both making the environment and the public whole. Of course, even when restoring damaged resources to their original condition is possible, trustees must face questions of how to account for damages from interim loss of resources between the time of injury and time of full restoration. For both interim lost resources due to damages and for cases where it is not possible to fully restore damaged resources, the equivalency question is unavoidable: trustees must answer the question of what restoration activities will provide a set of equivalent resources that make the environment and the public whole. As discussed above, simple application of HEA and REA that focuses on number of acres or numbers of organisms will not necessarily make the public whole because the value of ecosystem services might not be fully restored. On the other hand, restoring the value of ecosystem services might not necessarily result in making the environment whole. An ecosystem services approach that restores the value of ecosystem services via human-engineered substitutes (e.g., building a flood wall or a water filtration plant) may not result in making the environment whole. Restoration of services via human-engineered substitutes would probably not satisfy the requirement of making the environment whole even if the value of ecosystem services is restored. We return to the discussion of equivalency in Chapter 4.
Consideration of the value of ecosystem services rather than equivalency of habitat or population could help relieve what might be called the NRDA “restoration bottleneck.” While NRDA requires the trustees to assess and recover monetary damages from responsible parties, it also encourages the trustees to fully spend those funds on restoring, rehabilitating, replacing, or acquiring the equivalent of the damaged natural resources (33 U.S.C. 2706(f)). “Restoration bottleneck” refers to the fact that a NRDA trustee can collect money damages from a responsible party only to the extent that the trustee can conceive of feasible, productive restoration, rehabilitation, replacement, or acquisition projects. In practice, trustees, the public, and the responsible party often struggle to identify and develop a mutually acceptable project prior to the time of settlement, creating a “bottleneck.”
Finding 2.6: An ecosystem services approach has the potential to expand the array of possible projects for restoration through alternatives that restore an ecosystem service independently of identification of an equivalent habitat or resource, albeit with the caveat that these projects must in aggregate make the environment and the public whole. Evaluation of the impacts on ecosystem services as part of the damage assessment process would expand the range of mitigation options.