How Natural Resource Damage Assessment Works

Photo shows scientist processing fish caught for contaminant study.

Scientists process fish caught for contaminant study near Palos Verdes Shelf.

The Oil Pollution Act and the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act authorizes certain federal agencies, states, and Indian tribes—collectively known as Natural Resource Trustees—to evaluate the impacts of oil spills, ship groundings, and hazardous substance releases on natural resources.

The Montrose Settlements Restoration Program (MSRP) Trustees are responsible for studying the effects of the chemical contaminant releases on natural resources through a process known as Natural Resource Damage Assessment (NRDA). As part of this process, scientists work together to identify potential injuries to natural resources and lost public uses resulting from the harmful activity.

After a hazardous substance release, response agencies-like the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) work on a plan to eliminate or reduce risks to human health and the environment. They use a variety of methods to accomplish this goal including direct cleanup, capping, and biodegradation. These efforts typically do not restore impacted natural resources or address their lost uses by the public.

Through the NRDA process, NOAA and other Trustees conduct studies to identify the extent of impacts to resources, the best methods for restoring those resources, and the type and amount of restoration required.