Trustees Release Final Phase 2 Restoration Plan for Palos Verdes Shelf NPL Site in Southern California Bight, offshore Los Angeles County, California

Last edited 09/25/2020

restoring seabird breeding habitat on Santa Barbara Island, California
Volunteers work at Elephant Seal Cove on Santa Barbara Island in Channel Islands National Park, offshore of southern California, restoring native plants and creating high-quality breeding habitat for seabirds as part of the Montrose Settlements Restoration Program. Photo credit: Annie Little, FWS.

On September 17, 2012, the federal and State natural resource trustees released the publicly-reviewed “Montrose Settlements Restoration Program, Final Phase 2 Restoration Plan and Environmental Assessment/Initial Study.” This Final Phase 2 Restoration Plan augments the Final Restoration Plan, issued by the trustees in 2005, addressing natural resources injured by hazardous substances releases from ocean outfalls on the Palos Verdes Shelf in the Southern California Bight offshore Los Angeles, California.

The natural resource trustees in this case include:

  • State of California, represented by California Department of Fish and Game, California Department of Parks and Recreation and California State Lands Commission;
  • U.S. Department of Commerce, represented by National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration; and,
  • U.S. Department of the Interior, represented by National Park Service and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

The Palos Verdes Shelf site is an area of contaminated sediments in the Southern California Bight offshore of Los Angeles, California. These sediments were contaminated by DDTs and PCBs in wastewater discharged through ocean outfalls, off the Palos Verdes Peninsula, operated by the County Sanitation Districts of Los Angeles County. The DDTs originated from industrial wastewater discharged through sewers from the Montrose Chemical Company’s former manufacturing plant in Torrance, California. The PCBs, derived from several sources in the greater Los Angeles area, were also discharged to the sewer systems and eventually released through these same ocean outfalls.

Much of the released DDTs and PCBs settled out on the ocean floor. An estimated 110 tons of DDTs and 11 tons of PCBs were deposited in a 17 square mile area of ocean floor on the Palos Verdes Shelf in the Southern California Bight. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency placed the Montrose Chemical Company site in Torrance on the National Priorities List in 1989.

Natural resources and natural resource services -- including migratory birds, threatened and endangered species and fisheries -- were injured by these hazardous substances releases. After 10 years of litigation, the federal government and the State of California settled claims, including natural resource damage claims, with multiple responsible parties, including Montrose Chemical Company, in 2000. Under the provisions of four separate Settlement Agreements, the defendants paid $63.95 million as natural resource damages. The trustees have used $35 million of these damages to reimburse past damages assessment costs and are using the remainder plus accumulated interest to plan and implement natural resource restoration actions.

In 2001, the trustees created the Montrose Settlements Restoration Program to manage the work of restoring injured natural resources. The MSRP released a publicly-reviewed Final Restoration Plan in October 2005 addressing four broad categories of restoration actions: fishing and fish habitat, bald eagles, peregrine falcons and seabirds. Approximately $25 million of the available restoration funds were allocated for these restoration projects.

This newly-released, publicly-reviewed Phase 2 Restoration Plan is tiered off the 2005 Final Restoration Plan and selects a range of natural resource restoration actions intended to restore fish habitat, bald eagles, peregrine falcons and seabirds. With this Phase 2 Restoration Plan, the trustees are allocating the remaining approximately $15 million plus accrued interest for the following restoration project categories:

  • fishing and fish habitat projects: $9 million;
  • bald eagle and peregrine falcon projects: $3.5 million; and,
  • seabirds projects: $5 million.

Implementation of these restoration projects will begin soon.

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