The Restoration Program

Construction crew installing levelers to innudate area and create wetlands
restored wetland
  Kummer Sanitary Landfill Restoration in Minnesota. Levelers were installed to inundate and thus create 40 acres of wetland habitat to replace waterfowl, wading birds & neotropical migrants habitat lost at the landfill site. Credit:USFWS.

When hazardous substances enter the environment, fish, wildlife, and other natural resources can be injured. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, along with other Department of Interior, State, Tribal and Federal partners, act as "trustees" for these resources. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has responsibility for National Wildlife Refuges, endangered and threatened species, migratory birds, and other natural resources. Trustees seek to identify the natural resources injured, determine the extent of the injuries, recover damages from those responsible, and plan and carry out natural resource restoration activities. These efforts are possible under the Natural Resource Damage Assessment and Restoration Program (Restoration Program), the goal of which is to restore natural resources injured by contamination. More info. (1.6MB pdf).

Restoring the Resources To fulfill the mission of restoring natural resources that have been injured by oil spills or hazardous substance releases, several steps must be taken. First, the natural resource trustees conduct a damage assessment to determine the extent of injury to natural resources caused by the hazardous substance release. This information is used to determine the amount of restoration that is needed. The trustees then negotiate a settlement with the responsible parties for the cost of restoration, loss of use of the land or natural resources by the general public, and money spent to assess damages. Once a settlement has been reached, the trustees take action to restore the injured resources. Finally, the trustees monitor the completed restoration projects to ensure success. Benefiting the Fish, Wildlife and the Public The primary benefit of the Restoration Program is that injured natural resources can be restored at no cost to taxpayers. Instead, the responsible parties pay for the restoration. In addition, because of this Program, people across the country are enjoying rivers and lands that are once again healthy and teeming with fish and wildlife, and public places that are safe for recreation and other uses.

Recent Restoration Activities:

Virginia, Powell River

Thumbnail image of Powell River restoration fact sheet.


On October 24, 1996, a failure in a coal slurry impoundment associated with a coal processing plant owned by Lone Mountain Processing, Inc. (LMPI) in Lee County, Virginia, resulted in the release of six million gallons of coal slurry to the Powell River watershed. “Blackwater,” a mix of water, coal fines, clay, and associated contaminants, extended more than twenty miles downstream. The coal slurry spill impacted fish, endangered freshwater mussels, other stream organisms, supporting aquatic habitat, and designated critical habitat for three federally endangered mussels and two federally endangered fish.

A Restoration Plan was completed in June 2003. The Plan focused on Riparian habitat protection and enhancement, and propagation (breeding) of mussels in captivity and the release of these mussels once they reach an appropriate size. To date, thousands of hatchery-reared juvenile mussels of 15 species have been released in the Powell River to restore populations, including individuals of five federally-listed endangered species. In addition, more than 800 hatchery-reared yellowfin madtom have been released to augment the populations in the Powell River.

Fact Sheet on the Powell River spill and restoration plan (December, 2010. pdf)

Learn about freshwater mussels: Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries - Freshwater mussels

Virginia, Clinch River

Thumbnail image of Clinch River video opening screen. Click to open video.


On August 27, 1998, a tanker truck overturned on U.S. Route 460 in Tazewell County, Virginia. The truck released approximately 1,350 gallons of Octocure 554-revised, a rubber accelerant, into an unnamed tributary about 530 feet from its confluence with the Clinch River. The spill turned the river a snowy white color and caused significant fish and mussel kills. Prior to the chemical spill, this area in the Clinch River supported very diverse populations of mussels, including three federally listed endangered species.

Mussels are important because they stabilize river and stream bottoms. They also act as natural filters by straining out suspended particles from the water as they feed. In addition, mussels are a vital link in riverine food webs, serving as prey for wildlife such as the muskrat, otter, raccoon, mink, and fish. Young mussels are also eaten by sport fish and waterfowl. For this reason, the primary focus of the Restoration Plan that was developed was on freshwater mussels. The Restoration Plan includes propagation (breeding) of mussels in captivity and the release of these mussels once they reach an appropriate size. A public event was recently held for the release of propagated mussels into the Clinch River.

Video of the Mussel Release

Final Restoration plan (pdf)

Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries - Freshwater Mussel Restoration: Clinch River

Virginia Tech - Freshwater Mollusk Conservation Center


Deepwater Horizon Damage Assessment and Restoration

Restoration Plans on the Web

Fact Sheets

Frequently Asked Questions

Fish and Wildlife Service Regional Restoration Web Sites:

Region 2 - Southwest Region (Arizona, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Texas) Restoration Website

Region 3 - Great Lakes/Big Rivers (Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Missouri, Minnesota, Ohio and Wisconsin) Natural Resource Damage Assessments web site

Region 4 - Southeast Region (Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, Puerto Rico and Virgin Islands, South Carolina, Tennessee) Contaminants Site

Region 5 - Northeast Region (Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, West Virginia)

Region 6 - Mountain/Prairie Region (Colorado, Kansas, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, Utah, Wyoming) Restoration web site

U.S. Department of Interior, Natural Resource Damage Assessment and Restoration Program

Last updated: August 21, 2014