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Facts about the Natural Resource Damage Assessment Process for the Hudson River

Frequently Asked Questions

1. What is a natural resource damage assessment?

Several federal statutes authorize federal and state officials to act on behalf of the public to restore natural resources affected by releases of oil and other hazardous materials. Under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA), parties responsible for contaminating the environment and causing injury to natural resources are also liable for natural resource damages (or compensation), which are to be used to restore the injured resources. The natural resource damage assessment (NRDA) process involves determining the nature and extent of injury to the public's natural resources in order to restore them to the state they would have been in but for the release of hazardous materials. Through the NRDA process, the public is compensated for the losses they suffer as a result of the contamination. Monies recovered as a result of an NRDA must be used to restore either the injured natural resources themselves or the services provided by the natural resources. For example, if recreational fishing is injured, recovered damages must be used both to restore the fishery itself and to restore the recreational use of the fish. Only designated state and federal trustees are authorized to pursue damages for injury to natural resources from hazardous material releases.

2. Who are the Natural Resource Trustees for the Hudson River?

The Hudson River Trustees are the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC), the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and the United States Department of the Interior (DOI). In September 1997, a Trustee Council was formed to develop and coordinate state and federal damage assessment activities and to plan for the restoration of the River's resources.

3. What have the Trustees done so far?

In October of 1997 , the Trustees released the Preassessment Screen Determination for the Hudson River, New York. This document, known more simply as the PAS, is an overview of readily available information that describes major contaminants in and potential injuries to the River and its environment. The review ensures that there is a reasonable probability of making a successful claim for damages before money is expended to plan or conduct a more elaborate NRDA. The release of the PAS indicates that the Trustees have determined that it is appropriate to undertake an NRDA of the Hudson River.

4. What will the Trustees be doing next?

The next step will be the development of a Natural Resource Damages Assessment Plan for the Hudson River (consistent with the USDOI Natural Resource Damage Assessment regulations at 43 CFR Part 11). The Assessment Plan will describe studies the Trustees will undertake to assess natural resource injuries and to evaluate and support appropriate restoration options for the Hudson River environment. To develop the NRDA Plan the Trustees must first establish its scope, i.e., determine which injuries, resources and public uses should be examined in the damage assessment. The Trustees will be seeking input from the public at this stage.

The Trustees anticipate that 12 months will be needed for completion of the NRDA Plan. A Draft NRDA Plan will be offered for formal public review and comments will be used to develop the Final NRDA Plan. The assessment will be pursued when the Final NRDA Plan is complete.

5. How can I get involved?

The Trustees will actively solicit public input throughout the damage assessment and restoration process. Notices on the availability of information and the opportunity for public input will be posted on NYSDEC's Web page and through other media (e.g., New York and NOAA postings). Those who would like to be added to the Hudson River Damage Assessment mailing list should notify the NYSDEC contact listed below.

6. Why is the public being given an opportunity to comment on the NRDA Plan before it is written?

The Trustees would like to give all concerned parties ample opportunity for participation in the NRDA. Federal NRDA regulations describe a need for public participation and mandate a minimum level (see 43 CFR Part 11, 11.32 and 11.90). The Trustees want to capitalize on the considerable knowledge of the responsible parties and the interested public and also want to consider public perspectives on the relative importance of injuries and services.

7. Where can I get a copy of the Draft Scope of the Hudson River NRDA Plan?

Copies of the Draft Scope are available on NYSDEC's web page in both html and pdf format, or by contacting one of the following:

New York State Department of Environmental Conservation
Natural Resource Damages Unit (NYSDEC-NRDU)
625 Broadway
Albany, NY 12233-4756
Phone: (518) 402-8924
Fax: (518) 402-9027

Tom Brosnan
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
Damage Assessment Center (NOAA/DAC)
1305 East-West Highway
SSMC4 Rm 10355
Silver Spring, MD 20910
Phone: (301) 713-3038 x 186
Fax: (301) 713-4387
email: tom.brosnan@noaa.gov

Kathryn Jahn
US Fish and Wildlife Service
US Department of the Interior
3817 Luker Rd
Cortland, NY 13045
Phone: (607) 753-9334
Fax: 607) 753-9699
email: Kathryn_Jahn@fws.gov

8. How and where can I get additional information about the Hudson River Natural Resource Damage Assessment and Restoration process?

Additional information about the Hudson River site and the damage assessment process is available from the contacts listed above or from the following:

Materials are also available at the following document repositories. Ask for "Hudson River NRDA".

