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Frequently Asked Questions 

What is a Natural Resource Damage Assessment (NRDA)?
A process outlined by OPA, CERCLA, CWA that authorizes Natural Resource Trustees to seek compensation for the public for injuries to natural resources, and then restore, rehabilitate, replace or acquire equivalent natural resources.


What federal and state laws authorize NRDA?


Who administers NRDA?

NRDA federal law requires the designation of officials from federal, state, or tribal governments to act as trustees to protect public interest in natural resources and the services they provide.

The State of Illinois Natural Resources Trustees are:

  • Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR)
  • Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (IEPA)

IDNR and IEPA work in close coordination with the Illinois Attorney General’s Office

Primary Federal Trustees are:

  • United States Department of Interior’s Fish and Wildlife Service
  • United States Department of Commerce’s National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration


What is the goal of NRDA?

To make the environment and public whole for injuries to natural resources and services resulting from an incident involving a discharge or substantial threat of a discharge of oil (15 C.F.R. Part 990.10) and/or a release of a hazardous substance (43 C.F.R. Part 11).

The goal is often reached by implementing an approach for the restoration, rehabilitation, replacement, or acquisition of natural resources equivalent to those injured.


What is the definition of natural resources?

Natural resources are plants, animals, land, air, water, groundwater, surface water, drinking water supplies, and other natural resources belonging to, managed by or otherwise controlled by the United States or a state or local government.

Primary state trust resources are:
Plants, animals, land, air, water, groundwater, surface water, drinking water supplies, and other natural resources belonging to, managed by or otherwise controlled by the state of Illinois.

Primary federal trust resources are:

  • Migratory birds
  • Federally-owned property
  • Federally listed threatened and endangered species


What is an injury?

Adverse impacts to natural resources such as wildlife, habitat, other biota, and the services natural resources provide for wildlife and human beings.


What is a damage assessment?

An assessment of the value of the actions necessary to compensate the public for injury to natural resources as a result of the discharge.


What is the difference between primary restoration and compensatory restoration?

  • Primary restoration is the direct restoration of injured resources.
  • Compensatory restoration is the restoration that results from compensation for natural resource functions and services lost from beginning of the injury through primary restoration.


How long does it take to complete an NRDA?

Each NRDA case is unique and the amount of time to complete a NRDA can vary significantly. Damage assessments are often complex and can take years to complete. However, other cases may be less complex and therefore take less time to complete. The time necessary for restoration often reflects the complexity and scale of the restoration project(s).


What is a cooperative assessment?

Cooperative assessment refers to activities conducted by possible responsible parties and trustees in a collaborative context to assess injury and assess damages with a focus on achieving “early” restoration and resolution of liability without litigation.


What is a natural resource restoration project?

The action that returns the natural resources to baseline condition.


What is the baseline condition?

The condition of the natural resources and services that would have existed had the incident or release not occurred.


Who is responsible for natural resource restoration?

The trustees are placed in the role of protecting the public’s interest and achieving restoration to fully compensate for injuries.


How is the natural resource restoration project funded?

Restoration is paid for by the funds received from responsible parties. According to federal regulations, natural resource damages must be used to restore, rehabilitate, replace or acquire the equivalent of the natural resources and services that were impaired by the release of contaminants or oil.


What is a restoration plan?

Before the funds allocated to restore natural resources can be used to implement restoration projects, the trustees typically develop a restoration plan. The restoration plan identifies and evaluates a reasonable range of restoration alternatives, solicits public comment, and provides the rationale for the selection of the restoration project(s) that will be implemented.


How does the public get involved in the restoration process?

Public comments and suggestions on the proposed restoration alternative(s) is an important part of the restoration planning process. The Trustees encourage anyone who reviews the draft Restoration Plan (RP) to evaluate and comment on any part of the draft RP, including descriptions of the affected areas, the proposed restoration projects, and/or the restoration selection process. The public is further encouraged to evaluate and comment on the feasibility of the proposed restoration projects themselves. Some avenues used to involve the public include but are not limited to public meetings, public availability sessions, public notices in newspapers, draft RPs at local libraries, and the Illinois Department of Natural Resources Contaminant Assessment Section website.


How is the success of the restoration project determined?

Monitoring is conducted to evaluate whether the restoration project has made the environment and the public whole.


What type of monitoring is conducted?

Both qualitative and quantitative monitoring is conducted. The specific monitoring plan is based on the restoration effort.