Archive for Economics


Profiles in Resilience: ORA Estuaries wins 2014 Water Challenge business pitch at New Orleans Entrepreneur Week

April 14, 2014 | Posted by Elizabeth Skree in Economics, People, Profiles in Resilience, Restoration Projects

By Keenan Orfalea, Communications Intern, Environmental Defense Fund

Last month, ORA Estuaries took first place in the 2014 Water Challenge business pitch competition at New Orleans Entrepreneur Week. The Baton Rouge-based company beat out four other startups to claim the prize, which included $50,000 in seed money as well as free office space and legal counsel for a year. This support will help the company to expand the use of its innovative products and services in restoring Louisiana’s wetlands.

tyler ortego 2

Tyler Ortego, president and founder of ORA Estuaries.

ORA Estuaries provides engineering, scientific and regulatory consulting services as well as project implementation for clients including local, state and federal governments. The company’s primary products are the patented OysterBreak™ and OysterKrete® technologies.

“The OysterBreak and OysterKrete technologies were originally developed in Louisiana to address Louisiana's coastal land loss,” said Tyler Ortego, president and founder of the company. “This prize package, combined with recent project successes, is critical to allowing ORA Estuaries to export that success to other areas of the country and world.”

ORA’s innovative technologies are specifically designed to facilitate the protection, restoration and healthy growth of coastal estuaries. OysterBreak™ is designed to use the gregarious, shell-building nature to form a living coastal protection structure. The system has proven more effective than alternative rock structures. By employing these tools, ORA Estuaries is able to accomplish its primary goals of stabilizing shoreline and enhancing marine ecosystems.

Small Oysterbreak. Credit: ORA Estuaries.

Small Oysterbreak™. Credit: ORA Estuaries.

While ORA Estuaries may be a startup, Ortego has years of experience working in coastal engineering and natural resource management. He is a Graduate of Louisiana State University and holds B.S. and M.S. degrees in Biological Engineering, as well as being both a professional engineer and a certified oyster biologist with the state’s Oyster Lease Damage Evaluation Board. He started his career consulting on wetland restoration, flood protection and mitigation projects around Louisiana and the Gulf Coast before founding ORA Estuaries. Since then, the company has participated in a number of large-scale plans involving the study and design of oyster reefs and various other aquatic environments. Through the success of these projects, Mr. Ortego hopes they will become “the new definition of a living shoreline.”

Thanks to winning the Water Challenge business pitch, ORA Estuaries plans to use its innovator prize monies to help market their OysterBreak™ technology as a solution to coastal restoration experts internationally.

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Wildlife tourism in Louisiana

September 5, 2013 | Posted by Delta Dispatches in BP Oil Disaster, Job Creation, RESTORE Act, Wildlife tourism

This is the second post in a series about wildlife tourism and the Gulf Coast economy.

By Will Lindsey and Rachel Schott, Environmental Defense Fund

Datu Research LLC’s recently released report, “Wildlife Tourism and the Gulf Coast Economy,” shows how wildlife tourism is a vital component of the Gulf Coast economy and links the industry’s success to the health of the Gulf’s unique environment and ecosystems. Taking a closer look at the report allows one to see the full economic impact of wildlife tourism on each of the five Gulf Coast states as well as the businesses directly and indirectly associated with wildlife tourism in the region. In coastal areas, tourism jobs can account for 20-36 percent of all private sector employment.

Louisiana receives more than 2 million wildlife tourists every year, and the state’s coastal parishes host nearly 4,400 wildlife tourism-related businesses. Wildlife tourism includes recreational fishing, hunting and wildlife watching. These guide and outfitter companies, which tend be small businesses, have a big economic impact on their communities. There are also hundreds of lodging and dining establishments that cater to wildlife tourists, providing a significant cumulative impact on the local economy.

A Louisiana-based guide company, Lost Land Environmental Tours, is one such business that provides services for wildlife tourists by offering tours of the swamps and wetlands. Their guides engage with and educate customers on issues that threaten coastal Louisiana, such as wetlands loss and erosion, and provide information about the importance of preserving, protecting and rebuilding this valuable natural resource.

