Natural Resource Damages Assessment (NRDA)

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Alongside the CERCLA Superfund cleanup, a separate process called the Natural Resource Damages Assessment (NRDA) is occuring to determine the value of losses to natural resources such as fish.  Calculating this value is an extremely complicated and contentious matter.  The Portland Harbor Natural Resource Trustee Council was formed to do just that. 


The group is comprised of various trustees (sovereigns) who have rights or interests in the resources, including the State of Oregon, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) the Department of Interior, and five tribal governments (Grand Ronde, Siletz, Warm Springs, Umatilla, and Nez Perce).  To visit the Trustee Council's website for more information on the NRDA process as it relates to the Portland Harbor, click here


The Trustee Council has decided to take a phased approach to the NRDA process.  Phases 1 and 2 involve restoration planning while Phases 3 and 4 involve restoration implementation.   

According to their website, the NRDA process currently sits as follows:


  • Natural Resources Damage Assessment Preassessment Screen has been completed and adopted by the Trustee Council.
  • The Trustee Council developed an assessment plan for determining injury to natural resources associated with releases of hazardous substances from lower Willamette River facilities (Phase 1). Damage assessment is currently underway.  A draft Assessment Report is scheduled to be released for public comment in early 2013. 
  • A draft Programmatic Environmental Impacts Statement (EIS) and Restoration Plan (RP) will be released for public review in summer 2012.  The Trustee Council will host public meetings and a 90 day public comment period on the draft.  They will then produce a final PEIS/RP in 2013.


The Trustees' goal is "to reach settlements with Potentially Responsible Parties at or around the time of EPA’s decision on the Superfund clean-up/process," meaning the Record of Decision (Phase 2).  Phase 3 involves litigation oriented assessments of natural resource damages, and Phase 4 involves recovering natural resource damages from non-settling parties.


In 2009, the Yakama Nation withdrew from the Council because the assessment would not consider impacts to fish further downstream in the Columbia River.  Including these damages in the assessment would increase the cost for polluters significantly.  For more information on this topic, read Scott Learn's article from the Oregonian.


In March 2011, ODFW (in combination with USFWS, EPA, and the NRDA trustees) released a study that looked at contamination levels of varying substances in osprey eggs to be used in the Remedial Investigation.  The full study can be accessed by clicking here.  The study concluded that there are generally greater levels of contaminants, such as DDE and dioxin, found in the eggs of osprey nesting in the Multnomah Channel and Portland Harbor stretch of the river compared to upstream between river miles 68-79.  However, the study contained a disclaimer stating that specific conclusions cannot be drawn from such a small sampling of osprey eggs (five from each site).