Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Restoration Complete for Puget Sound Energy Spill

Restoration is now complete for natural resources injured in the Puget Sound Energy (PSE) oil spill. In 2006, an accidental spill at a Puget Sound Energy facility released approximately 18,000 gallons of diesel fuel into the White River Watershed below the Crystal Mountain Ski Area.

Diesel fuel has the potential to negatively impact both species and their habitats. Anytime a spill occurs, federal, state, and tribal entities must identify and determine the extent of the injuries, recover damages from those responsible, and carry out restoration activities that compensate the public for the injury. All of this is achieved through the Natural Resource Damage Assessment and Restoration process, also known as NRDAR.  

What is NRDAR?  NRDAR is a legal process that determines the type and amount of restoration needed to compensate the public for harm to natural resources, and their human uses, that occur as a result of an oil spill.  “It helps us to fix what was broken."

Who are Natural Resource Trustees? Federal, state, and tribal entities with natural resource trust responsibilities for fish, wildlife, and other natural resources identify and determine the extent of the injuries, recover damages from those responsible, and plan and carry out restoration that compensates the public for the injury.  Natural resource trustees for the PSE - Crystal Mountain oil spill include the Department of the Interior through the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Forest Service, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, State of Washington, and Puyallup and Muckleshoot Indian Tribes. 

What natural resources were injured in the PSE-Crystal Mountain spill?  In addition to documented habitat-level injuries, this spill may have caused direct and indirect injuries to fish, including federally-ESA-listed threatened bull trout, and Chinook salmon, amphibians, and aquatic invertebrates in the White River watershed. 

How were the injuries restored?  The two restoration projects focused on riverine habitat and Chinook salmon restoration but will also benefit other fish and wildlife species in the White River Watershed.  The Greenwater River floodplain restoration project restored river and floodplain processes to increase the range and distribution of salmon in the White River Watershed.  This project removed road fill along the Greenwater River and incorporated large woody material into the channel as engineered log jams.  It was a partnership effort with the South Puget Sound Salmon Enhancement Group and the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest. 

Photo 1: Green Water River restoration (South Puget Sound Salmon Enhancement Group)
Photo 2: Juvenile salmon utilizing engineered log jam habitat (South Puget Sound Salmon Enhancement Group)

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