Lost Land is increasingly concerned about the ecological health of the Gulf, as it is directly tied to the viability of their business and other outdoor businesses. “We strive to show people the beauty and the lushness of our ecosystem,” said Marie Gould, co-founder of Lost Land. “We end up showing people small patches of the way things should be and a lot of dead and dying forests.”

Numerous wildlife tourism businesses stand to lose if coastal wetlands loss is not addressed with timely restoration projects. Funding from the RESTORE Act and other monies related to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill are expected to provide monetary support for these urgent projects. This funding is needed to protect and restore the natural environment as well as the economic viability of the entire Gulf Coast region.

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What is wildlife tourism?

August 23, 2013 | Posted by Delta Dispatches in BP Oil Disaster, Job Creation, Reports, Wildlife tourism

This is the first in a series of posts about wildlife tourism and the Gulf Coast economy.

By Will Lindsey and Rachel Schott, Environmental Defense Fund

A new economic report by Datu Research LLC studied the important contribution that wildlife tourism provides to the economic vitality of 53 coastal counties and parishes across the Gulf Coast states. Wildlife tourism, which includes wildlife watching, recreational fishing and hunting, generates $19 billion per year in revenue for the Gulf Coast. Renowned for its unique culture and outdoor opportunities, the Gulf Coast environment provides world-class recreational activities for millions of tourists every year.

According to the report, “Wildlife Tourism and the Gulf Coast Economy,” more than 20 million people participate in these activities across the five Gulf Coast states every year. The study found that after taking into account businesses and economic sectors that rely on wildlife tourists, the industry produces more than $19 billion per year in revenue. This income is generated by a variety of industries, including guide and outfitter business as well as the lodging and restaurant establishments that provide services to wildlife tourists traveling to the area.

The study demonstrates that a healthy Gulf Coast is not only an important ecological resource for the region but is also a vital economic resource, providing more than $5.3 billion in tax revenues annually and numerous employment opportunities throughout the region. From sunbathing on the beaches of Alabama and Florida to fishing and hunting in Louisiana and Texas, tourists find enjoyment in the natural beauty of the Gulf Coast.

Yet this critically important wildlife recreation sector will continued to be threatened unless policy makers take bold steps to protect our eroding and degraded coastlines. “It is important that we take care of our most valuable natural assets,” said Mark Romig, President of the New Orleans Tourism Marketing Corporation, at a press conference in New Orleans for the release of the report. “We need coastal restoration to protect our economic base… It’s right for the environment, right for business, right for people, and right for jobs.”

Knowing the economic impact of wildlife tourism on the Gulf Coast region makes coastal restoration even more essential and timely. Many people and businesses rely on the resources provided by the Mississippi River Delta and Gulf Coast, and the economic viability of the area can be secured by ensuring the resiliency of this diverse, yet fragile, region for decades to come.

Investing in coastal restoration, as through the RESTORE Act and other monies stemming from the Deepwater Horizon oil disaster, will help the Gulf Coast ecosystem as well as the tourism industry which depends on a healthy Gulf.

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Joint Ocean Commission Initiative report underscores importance of coastal restoration

August 7, 2013 | Posted by Rachel Schott in Community Resiliency, Economics, Federal Policy, Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council, Latest News, Reports, RESTORE Act, Science

By Rachel Schott, Environmental Defense Fund

In June, the Joint Ocean Commission Initiative, a bipartisan 16-member council representing diverse ocean interests, released a new report, “Charting the Course: Securing the Future of America’s Oceans.” The report outlines important ocean reform and coastal restoration recommendations for Congress and the Obama Administration. Being an “ocean nation,” the health of the U.S. economy is closely tied to health of its oceans. For Gulf Coast residents, this specifically means the Gulf of Mexico. The report has implications for both the health the Gulf Coast environment and the economies that rely on it.

