Development Engineering (Grading/Drainage/Flood Information)

Grading Information

GRADING

 

GRADING INFORMATION

Grading permits are required within the unincorporated area of Fresno County to safeguard life, limb, health, property, and public welfare; to avoid pollution of watercourses; and to ensure that the intended use of a graded site is consistent with the General Plan, any Specific Plans, the Storm Water Management Plan, California Fire Safety Standards, and applicable Fresno County Ordinances in addition to the California Building Code..

 

WHAT IS A GRADING PERMIT (OR GP)?

A Grading Permit is a process to ensure that proper foundation preparation and grading requirements are met in accordance with the Fresno County Grading Ordinance. The purpose of the Grading Permit is to review intended grading to verify that proposed work will not result in flooding, drainage/erosion issues, settlement of the building area, or other hazardous conditions.

As a brief overview, answering “Yes” to any of the questions below indicates the need for a Grading Permit.

  • Cut or Fill to exceed 50 cubic yards including importing and/or stockpiling over 50 CY One cubic yard is equivalent to a 3’x3’x3’ cube. A typical 6’ truck bed volume measures approximately 1.5 CY and an average dump truck can transport around 5-10 CY depending on vehicle specifications
  • Cut to exceed 24” in vertical depth
  • Fill to exceed 12” in vertical depth, not placed on flat terrain
  • Grading will require realignment or modification to a natural drainage course
  • Any part of the parcel lies within Flood Zone “A”
  • Parcel Lies west of I-5 or East of Friant-Kern Canal
  • Whenever a need for inspection by the Grading Engineer is anticipated regardless of circumstances

If the criteria for a grading permit do not apply to the proposed development, a grading voucher may be issued if determined necessary by the Grading Engineer.

WHAT IS A GRADING VOUCHER (OR GV)?

A Grading Voucher is a document that acknowledges compliance of the Fresno County Grading & Flood Ordinance but does not require an inspection from the grading department. Grading vouchers are typically issued for smaller projects when the proposed cut/fill is under 50 cubic yards (CY).

HOW DO I APPLY FOR A GRADING PERMIT/VOUCHER?

Please complete the attached grading permit/voucher application form and email the form with all applicable documents (ie, site or grading plan, owner builder form, current recorded deed for recent change of ownership, etc.) to developmentengineering@fresnocountyca.gov

Grading Application(PDF, 83KB)

WHAT ARE THE GRADING PERMIT/VOUCHER FEES?

The current fee schedule can be found in the following link: Fee Schedule(PDF, 83KB)

WHAT IS THE INSPECTION PROCESS FOR A GRADING PERMIT/VOUCHER?

A grading voucher is an acknowledgement of minimal proposed grading work (<50 CY of cut or fill) to be performed in compliance of applicable codes and all corresponding local, state, and federal laws. Grading inspections are not conducted for grading vouchers.

A grading permit typically consists of two inspections: a rough grading inspection and final grading inspection. A rough grading inspection is conducted prior to a building foundation inspection and after rough grading of the building pad and receipt of the certified compaction report. A final grading inspection is conducted after the building is constructed and finished grades around the building is complete. Other special considerations, such as erosion control, drainage swales, slope stabilization, etc. must be implemented as required by the permit.

Call (559) 600-4022 with the address, APN, or permit number to schedule an inspection.

WHY DO I NEED A GRADING PERMIT/VOUCHER TO DO GRADING WORK ON MY PROPERTY?

Grading permit/voucher ensures compliance of applicable codes and laws as they relate to earthwork activity. Grading regulations were established in the 1960s and used for many years in jurisdictions throughout the Western United States. The regulation of grading is intended to prevent future issues of damage to your property and adjacent properties. Special soil considerations and construction methods are also critical to ensure proper grading of building pads and to prevent future structural damage.

WHAT ARE MY RESPONSIBILITIES AFTER OBTAINING A GRADING PERMIT?

Once a grading permit has been obtained from the Development Engineering Section there are certain responsibilities placed on the property owner and/or contractor. The property owner and/or contractor are responsible for obtaining the permit for the proposed project. The permit conditions are written in front of the grading permit/voucher application for compliance of the Owner or individual doing the work.

