For More Information

Office of Response and Restoration

NOAA's Damage Assessment, Remediation, and Restoration Program

National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science

National Estuarine Research Reserve System

NOAA and the National Estuary Restoration Act

NOAA Restoration Portal Web Site

Natural Resource Restoration iconNatural Resource Restoration

makushin bay impacted by oil spill

This stream flowing into Alaska's Makushin Bay was impacted by the oil spill caused by the 2004 wreck of M/V Selendang Ayu.

Coastal and estuarine habitats include marshes, forested wetlands, oyster reefs, seagrass beds, beaches, tidal streams, and riparian forests. These habitats are vital not only for fish, birds, and other wildlife, but for human communities as well. They help to protect against flooding, improve water quality, provide recreational opportunities, and support commercial fisheries and tourism.

Restoring habitats helps ecosystems by removing pollutants and invasive species, re-establishing natural ecosystem processes, and re-introducing native plants and other wildlife. Several programs within NOAA’s National Ocean Service (NOS) are actively restoring injured resources by providing the necessary data, science, tools, and long-term monitoring efforts.

As a natural resource trustee under the Clean Water Act, the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act, the Oil Pollution Act and the National Marine Sanctuaries Act, NOAA conducts restoration activities along the nation’s coastal zones and estuaries. The Estuary Restoration Act of 2000 also mandates NOAA’s restoration activities.

Restoring Resources

Puget Sound

A fish habitat restoration site at the Strandley-Manning Superfund site in Puget Sound, Washington. The channel was recreated, its banks stabilized, and in-stream structures placed to create fish habitat.

NOS’s Office of Response and Restoration addresses environmental threats to coastal resources that result from oil and chemical spills, chronic releases from Superfund sites, and damage to resources within the nation’s marine sanctuaries. The office also works with the responsible parties, other NOAA offices, and other agencies to conduct hazardous waste site investigations, assess natural resource damage, and implement coastal ecosystem restoration projects. The office also pursues legal action, if necessary, against those parties responsible for the harm and works with parties to restore damaged resources.

Research and Monitoring

NOS restoration scientists also conduct ecological research and test restoration approaches to determine the most effective restorative measures. NOS scientists also have developed several tools using geographic information system technology to build state and local capacities for restoration planning and implementation. These tools include interactive watershed mapping projects and databases.

Once restorative measures are implemented, NOS scientists monitor the ecosystem response to allow for adjustments to the restoration approach when necessary. In addition, NOS scientists also help local groups design monitoring plans that will accurately gauge the success of restoration projects and determine the need for any further action.

A National Approach

Trench diver at Athos I oil spill

When ship groundings, oil spills, and other disturbances impact marine resources within the nation's marine sanctuaries, NOS restoration scientists conduct ecological research and test restoration. This researcher is trench diving at the site of the Athos I oil spill in Delaware Bay

NOS restoration experts also participate in an interagency restoration council created by the Estuary Restoration Act (ERA) of 2000. With staff from the Restoration Center of NOAA’s National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), NOS supports an interagency workgroup tasked with developing a National Estuary Habitat Restoration Strategy. This workgroup coordinates restoration activities with other federal agencies and with private sector partners. In addition, NOS is working to develop monitoring protocols and guidance that will be used to implement the ERA. NOS and NMFS also are developing a database that will help track progress in restoring estuarine habitat.

Recent Activities

Anacostia River. Read about NOAA's restoration efforts on the Anacostia River, which runs through Maryland and the District of Columbia.