The first organizational meeting for the NRTC was held in Richland, WA, April 9, 1993, at the invitation of the U.S. Department of Energy - Richland Operations Office (DOE-RL). The Council was formed later that year by the State of Washington, State of Oregon, DOE-RL, U. S. Department of the Interior (currently represented by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service), Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation, Nez Perce Tribe, and the Yakama Indian Nation. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is a statutory trustee and began to participate intermittently with the Council in 1997. See Members for Trustee Council members and representatives.
The Trustee Council operates by consensus and progress over the years has been careful and deliberate. Each Trustee represents a number of constituencies encompassing many interests. Trustee organizations have diverse roles. For instance, USDOE is both a Trustee and the response agency and Washington is both a Trustee and a regulator. Reaching consensus on guiding documents, principles, and actions takes considerable time and effort.
Trustees approved a Memorandum of Agreement in 1996. Bylaws were approved in 1997. The Trustees pursue good working relationships and early involvement in decision-making. The Council is a dynamic assembly of agencies, Tribal Nations, and individuals who are committed advocates for the land, the unique Hanford habitat, and the Columbia River.
Trustees deal with a long list of issues. In the early years of Council, the Trustees focused much of their effort on the Ecological Risk Assessments and other cleanup activities being conducted on the Hanford Site, such as those associated with the Central Plateau cleanup, the River Corridor Closure Project and the Groundwater Project.
In 2005, a contractor was hired to conduct a literature compilation/review of documents related to potentially injured natural resources at the site. A final summary report was also part of that effort.
In 2006, the Yakama Nation completed a pre-assessment screen for the Hanford Site and determined that there was sufficient information regarding on-going injury to proceed with a natural resource damage assessment. Washington State concurred with the Yakama Nation’s determination. In 2007, the CTUIR also completed a pre-assessment screen and a determination to proceed with a Natural Resource Damage Assessment (NRDA) for Hanford.
In 2007, the Trustees decided to proceed with a phased NRDA approach and begin the Injury Assessment phase in parallel with ecological risk assessments. The Injury Assessment is designed to evaluate the extent to which natural resources in and around the Hanford Site have been impacted by hazardous contaminants released from the Hanford Site. To the extent such impacts are identified, the Trustees will quantify the injuries and establish the type and quantity of restoration necessary to compensate for the injured natural resources and the lost services associated with the injured resources.
In 2008, a contractor was hired to perform Phase I of the injury assessment planning process including development of a list of potentially injured natural/cultural resources and defining the focus and scope of the injury assessment. Phase I was completed on June 30, 2009. Phase I deliverables included the following:
• Memorandums providing summaries of meeting(s) and workshops with Trustees
• List of potentially injured natural resources and cultural resources
• List of relevant information sources, including databases, studies, reports, documents and other literature; and data management, handling and maintenance proposal
• Hanford Site Natural Resource Damage Assessment, Phase I Summary Report, including key appendices:
- Tribal Use of Natural Resources in NRDA
- Hanford Site Natural Resource Damage Assessment Draft Conceptual Site Model
- Hanford Site Natural Resource Damage Assessment Data Management Report
A number of technical work groups (TWGs) were formed during Phase I and continue to assist in the injury assessment process, including Groundwater/Source and Pathway, Aquatic Resources, Terrestrial Resources, Human/Tribal Uses, Restoration and Data Management/QA.
In 2010, Phase II was initiated with the hiring of a contractor for preparation of the injury assessment plan. Key Phase II products prepared by Industrial Economics, Incorporated (IEc) for the Hanford Natural Resource Trustee Council (Council) included the Injury Assessment Plan (IAP) and related products/activities such as the Data Gap Report and draft Preliminary Estimate of Damages (PED), 4 expert panels, development of recommendations for initial studies/resource review reports, development of preliminary thresholds and tests and preparation of public involvement materials. The IAP was completed in January 2013 after public review and comment. Current work is focused on the implementation of more comprehensive injury studies identified in Phase II planning documents such as the IAP, Data Gap Report and Resource Review Reports.
The IAP provides an outline of the approach the Hanford Trustees will take to assess injuries to natural resources stemming from releases of Site-related hazardous substances. The IAP is intended to ensure that NRDAR is conducted in a planned and systematic manner and at a reasonable cost (43 CFR § 11.30(b)). The IAP describes over 40 potential studies designed to evaluate past, current, and future natural resource injury and associated losses of resource services. Ultimately, the information collected through implementation of the IAP will inform the scope and scale of restoration activities needed to restore natural resources and resource services to their baseline condition, thereby achieving the goal of the NRDAR process.
The IAP formalizes the Trustees’ current understanding of the studies that may be necessary to determine and quantify injury to site resources and resource services. A prioritization process will identify the studies that will be implemented and the sequence of studies, given limits on available funding and other considerations. The DOI regulations also provide that an assessment plan may be modified as new information becomes available (43 CFR Section 11.33 (e)).
Therefore, implementation of initial studies may suggest addition of future studies to the current list, and may deprioritize others.
Hanford NRDA work in FY 2016 was focused on 11 injury/restoration studies that are in various stages of completion. The Council goal is to complete the injury assessment and prepare a Restoration Plan by 2024. Planning efforts resulted in an update of the Hanford NRDA Project Execution Plan (PEP). The PEP defines the overall work scope, schedule, and budget for the Hanford injury assessment and establishes the means to execute, monitor, and control the project in a disciplined manner. The PEP is a “living document” that is updated annually based on actual budgets and new information gained from the injury assessment process. Actual funding over the last few years has been less than requested which has constrained the assessment process.
Initial injury studies are in various stages of completion. Final reports summarizing results of a Groundwater Contaminant Plume Mapping Study and Mussel Toxicity Study conducted by the United States Geological Survey (USGS) are in the process of being finalized. A terrestrial disturbance inventory geodatabase and report were completed for two operable units (100-F and 100-B/C). Other studies that are in various stages of completion include: Three Tribal Service Loss Studies; Near Shore Aquatic; Evaluation of Contaminant Concentrations in Soils of Non-process Areas; Habitat Recovery Analysis/Restoration Planning; and Groundwater Policy/Injury.
A revised Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) was approved by the Trustees in FY2016. The MOA supersedes the 1996 Hanford Site Trustee MOA. The MOA provides the framework for coordination and cooperation of the Trustees in conducting the NRDA at Hanford.
The Council continues to meet on a monthly basis to plan, organize, control and direct Hanford NRDAR activities. The Senior Trustees meet periodically to review progress and address issues elevated from the Council.