WHAT IS A GEOTECHNICAL REPORT AND WHEN IS IT REQUIRED?

A geotechnical report is a tool used to communicate soil site conditions, design, and construction recommendations to the site design, building design, and construction personnel. Site investigations for building design project have the purpose of providing specific information on subsurface soil, rock, and water conditions.

A geotechnical report can be required based on the scope of grading work involved with the project or certain design criteria of a future building being constructed. If grading work exceeds 1,000 CY or fill exceeds 12” for a new building, a geotechnical report is required by the grading department. Please refer to the following attachment and building department for specific design criteria which may require a geotechnical report (unless sufficient data/information is presented to the building official, thereby waiving the requirement).

NCSEA - When are geotechnical reports required?(PDF, 184KB)

WHAT IS A CERTIFIED COMPACTION REPORT AND WHEN IS IT REQUIRED?

Soils are compacted to increase stability and strength, enhance resistance to erosion, decrease permeability, and decrease compressibility. A certified compaction report is required for any fills (proposed or undocumented) intended to support a structure. A certified compaction report is conducted by a 3rd party Geotechnical/Materials Testing firm. The test samples are taken after the permit/voucher is issued and after the rough grading work is complete.

A minimum of 90% relative compaction is required for most projects. Any fill located within a FEMA Special Flood Hazard Area (or 100-year storm event) requires a minimum of 95% relative compaction. Failure to promptly submit certified compaction reports for review may cause delays in the inspection process. Please upload and email reports to developmentengineering@fresnocountyca.gov.

See handout below for minimum requirements of a certified compaction report.
Certified Compaction Report Requirements(PDF, 106KB)

 

WHAT SCENARIOS ARE EXCEMPT FROM GRADING PERMITS?

In particular circumstances, grading work may be exempt from a grading permit. For more information on grading permit exemptions, below are links to the 2019 California Building Code (CBC), Section R300 and the Fresno County Grading Ordinance, Chapter 15.28. In cases where a grading permit is exempt, but where there may be an impact on surrounding properties or on present or future structures, a grading voucher may be required. For clarification or questions on whether a grading permit or voucher is required, please contact a grading engineer at (559) 600-4022 or developmentengineering@fresnocountyca.gov.

HOW DO I REPORT A GRADING OR DRAINAGE CONCERN?

Please complete the attached Violation Complaint Form and email developmentengineering@fresnocountyca.gov.

Violation Complaint Form(PDF, 144KB)

   

Grading Plan Submittals

GRADING

 

DO I NEED AN ENGINEERED GRADING AND DRAINAGE PLAN FOR A SINGLE-FAMILY RESIDENCE?

An engineered grading & drainage plan is required for a Single-Family Residence when the grading (or dirt to be moved) is more than 1,000 cubic yards (CY). Grading can also be under 1,000 CY but the full scope of work can require an engineered plan when determined by the grading engineer due to other complexities around the project, such as extreme existing sloping terrain, modifications to existing drainage features, design of new drainage systems, substantial cut/fill depths, etc.

DO I NEED TO HIRE A LICENSED PROFESSIONAL TO REPARE A GRADING AND DRAINAGE PLAN?

Per Fresno County Grading Ordinance 15.28.020.H, an engineered grading plan is required when the proposed earth movement (grading) is greater than 1,000 CY. Depending on the scope of work, there are cases when the proposed earth movement (grading) is under 1,000 CY and an engineered grading plan is required. The County strongly recommends more complex designs and/or untypical lots to have an engineered grading and drainage plan prepared.

WHO CAN PREPARE AN ENGINEERED GRADING AND DRAINAGE PLAN?

An engineered grading and drainage plan can be prepared by either a California licensed Civil Engineer or Architect. Licensed Land Surveyors are not authorized to prepare grading plans. See attachment for this and other clarification regarding licensees and authorizations to prepare the appropriate plans/reports.