  • Adriance Memorial Library
    93 Market St.
    Poughkeepsie, NY 12601
  • Catskill Public Library
    1 Franklin St.
    Catskill, NY 12414
  • Troy Public Library
    100 Second St.
    Troy, NY 12180
  • USEPA-Region 2
    Superfund Records Center
    290 Broadway, 18th Floor
    New York, NY 10007-1866
  • Richards Library
    36 Elm Street
    Warrensburg, NY 12885
  • NYSDEC-Region 5
    Route 86
    Ray Brook, NY 12977
  • NYSDEC - Region 3
    21 South Putt Corners Rd.
    New Paltz, NY 12561
  • NYSDEC Central Office
    NRD Unit
    625 Broadway
    Albany, NY 12233
  • Saratoga County EMC 50 W. High Street
    Ballston Spa, NY 12020
  • White Plains Pub.Library
    100 Martine Avenue
    White Plains, NY 12601
  • New York State Library
    CEC Empire State Plaza
    Albany, NY 12230
  • Cornell Coop. Extension New York Sea Grant
    74 John St.
    Kingston, NY 12401
  • Dutchess Co. EMC
    Farm & Home Center, Rte. 44, PO Box 259
    Millbrook, NY 12545
  • Saratoga Spr. Pub. Library
    320 Broadway
    Saratoga Spr., NY 12866
  • Ossining Public Library
    53 Croton Ave.
    Ossining, NY 10562
  • Crandall Library
    City Park
    Glens Falls, NY 12801
  • County Clerk's Office
    Washington Co. Office Bldg.
    Upper Broadway
    Fort Edward, NY 12828

9. How do the Trustees' restoration planning efforts relate to EPA's remedial activities?

Remediation describes cleanup activities at hazardous waste sites designed to reduce or eliminate significant risks to human health, welfare or the environment posed by contamination of the environment. Restoration in the context of NRDA is actions to restore, replace or acquire the equivalent of natural resources that are lost or harmed by such contamination. Remediation reduces environmental risks but does not restore any of the natural resource losses.

NRD restorations can be of two types, either primary or compensatory. Primary restoration is intended to replace resources that have been lost. Compensatory restoration is designed to compensate for the losses of these resources and the services they provide from the time they are injured until they are restored.

The EPA is performing a study of the Hudson River PCB (polychlorinated biphenyl) Superfund site to reassess their 1984 decision to not remediate contaminated sediments at the site. The Hudson River PCB Superfund site includes approximately 200 miles of the Hudson River between Hudson Falls and the Battery in New York City. This Reassessment will determine how and to what extent PCB-contaminated sediments in the Upper Hudson River will be remediated.

The Trustees are coordinating their restoration efforts closely with EPA's ongoing Reassessment. The Hudson River NRDA Plan cannot be fully implemented until remediation is complete; some of the studies can be performed in the near future, others will have to wait until the success of remedial efforts can be measured.

Note: For additional information about EPA's Reassessment, see EPA's Hudson River PCB Reassessment RI/FS web site (www.epa.gov./r02earth/superfun/hudson.htm)

10. Why is the process of cleaning up the Hudson taking so long?

The Hudson River is a large and very complex system, and a detailed assessment of the contamination in the River requires extensive scientific study. EPA's Reassessment, which began in 1990, is being performed in three phases. Phase 1 included the collection of existing data on the Hudson River from a wide variety of sources and placing that data into single database. Analysis of that data uncovered significant data gaps to be filled by additional data collected in Phase 2 of the Reassessment. Phase 2 (which is currently being performed by EPA) consists of field sampling and analysis, computer modeling and human and ecological risk assessment. Data generated during Phase 2 will fill previously existing data gaps in order to provide a comprehensive understanding of the contaminated sediments in the Upper Hudson and the impact of those sediments on the site. Phase 3, in which EPA will evaluate possible remedial alternatives for the site, will be conducted after Phase 2 is complete. EPA presently expects to make a remedial decision for the site in late 2001.

11. Will the Trustees dredge the River if EPA doesn't?

The Final NRDA Plan will include an evaluation of possible restoration options for the River. At present, the Trustees expect to evaluate dredging as one option among many when they reach that phase of the assessment. This evaluation will take into account the results of EPA's Reassessment and their remedial decision, which is expected in 2001. The scope of EPA's remedy will affect the Trustees' restoration decisions because a more extensive remedy will be likely to restore natural resources more quickly than a less comprehensive cleanup. As with all other aspects of the NRD process, the Trustees will seek public input prior to implementing any restoration plans.