Natural Resource Damage Assessment

The Oil Pollution Act of 1990 requires that the government undertake a Natural Resource Damage Assessment (NRDA) following an oil release to help recover resources harmed by the oil. Here, you’ll find information about what NRDA is, what is ongoing in the Gulf, and opportunities for the public to participate in NRDA. You can also visit the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and US Fish and Wildlife Service websites on NRDA and Gulf restoration processes.

NRDA restoration in action (Photo Credit: NOAA)

What is a NRDA?

An oil spill NRDA is the process that federal, state, and tribal governments use to determine the injury that a spill has caused to natural resources, and to plan and implement an approach to restore those resources. The costs of restoration are paid by the parties responsible for the spill (in this case BP, Transocean, and others). Members of the public sometimes choose to get involved to help ensure that important resources—fisheries, coastal habitats, and much more—are restored in a way that benefits them and their communities over both the short and long term.

Who is Involved in the NRDA on the Gulf Coast?

NRDA is a legal process, and primarily involves government representatives and the parties responsible for the injuries. Nongovernmental organizations, citizens, and other stakeholders can also contribute at certain points in the process.

Federal and state agencies act as “trustees” for the public and guide the NRDA, and the responsible parties pay for natural resource damages and participate in the assessment process.

NRDA Trustees for the Deepwater Horizon incident:

 Lead Trustee AgencyAdditional Trustee Agency
US Dept. of the InteriorUS Fish and Wildlife ServiceNational Park Service; Bureau of Land Management
US Dept. of CommerceNational Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
US Dept of Defense*
US Environmental Protection Agency**
US Dept. of Agriculture**
State of LouisianaCoastal Protection and Restoration AuthorityOil Spill Coordinator's Office, Dept. of Environmental Quality; Dept. of Wildlife and Fisheries; Dept. of Natural Resources
State of MississippiDept. of Environmental Quality
State of AlabamaDept. of Conservation and Natural ResourcesGeological Survey of Alabama
State of FloridaDept. of Environmental ProtectionFish and Wildlife Conservation Commission
State of TexasParks and Wildlife Dept.General Land Office; Commission on Environmental Quality

* Not currently on the Trustee Council.

** Designated as trustees on September 10, 2012 by Executive Order 13,626.

Where Does the NRDA Process Currently Stand, and How Can I Participate?

There are three stages in the NRDA process:

NRDA Stages

1. The Preassessment phase (completed, 2010)

Involved data collection, determination of injury from the spill, and conclusion that restoration could address at least a portion of those injuries.

2. Injury Assessment and Restoration Planning phase (underway)

Trustees are currently evaluating injuries, estimating compensation owed for the injuries, and planning for restoration activities in the region. It’s important to note that, although injury assessment and restoration planning are not yet complete, some restoration projects are being started early under a process called Early Restoration (see below). This means that we are in Phase II and Phase III (for early restoration only) of the process at the same time.

3. Restoration Implementation phase (underway for Early Restoration only)

Once the restoration plans in Phase 2 are completed, the Final Restoration Plan will be agreed upon and will be implemented over the course of many years by the responsible parties, or by the trustees with funds from the responsible parties.

There are both informal and formal opportunities for the public to participate in various stages of the processes outlined above. Individual citizens can:

  • Communicate observations of spill impacts to NRDA scientists;

  • Submit ideas for restoration projects (using NOAA’s project submission portal);

  • Comment on Draft Environmental Impact Statements and Restoration Plans (including Early Restoration Plans);

  • Provide feedback and suggestions at meetings hosted by the trustees (check for meeting dates here);

  • Participate in public technical panels or advisory bodies established to guide restoration planning or monitor restoration implementation;

  • Help implement restoration projects;

  • Help monitor the effectiveness of restoration projects

What About Early Restoration?

Early restoration refers not to a different type of restoration, but rather to its timing. Because NRDAs can take years to complete, early restoration agreements enable parties to get started on mutually agreed-upon restoration projects before the full NRDA process has been completed.

On April 21, 2011, the natural resource trustees announced that BP had agreed to provide $1 billion in funding for early restoration projects. As of June 2014, the trustees have finalized three rounds of early restoration projects (a first worth about $57 million, a second worth roughly $9 million, and a third worth roughly $627 million).


For more details about the NRDA process and public involvement:

NRDA Participation ImageNRDA in Action Image


Early Restoration Image

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