New Jersey Field Office
Northeast Region
 

Natural Resource Damage Assessment and Restoration

The American public is the beneficiary of a rich natural heritage. The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (Service) is the principal Federal agency charged with conserving, protecting and enhancing fish, wildlife, and other natural resources - a challenging task because our environment receives a continual influx of hazardous chemicals, which, if left unchecked, endangers these resources. In 1980, in response to growing public concern for a healthy environment, Congress authorized the Natural Resource Damage Assessment and Restoration (NRDAR) Program. The overriding responsibility of the NRDAR Program is to restore natural resources injured by releases of hazardous or toxic chemicals. The NRDAR Program also ensures that the polluter (responsible party) – and not the American taxpayer – pays for lost uses of natural resources and the associated restoration costs. It complements, but does not compete with, cleanups and remediation activities. Three laws form the cornerstone of the NRDAR Program, providing the Natural Resource Trustees (Trustees) legal authority to achieve program goals. These laws are the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act of 1980 (also known as "Superfund" or CERCLA); the Clean Water Act of 1972 and its amendments; and the Oil Pollution Act of 1990.

Trustees of Natural Resources in New Jersey

The Trustees in New Jersey are designated representatives of the Governor and the Secretaries of the Departments of the Interior and Commerce. The Service's New Jersey Field Office (NJFO) is often called upon to act on behalf of the Secretary of the Interior in the capacity of Trustee. Biologists at the NJFO work closely with other Trustees (typically the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), as the agent of the Department of Commerce) to identify natural resources that are injured from hazardous chemical releases. The Trustees determine the extent of injury and recover monetary damages (i.e., compensation for natural resource injuries) and assessment costs from the responsible parties. Monetary damages required from the responsible parties are compensatory, not punitive, and by law must be used for natural resource restoration.

The Basic Process

The NRDAR process begins when oil or a hazardous material is released into the environment, where it may spread far beyond the original source. The following sequence of events would then commence.

  • The source of the discharge is contained by the U.S. Coast Guard, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), State or local emergency response agencies, and / or the responsible party.

  • The oil or hazardous material is cleaned up. The cleanup can be fairly straightforward or complicated by adverse weather conditions, the presence of co-mingled hazardous wastes as found in old landfills, or the dangers associated with an uncontrolled discharge of toxic chemicals that may be immediately hazardous to human health or that may contaminate groundwater, surface water, or sediments.

  • The Trustees determine the magnitude of injuries to natural resources caused by the oil spill or chemical release. The determination of injuries may begin along a parallel course with the clean up activities. However, the full extent of the residual injuries cannot be determined until after cleanup is completed.

  • The Trustees attempt to reach a settlement with the responsible party for the costs of the restoration, the lost uses of injured natural resources, and the Trustees' cost of assessing the injuries and related damages. In some cases, a settlement cannot be reached and the case is litigated.

  • When a settlement or court decision is reached, a restoration plan is developed with public input that specifies the actions necessary to restore the injured resources. Sometimes the responsible party donates land to be restored and protected.

  • Finally, the Trustees monitor the restoration projects to assure that they continue to be properly managed for long-term success.
  • The NRDAR Process at Work in New Jersey

    Ultimately, the restoration of natural resources benefits the fish and wildlife dependent on a clean environment as well as the public by restoring injured natural resources to a functional and sustainable pre-injury state. Moreover, recreational opportunities such as wildlife observation and photography, fishing, or hiking are more plentiful and enjoyable in a clean environment. The NRDAR Program helps to ensure that waters and lands will provide for healthy fish and wildlife and that public places are safe for recreation after the release and cleanup of hazardous substances into the environment.

    NRDAR Sites in New Jersey

    Berry’s Creek Watershed

    Pompton Lakes Works Site

     

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    Last updated: July 22, 2014
    New Jersey Field Office
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