed alteration permits.

California Department of Toxic Substances Control
California State Lands Commission

Leases state-owned tidelands and administers the public trust pursuant to the California State Constitution.

San Francisco Bay Regional Water Quality Control Board

The state Porter-Cologne Water Quality Control Act protects the beneficial uses of waters of the state, establishes water quality objectives, and provides implementation plans (called "basin plans").

The state Clean Water Act implements the federal Clean Water Act at the state level and regulates discharges to the waters of the state.