The Natural Resource Damage Assessment process determines how to restore wildlife and habitats impacted by oil spills, hazardous waste sites, and vessel groundings.
An oiled shoreline in Barataria Bay, Louisiana.
Natural Resource Damage Assessment (NRDA) is the process that federal agencies like NOAA, together with the states and Indian tribes, use to evaluate the impacts of oil spills, HAZMAT incidents and hazardous waste sites, and ship groundings on natural resources both along the nation's coast and throughout its interior.
NOAA and these other entities, referred to collectively as natural resource trustees, work together to identify the extent of resource injuries, the best methods for restoring them, and the type and amount of restoration required.
NOAA's responsibilities in a NRDA include:
- A preliminary assessment to determine whether any impacts have occurred. Scientists may collect data, review scientific literature, and use mathematical models to help predict the effects of the incident on trust resources.
- Injury assessment and restoration planning, during which NOAA quantifies the injuries through scientific and economic studies and then identifies potential restoration projects (e.g., beach and shoreline enhancements, creation of oyster reefs or other shellfish habitats, and programs to monitor the recovery of species and habitats).
- Restoration, which aims either to return the injured resources to their original condition, or, if that is not possible, to compensate the public for its losses. During this phase, the co-trustees work with the Responsible Party (the entity whose property or actions caused the injury), who pays for the assessment and restoration and often participates in restoration activities.
In the event that the Responsible Party refuses to pay damages, NOAA and its co-trustees may file a lawsuit or submit a claim to the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund.