On August 10, 1993, a freighter and two tug-assisted barges collided near the entrance of Tampa Bay, Florida. The collision caused over 32,000 gallons of jet fuel, diesel, and gasoline and about 330,000 gallons of heavy fuel oil to spilled from the barges. Despite emergency cleanup efforts, the oil fouled 13 miles of beaches and caused injury to the ecosystem and disrupted recreational use of the coast. As a result of the natural resource assessment and restoration planning process undertaken for this spill, restoration projects to address or compensate for these impacts have been completed or are underway, including the restoration of wetlands at Joe’s Creek in the Cross Bayou area of Boca Ciega Bay.
On 26 November 2004, the M/T ATHOS I struck a large, submerged anchor while preparing to dock at a refinery in Paulsboro, New Jersey. The anchor punctured the vessel’s bottom, resulting in the discharge of nearly 265,000 gallons of crude oil into the Delaware River and nearby tributaries. Currently, nine projects are underway to restore areas damaged by the incident.
Each year, oil and toxic chemicals from ships, pipelines, and hazardous waste sites contaminate our nation’s coastal waters. Sometimes, we see large spills that capture the attention of the public with immediate and obvious impacts such as oiled shorelines or closed fisheries. Sometimes, the impacts, such as declines in wildlife reproduction, are more subtle or take much longer to become apparent. But the injury to our coastal resources is always something to take seriously.
Within the government, trustees act on behalf of the public to carefully review these incidents and help clean up contaminants and restore injured resources. At NOAA, the Damage Assessment, Remediation, and Restoration Program (DARRP) leads this process.
DARRP was formally created in 1992 following the Exxon Valdez oil spill in 1989. Made up of three offices within NOAA, DARRP staff include scientists, economists, restoration experts, and attorneys. This multidisciplinary team works closely with other agencies, industry, and citizens to protect coastal and marine resources, respond to pollution incidents, assess risk and injuries, and restore those resources when injured.
Boeing and the Elliott Bay Trustee Council (comprised of NOAA, the U.S. Department of the Interior, the State of Washington, the Muckleshoot Indian Tribe, and the Suquamish Tribe) reached an agreement that will result in the restoration of significant fish and bird habitat in the Lower Duwamish River. The Duwamish River runs through downtown Seattle, WA and contains three Superfund sites related to historical contamination from shipping, manufacturing and other heavy industries.
After an incident occurs, the first step in protecting the environment is to stop the spread of contamination. The DARRP team collects data to assist with cleanup and assessment of risk and injury to affected resources. By coordinating with and providing advice to cleanup agencies such as the U.S. Coast Guard and the Environmental Protection Agency, DARPP helps to make sure that the cleanup maximizes benefits to injured resources and the cleanup techniques being used are not unduly damaging to the environment.
DARRP also conducts Natural Resource Damage Assessments to determine the extent and magnitude of environmental injuries and the degree to which the public has lost use of resources. Working with other co-trustee agencies, NOAA then develops and evaluates restoration options and works with the public to determine the type and scope of restoration best suited to address any impacts. NOAA works cooperatively with responsible parties or to pursue other strategies to resolve natural resource liability. Finally, DARRP actually implements or oversees projects to restore injured trust resources and associated services.
DARRP is an engine for coastal restoration. Since 1990, DARRP successfully protected natural resources at more than 500 waste sites and settled nearly 180 natural resource damage assessment cases. These settlements generated more than $500 million to protect or restore thousands of acres of habitat and return valuable resources and services to the public.
Whether the activities have involved restoring wetlands, creating oyster reefs, or protecting waterfowl habitat and providing improved recreational opportunities, NOAA’s early involvement at waste sites, oil spills, and ship groundings helps maintain clean, healthy coasts for the benefit of future generations.