Natural resources along the shoreline of a tidal estuary were injured by oiling and physical disturbance following the accidental release of No. 6 fuel oil from a power plant in New Jersey, USA. Operation of heavy equipment on the shoreline during the emergency response entrained oil into sediments and physically damaged shoreline vegetation dominated by the low-value specie Phragmites australis.

In response to this incident, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) and the responsible party (RP) conducted a cooperative natural resource damage assessment (NRDA). During NRDA discussions, the NJDEP proposed that compensatory restoration for injured natural resources be provided at a ratio of 3:1 (restored-to-injured) based on the acreage of physically impacted vegetation. Since in-kind restoration of Phragmites was undesirable, native salt marsh vegetation was planted instead, resulting in enhancement of the injured habitat. Since the primary restoration actions yielded improvements beyond the baseline condition, the RP successfully negotiated a 1:1 replacement ratio for components involving habitat enhancement. By incorporating habitat enhancement into the design of primary restoration, the amount of the compensatory restoration was reduced. By expanding the primary restoration to include enhancement of adjoining degraded habitat that was not impacted by the incident, the RP was able to satisfy both primary and compensatory restoration obligations simultaneously by integrating these components into a single restoration project. The combined primary and compensatory restoration project was then implemented as emergency restoration 4–5 months after the incident.

This integrated restoration approach enabled the RP to: (1) decrease compensatory restoration requirements by incorporating habitat enhancement into primary restoration; (2) reduce restoration costs by avoiding separate primary and compensatory restoration projects; and (3) expedite restoration by performing actions under the scope of emergency restoration. This strategy benefited the trustees by simplifying the assessment and reducing oversight burdens. The public and the environment benefited by receiving restoration on an accelerated timeframe.

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