WHAT ARE THE REQUIREMENTS FOR AN ENGINEERED GRADING AND DRAINAGE PLAN SUBMITTAL?

For a residential engineered grading plan, please refer to the following checklist for submittal requirements:
Residential Grading Plan Checklist

For commercial projects under a land use application (DRA, VA, CUP, SPR etc.) please refer to the following checklist for submittal requirements:
Commercial Grading Plan Checklist

Submittals can be emailed to developmentengineering@fresnocountyca.gov or hardcopies can be dropped of in person during normal business hours between 9:00am and 5:00pm Monday thru Thursday, and 8:30am and 12:30pm Friday (excluding Holidays) at the following address:
2220 Tulare Street, County Plaza Building A, Suite B, Fresno, CA 93720

WHAT WORK IS AUTHORIZED UNDER MY APPROVED ENGINEERED GRADING PLAN AND PERMIT?

Only grading and drainage related improvements - IE dirt work, non-ADA flatwork, parking lot paving, onsite curb and gutter (NOT within the ROW), basins, private (non-FMFCD) storm-drain pipes/facilities, etc. Electrical, water, sewer and other utilities are NOT covered under a grading permit. Please refer to Building & Safety for these separate submittals, reviews, and inspections.

WHAT ARE THE FEES FOR GRADING PLAN SUBMITTALS?

For residential grading plan reviews, please refer to the fee schedule. The deposit fee is the entire cost of the plan review.

For commercial grading plan reviews, please refer to the example spreadsheet. The plan review cost is based upon the total cost of grading & drainage related improvements.

WHAT IS AN AS-BUILT GRADING PLAN AND WHAT ARE THE REQUIREMENTS?

The as-built plan is intended to document any deviations throughout construction from the approved plans and represent actual site conditions. The as-built report also serves as a brief inspection guide to the engineer of record for the as-built requirements.
As-built Report and Requirements

An as-built grading and drainage plan is typically required for most engineered grading & drainage plans that have been reviewed and approved by the County.

 

FEMA Flood Zone & Elevation Certificate (EC)

GRADING

 

Please also refer to the following web link for additional FEMA flood zone information:

Flood Protection and Planning | County of Fresno

 

WHAT IS A FEDERAL EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT AGENCY (fFEMA) ELEVATION CERTIFICATE (EC)?

A FEMA EC is a document that lists a building's potential source and type of flooding, lowest finished floor elevation, adjacent topography, flood zone and other characteristics, according to the Flood Insurance Rate Map (FIRM). It is a tool used by agencies to verify compliance of local building codes/ordinances and by insurance agents to determine flood insurance rates.

WHEN DO I NEED AN ELEVATION CERTIFICATE?

You will need a FEMA EC if you want to build a new home or any structure on your property which is considered high risk of flooding and within or near a 100-year flood zone. It is a prerequisite prior to issuing a grading permit and/or building permit for all new construction or substantial improvements of any structure in all areas of special flood hazards.

WHAT IS MEANT BY SUBSTANTIAL IMPROVEMENT?

Substantial improvement" means any reconstruction, rehabilitation, addition, or other improvement of a structure, or any accumulation thereof occurring after July 23, 1980, the cost of which equals or exceeds fifty percent (50%) of the market value or square footage of the structure either:

1. Before the "start of construction" of the improvement or in the case of cumulative improvements before July 23, 1980; or

2. If the structure has incurred "substantial damage" and is being restored, before the damage occurred. For the purposes of this definition, "substantial improvement" is considered to occur when the first alteration of any wall, ceiling, floor or other structural part of the structure commences, whether or not that alteration affects the external dimensions of the structure.

This term does not, however, include either:

1. Any project for improvement of a structure to correct existing violations or comply with state or local health, sanitary, or safety code specifications which have been identified by the local code enforcement official and which are the minimum necessary to assure safe living conditions; or

2. Any alteration of a "historic structure" provided that the alteration will not preclude the structure's continued designation as a "historic structure."