“Our oceans and coasts are vital to our nation’s economy and security, as well as to the health and quality of life of its citizens,” states the Joint Initiative in the report. No one understands this better than Louisiana and Gulf Coast residents. After the 2010 oil disaster, in 2012, Congress took an important step toward securing the future health and vitality of the region when it passed the RESTORE Act – legislation that dedicates fines from the Gulf oil disaster to the Gulf Coast states for restoration. However, project selection and final authorization of funds has yet to be determined.

The report makes recommendations that advocate for restoring the coast’s natural coastline, strengthening its ability to protect communities from storms and rebuilding natural habitats and ecosystems. These recommendations offer a valid perspective for allocating available RESTORE Act funding and BP oil spill penalties to coastal restoration projects.

In its report, the council – consisting of national, state, and local leaders from diverse government agencies, academic institutions and industries – provided a set of science-based policy recommendations that enhance the long-term security and economic priorities of the nation’s coast. Two actions that would directly affect the Mississippi River Delta and coastal Louisiana are as follows:

  • “Enhance the resiliency of coastal communities and ocean ecosystems to dramatic changes underway in our oceans and on our coasts.”
  • “Support state and regional ocean and coastal priorities.”

As hurricanes and super storms become more common, it will become vital that policymakers implement programs that increase coastal resiliency. National decision makers must understand the underlying issues and local community priorities to effectively select and implement coastal restoration projects.

As the report underlines, building stronger and more resilient coastlines benefits not just those living near the coast, but the entire nation that depends on healthy coasts and oceans. The Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council has an unprecedented opportunity to allocate RESTORE Act funds to implementing coastal restoration projects and becoming an integral part of rebuilding the Mississippi River Delta and Gulf Coast and the economies that depend on a healthy Gulf Coast.

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Profiles in Coastal Restoration: Allied Concrete Company

August 5, 2013 | Posted by Rachel Schott in Economics, Profiles in Resilience, Restoration Projects, Seafood

By Will Lindsey, Environmental Defense Fund

Allied Concrete Company, a 68-year-old firm based in Charlottesville, Va., is creating new business opportunities by partnering with conservation groups to deploy miles of new oyster reefs along the Gulf Coast. These reefs are composed of an innovative concrete product and create both a restored ecosystem habitat as well as a new business opportunity for Allied Concrete.

Allied Concrete builds Oyster Castles to battle declining oyster populations in coastal regions. Photo Credit: Allied Concrete Co.

In 2011, the 100-1000 Coalition began implementing a project to build 100 miles of oyster reefs in Alabama, which would then support more than 1,000 acres of marshland. Coalition member organizations include Mobile Baykeeper, The Nature Conservancy, The Alabama Coastal Foundation, Weeks Bay Foundation, Dauphin Island Sea Lab, The Ocean Foundation, Alabama Wildlife Foundation and Coastal Conservation Association.

A displaced Louisianan, Allied Concrete company president Gus Lorber has a passion for saving the Gulf. “I grew up in Louisiana and worked, played and fished in the Louisiana and Mississippi Gulf Coast area my entire life,” said Lorber. “I have seen firsthand the degradation of the coastal wetlands in that area my entire life.”

Founded in 1945, Allied traditionally made concrete blocks, but the company has since diversified its product range in response to ever-changing markets and customer needs. Notably, in 2007, Allied joined forces with The Nature Conservancy and others to develop a solution to the declining oyster populations in coastal regions. The result of this partnership was the Oyster Castle, which is a concrete unit by Allied specially designed to build oyster reefs. The unit is made of a “certified blend of proprietary material conducive to attracting and fostering oyster settlement, attachment, and growth.”

http://www.alliedconcrete.com/oysterCastle.html

Oyster Castles create habitats and also help to slow coastline erosion.
Photo Credit: Allied Concrete Co.

Significantly, the Oyster Castle has received a gold Cradle to Cradle certification for its environmentally-friendly design. With Gulf Coast restoration projects likely to ramp up in response to potential monies flowing as a result of the Deepwater Horizon Disaster, Allied’s business is expected to increase. “I firmly believe that, as the RESTORE Act monies become available, the monies should be spent on creating economies in the ‘home’ states, and we are prepared to license local manufacturers to make our units to accomplish this goal,” says Lorber.

