The Secretary of Commerce serves as a natural resource trustee and has delegated this responsibility to the Office of Response and Restoration (OR&R). OR&R staff from the Assessment and Restoration Division (ARD) are part of NOAA’s Damage Assessment, Remediation, and Restoration Program (DARRP)—a cross-NOAA program comprising scientists, economists, attorneys, and restoration experts. These experts work in teams to protect and restore coastal resources threatened by waste sites, oil and chemical spills, and ship groundings.
ARD works in partnership with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), U.S. Coast Guard, and federal, state, and tribal co-trustees to:
- Assess potential threats to NOAA trust resources from releases of oil and hazardous substances;
- Ensure that selected remedies are protective of those trust resources;
- Seek compensation for the public’s lost use of affected resources; and
- Plan and implement appropriate measures to restore injured resources, including their supporting habitat.
Ecological risk assessment has always been an integral activity for stewardship. Consequently, ARD developed specific expertise in aquatic risk assessment techniques, contaminated sediment issues, and data interpretation. Division scientists, placed in EPA regional offices, provide technical advice for over 150 coastal waste sites each year. In partnership with coastal managers, ARD also develops and implements consolidated database and mapping projects to evaluate coastal contamination and to develop watershed-wide restoration solutions. Through technical assistance and training, the Division transfers its expertise and technologies to other natural resource trustee agencies and coastal resource managers to improve the overall protection and restoration of the nation's natural resources.
ARD works at hazardous waste sites throughout the cleanup process dictated by the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) and at oil spill sites under the Oil Pollution Act (OPA). ARD conducts natural resource damage assessments (NRDA) to resolve NRD liability under CERCLA, OPA, and other federal and state laws by evaluating the extent and magnitude of injured resources, and then defining the type and scope of restoration and compensation for lost services best suited to address these injuries. NOAA works with co-trustees to develop restoration plans that document injury to natural resources and propose restoration alternatives. ARD also seeks to attain negotiated, global settlements with responsible parties that resolve both their cleanup and NRD liability. Cooperative settlements for natural resource damage liability and formal NRD claims and process, if necessary, are pursued to restore natural resources injured by releases of hazardous substances.
Cooperative, negotiated settlements are a highly efficient means to achieve rapid restoration of injured resources. The vast majority—over 95 percent—of NOAA’s trustee concerns at hazardous waste sites and oil spills are resolved using cooperative, integrated approaches. By working throughout the remedial process, and considering issues in a watershed-wide context, ARD scientists achieve remedies that protect NOAA’s trust resources and their supporting habitats. ARD has reached cooperative agreements or settlements for integrated protective cleanups and restoration projects at more than 50 waste sites and more than 70 spills and groundings.
For more than two decades, ARD, along with co-trustees, have generated approximately $300 million for natural resource restoration projects through resolution of NRD liability under both OPA and CERCLA. ARD, as part of DARRP, has worked cooperatively with federal, state and local agencies, tribes, industry and communities to restore/conserve 6300 acres of habitat (from reefs, intertidal bottom habitat and wetlands to upland and anadromous fish streams) and to build facilities (e.g., fishing piers) to support the public’s use of coastal habitat. In addition to its work on damage assessment cases, ARD develops and tests new approaches, techniques, and procedures for improved and cost-effective damage assessment and restoration of trust resources, and transfers this knowledge through training and technical assistance to other natural resource trustees, coastal managers, and decision-makers.
Who are we?
The Assessment and Restoration Division comprises NOAA biologists, toxicologists, ecologists, policy analysts, information specialists, attorneys, geologists, environmental engineers, and economists who help assess ecological risk and environmental and economic injury from contamination and ship groundings. The Division has a core team of technical support scientists (located in Seattle), a team of policy analysts and economists (located in Silver Spring), and a national network of Regional Resource Coordinators located on every coast and in the Great Lakes.
For questions about a specific site or region, please contact Rob Ricker, 301.713.3038, or Alyce Fritz, 206.526.6317.