A change from nonresidential to residential structure use shall constitute a "substantial improvement" for the purpose of bringing the structure under consideration into conformance with Fresno County Ordinance Chapter 15.48. The addition or improvement of a basement shall constitute a "substantial improvement."

HOW DO I GET A FEMA ELEVATION CERTIFICATE FOR NEW CONSTRUCTION OR SUBSTANTIAL IMPROVEMENTS OF ANY STRUCTURE?

Hire a licensed Land Surveyor or Professional Engineer who is authorized by law to certify elevation information. For a fee, these professionals can complete an EC for you.

WHAT SHOULD I DO WITH MY FEMA ELEVATION CERTIFICATE?

All initial FEMA EC for all new construction or substantial improvements of any structure in all areas of special flood hazards must be submitted to Development Engineering Section for review and acceptance prior to issuing a grading permit.

Prior to occupancy, a new FEMA EC based on final construction must be submitted. No occupancy will be granted until final FEMA EC is approved and all necessary fees are collected.

 

 

Drainage & Erosion Control

GRADING

 

WHO IS FRESNO METROPOLITAN FLOOD CONTROL DISTRICT (FMFCD) AND WHY DO I NEED CLEARANCE FROM THEM ON MY PROJECT?

WHAT IS THE DRAINAGE/RUNOFF REQUIREMENTS FOR MY PROJECT?

Drainage requirements vary and are highly dependent on the parcel location. If within FMFCD drainage boundaries with facilities available (curb, gutter, inlets, basins, etc.) drainage should be directed to the appropriate facility. Please refer directly to FMFCD for specific project requirements.

If within FMFCD drainage boundary without facilities available, runoff shall be retained via a temporary onsite basin. Once FMFCD facilities are constructed and runoff is appropriately diverted to these facilities, the onsite basin can be backfilled. If outside FMFCD drainage facilities, each parcel is typically responsible for retaining their runoff via a permanent onsite basin.

In no case shall drainage cross property lines unless authorized by the District (e.g. FMFCD, CSD or DD). In instances where the natural topography prevents this from occurring, drainage across property lines shall not exceed that which existed prior to grading and development of the parcel. Excess or concentrated drainage shall be retained onsite or directed to an approved drainage facility.

WHAT IS A STORM WATER POLLUTION PREVENTION PLAN (SWPPP) AND WHEN IS ONE REQUIRED?

A SWPPP is typically required when disturbing one or more acres of area. A SWPPP is a site-specific plan to prevent pollutants from entering surface waters. SWPPP applications are administered by the CA State Water Boards, please visit their website for more information.

Please see the following informational link: Stormwater Multiple Application and Report Tracking Systems (SMARTS)

WHAT ARE THE EROSION CONTROL MEASURES AND BMP'S REQUIRED FOR MY PROJECT?

Either Caltrans Storm Water Quality Handbooks - Construction Site BMPs Manual or CASQA California Stormwater BMP Handbook can be used.

THERE IS A STREAM THAT TRAVERSES THROUGH PART OF MY PROPERTY, ARE THERE ANY SPECIAL REQUIREMENTS?

Most streams are identified on either FMFCD GIS layers, USGS Quad Maps or recorded maps on subdivided land. Streams that are downstream from Fancher Creek Reservoir and Big Dry Creek Reservoir are typically jurisdiction of FMFCD. All other streams that are upstream of these facilities are typically jurisdiction of CA Fish and Wildlife. Most cases require preservation of the existing stream and clearance from the respective agency. Sufficient setbacks from the stream should also be provided.

 

 

Still have questions? Please Contact:

(559) 600-4022 or developmentengineering@fresnocountyca.gov

 

References & Standards

2019 California Building Code - Chapter 18, 33 & Appendix J(PDF, 17MB)

Fresno County Grading Ordinance - Title 15.28(PDF, 170KB)

1966 Fresno County Improvement Standards(PDF, 8MB)

2011 FMFCD Standard Plans & Specifications(PDF, 13MB)

2019 SRA Handout(PDF, 855KB)

Owner-Builder Form(PDF, 103KB)

Certified Compaction Report Requirements(PDF, 106KB)