The Florida public learned about the Natural Resource Damage Assessment (NRDA) process for the Deepwater BP oil spill at a public meeting in Ft. Walton Beach, Fla., on November 30.

More than 50 people convened at the Emerald Coast Convention Center to hear from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP), the state’s trustee for natural resources in the Gulf spill.

Lee Edmiston, FDEP, spoke about the restoration approaches being considered by the Trustee Council.

“NRDA restoration means any action, or combination of actions, to restore, rehabilitate, replace, or acquire the equivalent of injured natural resources and services,” Edmiston said.

Gil McRae, of Florida’s Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, gave an overview of NRDA. “It is a legal process, a cooperative process, and is restoration focused,” he said.

McRae also gave an overview of the 1993 Tampa Bay oil spill, which he said was the first major spill after the Oil Pollution Act of 1990 (pdf, 299 KB) was passed. He described the cooperative process between state and federal co-trustees in that case and said the final restoration projects are slated to be completed in spring 2011.

Questions from the public covered a variety of topics, including human health, dispersants, and ways to gain access to data being collected by NRDA teams. Much of this data can be found online once it has been collected and completes a quality control and quality assurance process.

Pete Tuttle, of U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, a co-trustee for the BP spill NRDA, said there is a directive to release data as soon as it’s available and the Trustee Council is working to be as transparent as it can be.

Completing the NRDA will be a lengthy process, Edmiston said.

“We don’t know what all the injuries are, or the extent of those injuries,” he said. “It’s going to take awhile.”

More information about FDEP’s efforts in the Gulf spill can be found online, and future public meeting dates will be published on our site’s calendar. Sign up for our e-mail list to receive information about future meetings and other NRDA news.