What is a Natural Resource Damage Assessment?

A NRDA is the process used by natural resource trustees to develop the public’s claim for natural resource damages against the party or parties responsible for a spill and to seek compensation for the harm done to natural resources and services provided by those resources. The goal of NRDA is restoration of the injured or lost resources.

What is a natural resource trustee?

Natural resource trustees are persons and agencies entrusted under the Oil Pollution Act and other applicable statutes and regulations to restore injured natural resources and lost services resulting from an incident involving a discharge or substantial threat of a discharge of oil. For Mississippi the Director of the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality is the Trustee for the Deepwater Horizon Incident.

When did the Deepwater Horizon NRDA begin?

On April 20, 2010, the Deepwater Horizon incident occurred. This incident resulted in an unprecedented volume of oil and other discharges from the rig and from the wellhead on the seabed. The Deepwater Horizon oil spill is the largest maritime oil spill in U.S. history, discharging millions of barrels of oil over a period of 87 days. In addition, well over one million gallons of dispersants were applied to the waters of the spill area in an attempt to disperse the spilled oil. An undetermined amount of natural gas was also released to the environment as a result of the Spill. The U.S. Coast Guard responded and directed federal efforts to contain and clean up the oil spill. At one point nearly 50,000 responders were involved in cleanup activities in open water, beach and marsh habitats. The scope, nature and magnitude of the oil spill caused impacts to coastal and oceanic ecosystems ranging from the deep ocean floor, through the oceanic water column, to the highly productive coastal habitats of the northern Gulf, including estuaries, shorelines and coastal marshes. Affected resources include ecologically, recreationally, and commercially important species and their habitats in the Gulf and along the coastal areas of Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida. These fish and wildlife species and their supporting habitats provide a number of important ecological and recreational use services. The federal and state trustees have been working since that time to assess damages and determine how best to restore the natural resource habitats, species and services.

What is NRDA restoration?

NRDA restoration means any action, or combination of actions, to restore, rehabilitate, replace or acquire the equivalent of injured natural resources and services provided by those resources.

What is Emergency Restoration?

Emergency Restoration actions are those taken by trustees prior to the completion of the NRDA and restoration planning process to prevent or reduce additional natural resource injuries and avoid potentially irreversible loss of natural resources.

What is Early Restoration?

Early Restoration can be implemented prior to the completion of the NRDA process, when opportunities arise, to achieve restoration faster. Projects must meet criteria set forth in the Oil Pollution Act of 1990 and its resulting regulations. For the Deepwater Horizon spill, Early Restoration was intended to accelerate restoration of injured natural resources and their services, but not to fully compensate the public for all resulting injuries and losses. On the first anniversary of the spill (April 20, 2011), the Trustees and BP agreed that BP would provide up to $1 billion toward Early Restoration projects, under the terms of a Framework Agreement for Early Restoration, as a preliminary step toward restoring injured natural resources and services caused by the spill. Early Restoration proceeded in phases, with each phase adding additional projects to partially address injuries to nearshore resources, birds, fish, sea turtles, federally managed lands, and recreational uses. Injuries were partially addressed through coastal habitat restoration, resource specific restoration, and education and recreational infrastructure projects. Sixty-five projects with a total cost of approximately $877 million were selected through the five phases of Early Restoration planning. In Mississippi, Early Restoration included seven projects totaling $112,557,000, including oyster reef restoration, nearshore artificial reefs, beach promenades, public access to coastal resources, trails, a visitor center, a science museum and living shorelines. Projects are in various stages of completion with some in engineering design, permitting, construction and some which are completed and being monitored. Find more information about Early Restoration Projects

How does NRDA work?

During and after an oil spill, there are three main steps:

  • Pre-assessment: Trustees determine whether injury to natural resources has occurred or is likely to occur. Work includes collecting time-sensitive data, reviewing scientific literature about the oil and its impact on coastal resources, and determining the extent and severity of injury.
  • Injury Assessment and Restoration Planning: Scientific and economic studies assess and quantify the injuries and the loss of services. Trustees determine the need for and amount of restoration. A restoration plan or series of plans are developed to identify restoration projects to compensate the public.
  • Restoration: Trustees work with the public and responsible parties to select, implement and monitor restoration projects. The responsible parties pay for assessment and restoration.
What is the current plan for restoration and how does the public get involved in the restoration process?

The extensive injuries to multiple habitats, species, ecological functions, and geographic regions clearly establish the need for comprehensive restoration planning on an ecosystem scale. For this reason, the Trustees are undertaking restoration planning at a program level. The Final PDARP- PEIS provides a framework for restoring injured natural resources and services and gives the Trustees flexibility to accommodate changes. The public can become involved in the Deepwater Horizon NRDA process by submitting project-specific restoration ideas at the Project Portal.

What is the governance structure for the NRDA Trustees?

The magnitude and geographic scale of the restoration in the Final PDARP/PEIS is far greater than in any other prior undertaking by natural resource trustees. The Trustees will continue to work together as a Trustee Council with overall responsibility for ensuring that restoration is achieved with financial accountability, and that obligations set forth in the Oil Pollution Act, the Consent Decree, the Final PDARP/PEIS, and future restoration plans are met. The Trustees have assigned a Trustee Implementation Group (TIG) for each of the eight Restoration Areas (restoration in each of the five Gulf states, Open Ocean, Regionwide, and a TIG for Unknown Conditions and Adaptive Management). The composition of each TIG varies, depending on the geographic area and Restoration Types to be performed in each Restoration Area. Each TIG will generate future restoration plans that identify specific restoration projects, consistent with the funding allocated to Restoration Types within each TIG. These restoration plans will be consistent with the Final PDARP/PEIS, and each plan will be integrated with the appropriate analysis of tiered environmental impacts. TIG decisions will be made by consensus and documented through a public Administrative Record. Generally, the Trustee Council and each TIG will hold at least one public meeting every year to discuss restoration status and planning. In addition, the Trustees will ensure that the public is involved through public notice of proposed restoration plans, opportunities for public comment, and consideration of all comments received.

How much money is available to Mississippi from NRDA?

The NRD Settlement for Mississippi is $295,557,000. This figure includes the $112,557,000 in Early Restoration project funds.