Natural Resource Damage and Assessment (NRDA) Program Monitoring and Adaptive Management

Science Center Objects

State and Federal agencies are working together to assess the damage caused by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill and to determine appropriate restoration actions to restore natural resources, ecological services, and recreational services injured or lost due to the incident. 

Image: USGS Measures Flooding in Louisiana

USGS scientist takes a water quality measurement on the Atchafalaya River Basin near Melville, La.

(Credit: Jennifer LaVista, U.S. Geological Survey. Public domain.)

The Science Issue and Relevance: After the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, Federal and state agencies including the Department of Commerce (represented by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)), the Department of the Interior (DOI; represented by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Bureau of Land Management, and National Park Service), the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and the five Gulf States of Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas, formed a Trustee Council and began working together to collectively assess the injuries caused by the spill and to select the appropriate restoration measures to compensate the public for the injury to and lost use of the resources each of the Trustees hold in trust for the public. The Cross-Trustee Implementation Group (Cross-TIG) Monitoring and Adaptive Management (MAM) work group was established by the Trustee Council to meet the monitoring and adaptive management obligations described in the Programmatic Damage Assessment and Restoration Plan and Final Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (Final PDARP/PEIS) and Trustee Council Standard Operating Procedures (SOP). On behalf of DOI, U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) co-leads the Cross-TIG MAM in conjunction with the State of Florida. The work group consists of one primary and one alternate representative with technical expertise from each of the nine Trustee Council members.

Restoration projects approved by Deepwater Horizon Natural Resource Damage and Assessment Trustees

Restoration projects in the Gulf States approved by the Deepwater Horizon NRDA Trustees:

(Public domain.)


Methodology for Addressing the Issue: As directed by the Trustee Council, the Cross-TIG MAM work group is currently helping fulfill the following MAM responsibilities:

  1. Maintain and update MAM procedures and guidelines as part of the Trustee Council SOP and the MAM Manual. The Cross-TIG MAM work group will review the MAM provisions included in these SOP and recommend revisions, as needed, to the Trustee Council for future versions of these SOP. Support the TIGs in developing MAM SOPs compatible with these SOPs and the MAM Manual, as needed.
  2. Facilitate coordination and compatibility of MAM procedures across TIGs. Promote efficiency and collaboration in addressing MAM priorities.
  3. Coordinate with TIGs and other science and monitoring programs in the Gulf of Mexico where appropriate, including the development of compatible monitoring standards, procedures and guidelines, and identifying and/or filling critical information gaps.
  4. Develop mechanisms to engage with the broader scientific community.
  5. Provide input on the functionality of the Restoration Portal for storing monitoring information and data, including but not limited the development of interactive reporting and analysis tools.

Future Steps: The Cross-TIG MAM anticipates supporting the Trustee Council on the following activities in the future:

  1. Aggregate and synthesize monitoring data and information to evaluate collective progress toward meeting Restoration Type goals described in the Final PDARP/PEIS.
  2. Identify emerging unknown conditions/processes that could influence restoration outcomes in order to inform the Trustee Council’s decisions on the timing and purpose of establishing the Adaptive Management and Unknown Conditions TIG.
  3. Perform programmatic reviews to evaluate the Trustees’ collective progress toward meeting the restoration goals described in the Final PDARP/PEIS and provide feedback to TIGs for consideration in future restoration decision-making.
  4. Report on progress toward programmatic and Restoration Type goals.
Monitoring and Adaptive Management Process for Deepwater Horizon Natural Resource Damage and Assessment Plan

The monitoring and adaptive management process interpreted for the Deepwater Horizon Natural Resource Damage and Assessment (NRDA) restoration plan, including a feedback loop represented by orange and blue arrows. This process includes four overarching phases: injury assessment, restoration planning, restoration implementation, and reporting. An adaptive management feedback loop of monitoring (Arrow #4), evaluation (Arrow #5), feedback (Arrow #6), and adjustment of restoration actions (Arrow #7) is included within the restoration implementation phase. Orange arrows represent steps of the feedback loop related to decision-making and governance (see Chapter 7), while blue arrows represent steps related to the collection and analysis of information. This adaptive management process may be applied at the project, resource, and cross-resource levels, as appropriate. Source: DWH NRDA Trustees. 2016. Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill: Final Programmatic Damage Assessment and Restoration Plan (PDARP) and Final Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (PEIS)

(Public domain.)