What Is Grading ?

Grading: Bidwell Mansion  -  Chico
Bidwell Mansion  –  Chico

Grading is modifying the existing topography of a property by removing vegetation, excavating, filling, and/or rearranging earth.   Grading may involve exporting excess earth and/ or importing earth.  Grading is typically associated with:

  • demolition
  • landscaping
  • landslide mitigation
  • hillside construction
  • flood zone mitigation
  • basement construction
  • infrastructure construction
  • seismic hazard zone mitigation
  • hazardous material remediation
  • rainwater pretreatment mitigation
What Regulations Control Grading ?

Many jurisdictions have extensive regulations for grading which supplement (or substitute for) Appendix J in the California Building Code, including:

  • bonds
  • work hours
  • tree protection
  • waterway protection
  • palliative dust control
  • rainwater containment
  • winter work prohibition
  • engineered shoring design
  • adjoining property easements
  • engineer oversight and certification
  • adjoining property owner notification
  • Class A, C12, or C27 contracting license

In addition, many regional, state, and federal agencies have associated regulations, including:

  • aquifer
  • native flora
  • clean water
  • fish and game
  • endangered species
  • navigable waterway
  • air quality management
  • coastal, estuary, and wetlands
What Are Common Requirements For Grading ?

Grading is a discretionary permit, which makes it subject to the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) and local land use approvals.  Most grading requires a soils report and may require both topographic and boundary surveys.  CalOSHA worker safety requirements are applicable for trench shoring, excavating and earthmoving equipment, and excavated slopes.  Dust control typically involves stockpile covering, silt fences and runoff wattles, drainage catch basin barriers, hydrant meters, reclaimed water transport, and/or water additives.  Local emergency responders will have traffic control requirements, including permits, flaggers, equipment staging, and travel lane obstructions.  Local airports may have glide-path and reflective-glare regulations.  Fire Departments and seismic monitoring stations will have explosives and blasting regulations.

What Are A BMP, CMP, QSP, and SWPPP?

Best Management Practices (BMPs) are

  • temporary air and water pollution control measures which are used during construction, especially for grading, and
  • permanent rainwater pre-treatment facilities, which are used to filter runoff from impervious surfaces (e.g., roofs, hardscaping, parking lots.

The term was first used in an amendment to the Clean Water Act for the National Discharge Elimination System (NPDES).  Construction temporary measures include dust-control watering, silt fences and fiber rolls (wattles), stockpile tarping, and detention ponds.  Permanent rainwater pre-treatment facilities include mechanical filters, gravel beds beneath pervious pavement, and landscaping.

The EPA can assess fines up to $37,000 each day for violations of the Clean Water Act.  Since these are typically assessed against the local permitting authority, jurisdictions are keenly aware of the regulations and the need for enforcement.  The Stormwater Pollution Prevention Plan (SWPPP), which is prepared and monitored by a Qualified SWPPP Practitioner (QSP) is required for construction projects that disturb one acre more of land by grading, vegetation clearing, or excavation.  If the project is subject to a Construction Management Plan (CMP) is required to set forth the details of how environmental impact mitigations will be accomplished during construction.


  • identifies all potential sources of pollution which may reasonably be expected to affect the quality of storm water discharges from the construction site, and
  • describes temporary practices to be used to reduce or eliminate pollutants (typically sediment) in storm water discharges from the construction site, and
  • is generally required to be submitted with the discretionary permit application.

Permanent post-construction facilities to filter stormwater before it is discharged off-site are required for parcels with more than 10,000 square feet of impervious surfaces.  The preferred method is bio-filtering with landscaping to trap sediment and other pollutants (e.g., oil,   ) on-site.   Structural Controls are used to reduce the stormwater volume and peak discharge.  Non Structural Controls are used to reduce the generation and accumulation of pollutants transported by stormwater.

Check the Links below and your local jurisdiction’s website for additional information.



  • Library
  • Sustainability

California Stormwater Quality Association  Homepage

US Environmental Protection Agency


California Water Resources Control Board

Other Links: