As cleanup at Hanford continues, we're able to focus on future uses of the site. This includes protecting Hanford's ecological and cultural heritage, and restoring habitat for many rare plants and animals that live there.
Fish and wildlife officer holds male Chinook salmon from the Columbia River.
The current Hanford site covers 580 square-miles of land bordered on the north and east by the Columbia River, featuring:
Since most of the area around the Hanford site has been converted to farms, Hanford is important to many unique plants and animals of the Columbia Basin, including:
The endangered White bluffs bladderpod flower is found only in the Hanford Reach.
In addition to maintaining resources that weren't damaged during the production years at Hanford, cleanup activities must consider requirements for restoring habitat. In some cases, cleanup plans call for deliberate habitat restoration. Work may involve intentionally re-seeding or planting native plants to speed the establishment of healthy habitat for wildlife.
We work with the U.S. Dept. of Energy and EPA to find the best, most cost-effective methods of cleaning up the environment, and ensure that the cleanup follows the laws under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act. While it is a federal law, Washington state is authorized to carry out enforcement. Examples of restoration may include re-seeding an area with native grasses or planting new sagebrush. The Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation are actively involved in growing native plants for use in habitat restoration.
When releases of contaminants are suspected to have led to injury to, destruction of, loss of, or threat to natural resources at Hanford, federal law allows government officials, or Hanford natural resource Trustees, to enter into a defined process.
The objectives of the Natural Resource Damage Assessment (NRDA) process are to:
U.S. Dept. of the Interior regulations establish a framework and set of procedures for the NRDA process. The regulations define three sequential phases:
In the initial phase, trustees conduct a review to determine if a formal damage assessment will likely show that natural resources have been affected by the release of hazardous substances.
The second phase has two primary components — planning and implementation. First, the trustees must write a plan, or series of plans, to ensure that the assessment of damages is well-planned and systematic and that it can be done at a reasonable cost. U.S. Dept. of the Interior regulations require trustees to make assessment plan documents available for public review and comment.
During the last phase, the trustees prepare a report documenting all aspects of the assessment process and make a formal claim for damages from those potentially responsible. Upon settlement of the claim or the awarding of damages, this phase concludes by preparing and implementing a restoration plan in order to restore affected natural resources to their baseline condition and compensate the public for the interim loss of services derived from those resources.
Upon completion of draft planning documents, you can participate in the NRDA process. First, Trustees will notify Washington residents 30 days prior to the release of a planning document. Then the documents will be posted on Hanford's NRDA Public Involvement page. Finally, the plans will be available for 30 days for your review and comment.
Damage claims are focused on restoring injured natural resources to their “baseline” condition, defined as the condition absent the release of contaminants.
Remediation activities are designed to reduce risks to public health and the environment. Achieving a risk-based cleanup goal does not necessarily return injured natural resources to their baseline condition. We work with EPA to oversee remediation and response activities at Hanford. Trustees take cleanup activities and outcomes into account — and, whenever possible, coordinate with the remediation process — in order to ensure that proposed restoration activities are cost-effective.
In June 2009, Hanford Trustees completed Phase I, determining that a full assessment was warranted. Phase II began in 2010, and included development of the Injury Assessment Plan and related products; four expert panels; recommendations for initial studies/resource review reports; preliminary thresholds and tests; and public involvement materials. The Injury Assessment Plan was completed in January 2013 after public review and comment.