Allied is proud to be making a product that has a positive impact in the Gulf Coast. “Besides being my passion, all of my employees love what we are doing with Oyster Castles,” said Lorber. “They feel good about this company for helping the environment, they feel good about their part in making a product that plays a part in this, and they always volunteer for whatever hair-brained scheme I come up with to make products that do good things.”

In addition to providing habitat, oyster reef restoration projects provide numerous environmental benefits including water filtration, habitat for other marine life, storm surge attenuation and erosion control.

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My summer at EDF: An intern’s take on Mississippi River Delta restoration

July 26, 2013 | Posted by Delta Dispatches in 2012 Coastal Master Plan, BP Oil Disaster, Clean Water Act, Economics, Restoration Projects, RESTORE Act, Staff Profiles, Wildlife tourism

By Will Lindsey, Environmental Defense Fund

Will Lindsey, Policy and Partnerships Intern, Mississippi River Delta Restoration, Environmental Defense Fund.

As my first summer internship as a Tulane University Law School student comes to an end, I am grateful to have been so involved in work that directly relates to the place where I live and attend school. My work as a policy and partnerships intern with the Mississippi River Delta Restoration Campaign at Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) has ensured that I will never look at the Gulf Coast in quite the same fashion again.

Upon arriving at EDF, I knew I would be working on the RESTORE Act. Generally, I knew the RESTORE Act was significant because it would dedicate a large majority of the Clean Water Act penalties from the Deepwater Horizon oil disaster to the Gulf Coast states for restoration. What I didn't know was what this meant, practically speaking, for the Gulf Coast and for coastal Louisiana, specifically.

I quickly realized that the RESTORE Act has the potential to fund significant restoration projects that the Gulf Coast has desperately needed for a long time. It also became clear that if used wisely, this funding could vastly improve and protect the long-term ecological and economic stability of the Gulf Coast. It also became clear that if used unwisely, there was a possibility of wasting an unprecedented funding opportunity and the chance to make a real difference in the Gulf.

What this means on the ground is using funding from the RESTORE Act, as well other funding streams stemming from the Deepwater Horizon disaster, to implement projects that will both restore the natural environment as well as combat the loss of coastal wetlands that the Gulf Coast has been experiencing for several decades. These projects have long been recognized as needs in the Gulf Coast and have been outlined in many state plans, including Louisiana’s 2012 Coastal Master Plan. These projects not only present the opportunity to protect and restore wildlife habitat, but many of these projects would create and/or restore coastal wetlands which ultimately serve as a natural storm surge buffers for populated areas.

Finally, I realized that the Gulf Coast economy was inescapably intertwined with the Gulf ecosystem. Wildlife tourism, including wildlife watching, recreational fishing and hunting, generates substantial revenue in the five Gulf Coast states and would not exist without a healthy ecosystem. Additionally, the Gulf Coast economy stands to grow as coastal restoration projects are initiated as new funding becomes available. Many businesses throughout the U.S. have recognized the economic opportunities that coastal restoration can provide and thus have begun to include coastal restoration-related services in their repertoires.

With good forethought and cooperation, it seems clear that these funding streams, which resulted from a terrible disaster, can ultimately serve to reverse much of the degradation that the Gulf Coast has seen in the past. In turn, this will strengthen the Gulf Coast economy, protect Louisianans and other Gulf Coast residents from natural disasters and improve, as well as safeguard, natural wildlife habitat.

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Gulf Tourism Depends on a Healthy Gulf

July 9, 2013 | Posted by Rachel Schott in Economy, Hunting and Fishing, Latest News, Media Resources, Reports, Seafood, Wildlife, Wildlife tourism

PRESS RELEASE

Contacts:
Molly Moore, Sanderson Strategies Group, 202.682.3700, molly@sandersonstrategies.com
Elizabeth Skree, Environmental Defense Fund, 202.553.2543, eskree@edf.org

Gulf Tourism Depends on a Healthy Gulf

New report shows wildlife tourism is central to Gulf Coast economy

(New Orleans—July 9, 2013) The coastal environment of the Gulf of Mexico supports a $19 billion annual wildlife tourism industry that is highly dependent on critical investments in coastal environmental restoration, according to a survey released today by Datu Research LLC.

