NRDA, which stands for Natural Resource Damage Assessment, is the legal process for identifying and quantifying damage to the state’s natural resources resulting from an environmental incident such as the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. The assessment provides the structure by which Mississippi will plan and implement restoration of the Gulf Coast and/or compensation for the damages done to its natural resources.
NRDA actions are designed to compensate the public for past injury, interim injury before the oil was contained, and residual harm to natural resources after containment. Natural resources are broadly defined as land, fish, wildlife biota, air, water, ground water, drinking water supplies, and other resources belonging to, managed by, or held in trust by the United States or the local government.
Federal law requires the designation of federal and state officials to act as trustees in protecting public interest in natural resources and the services they provide. The Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) Executive Director, Trudy D. Fisher, has been appointed as the state’s natural resource trustee by the Governor of Mississippi. As such, Ms. Fisher and MDEQ, as the lead agency, has the regulatory authority to assess damages to natural resources and to collect compensation for those injured natural resources and associated services lost.
While the full extent of the injuries to our Gulf Coast resources will take time to define and understand, Executive Director Fisher and MDEQ are moving quickly with the NRDA process in order to develop restoration projects and to implement those projects, ensuring that Mississippi receives full compensation for the damages sustained by its eco-systems and communities.
The NRDA process provides clear guidelines for assessing damages by calculating the value of the restoration required to return the injured resources to their pre-spill natural states. It also addresses compensation for the injury or lost use of services those natural resources provide with the goal of restoration in mind.
Using a team of scientists and other subject experts, MDEQ is collaborating with local governments, residents, industry, business owners, organizations, and responsible parties to develop a comprehensive, data-driven assessment of the type and extent of damage to our natural resources. MDEQ will use this data to assess the damages and to calculate injuries to wildlife, habitat, and lost human use of those resources. MDEQ will also determine the appropriate restoration and/or compensation for damage or lost use and will implement a comprehensive restoration plan.
Establishing a comprehensive restoration plan involves compiling all the data to determine case-specific needs and details. Once all data is compiled, a draft restoration plan(s) will be developed and offered for public review and comment. Upon approval of the plan(s) by MDEQ, a claim will be made for funds from the responsible parties. These funds will be used to implement projects designed to both restore and compensate for the injured natural resources as well as the human use losses associated with public lands.
The state of the region and the economy of Coastal communities rely heavily on the health and well-being of the Gulf Coast. Through the NRDA process, as established under federal law, through partnership with the public, and through the authority given by the office of the governor, MDEQ and its staff will continue working until it has made Mississippi whole.