Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill Natural Resource Damage Assessment and Restoration Planning
Abt Associates’ staff played a major role in the Deepwater Horizon oil spill natural resource damage assessment (NRDA), providing comprehensive NRDA injury assessment and restoration planning support to federal and state trustee agencies. Our staff services included providing strategic litigation support and case planning; providing technical support for settlement negotiations; planning, implementing, and interpreting the results of injury assessment studies; restoration planning; and document preparation.
As part of our injury assessment work, we assisted the trustees in documenting oil exposure and quantifying injuries as a result of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. We worked with a team of experts to employ remote sensing technology to track the extent and duration of the oil footprint on the ocean’s surface, and model the fate and transport of oil in the water column.
We designed, oversaw, implemented, and managed nearly all of the toxicological evaluations of oil effects on Gulf of Mexico fish and invertebrates. This was perhaps the largest suite of aquatic and avian toxicity studies ever conducted for a single incident, and included the design, coordination, and review of toxicity testing at more than 20 different facilities using more than 35 species and multiple toxicological endpoints.
We also conducted a three-year recreational use study along more than 1,000 miles of coastline in the Gulf of Mexico to assess changes in human use caused by the spill. The study included onsite surveys, onsite counts, and aerial photography counts of recreational users.
We have engaged in a broad suite of restoration planning activities for trustee agencies, including developing methods and techniques for appropriately quantifying potential restoration benefits for early restoration projects such as marsh creation, restoration of barrier islands, and oyster restoration. We have also conducted an extensive literature review of restoration project outcomes; developed monitoring guidelines; developed restoration planning documents; and provided high-level strategic support for restoration planning.
Following the announcement in July 2015 of an agreement in principle for a comprehensive settlement with BP, our staff played a critical role in the successful release of the Programmatic Damage Assessment and Restoration Plan and Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (PDARP/PEIS) by assisting trustees with drafting and reviewing key restoration and injury sections of this 1,400-page report, including helping to frame the restoration approaches and NEPA alternatives included in the plan, and assisting with managing the public comment response process.