Wildlife Tourism and the Gulf Coast Economy” concludes that wildlife tourism is extremely valuable to the Gulf Coast economy and relies heavily on the health of the endangered Gulf Coast ecosystem in the five states of Louisiana, Florida, Texas, Alabama and Mississippi. Wildlife tourism includes recreational fishing, hunting and wildlife watching.

Key findings of the report show that wildlife tourism:

  • Generates more than $19 billion in annual spending.
  • Attracts 20 million participants annually across the five Gulf Coast states.
  • Delivers $5.3 billion annually in federal, state and tax revenues.

The study also found tourism jobs can account for 20-36 percent of all private jobs in coastal counties and parishes that are particularly dependent on wildlife activities. Those 53 counties and parishes have more than 25,000 tourism-related businesses and nearly 500,000 associated jobs.

The study reported that all forms of tourism generate 2.6 million jobs in the Gulf states, nearly five times the number of jobs provided by the region’s other three largest resource-based industries: commercial fishing, oil and gas, and shipping.

“With so many outdoor adventure opportunities, tourism is a critical industry to our coastal parishes,” Louisiana Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne said. “Sportsman’s Paradise is more than our state’s nickname. If Louisiana is to remain the Sportsman’s Paradise, we have to ensure that funds Louisiana receives as a result of the Deepwater Horizon spill are properly and wisely spent preserving our paradise.”

Lt. Gov. Dardenne will speak at a press conference Tuesday, July 9 in New Orleans along with Billy Nungesser, president, Plaquemines Parish; Charlotte Randolph, president, Lafourche Parish; John F. Young, Jr., president, Jefferson Parish; Capt. Ryan Lambert, owner, Cajun Fishing Adventures; Mark Romig, president, New Orleans Tourism Marketing Corporation; Alon Shaya, executive chef, Domenica, Besh Restaurant Group; and Marcy Lowe, president, Datu Research LLC.

The study’s findings underscore the direct connection between the health of the ecosystem and the economic health of the Gulf region and the urgency for using the pending influx of monies from the RESTORE Act and other payments resulting from the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill to properly and effectively restore the fragile Gulf Coast ecosystems.

“The conservation solutions that last are the ones that make economic sense and consider the needs of local communities,” said Scott Burns, director of the environment program at the Walton Family Foundation, which helped fund the survey. “This study connects the dots between a healthy Gulf environment, abundant wildlife and the good jobs that depend on tourism. This report adds to the growing evidence that investing in real restoration in the Gulf is the best way to create jobs and build economic prosperity across the region.”

Datu Research LLC is an economic research firm whose principals were part of the Duke University Center on Globalization, Governance & Competitiveness. They have previously released three analyses of supply chains associated with the work of coastal restoration, showing that more than 400 businesses in 36 states would benefit from such work.

This study was funded by Environmental Defense Fund with support from the Walton Family Foundation.

Part II: Supporting comments

Comments from participants in release of study: Wildlife Tourism and the Gulf Coast Economy

John Young, president, Jefferson Parish: “This study further supports the direct link between a healthy coastal environment and a robust economy which depends on a $19 billion wildlife tourism industry. The well-being and continued growth of our coastal communities depend on the health of the Gulf, restoring and strengthening our fragile ecosystems, and promoting a wildlife tourism industry which can thrive, not only in Jefferson Parish but in all Gulf Coast states.”

Billy Nungesser, president, Plaquemines Parish: “Plaquemines Parish and Louisiana are the nation’s premier delta coastline. We are strategically positioned as the fishing capital of the world, the sportsmen’s paradise state and the seafood capital of the United States, and these factors which make Plaquemines and Louisiana unique depend on the health of our coast.”

Michael Hecht, president & CEO, Greater New Orleans, Inc.:  “Tourism overall, including wildlife tourism, provides 2.6 million jobs across the Gulf States – and many of these are with small businesses. To protect this vital economic base, as well as other important coastal industries, we must prioritize large-scale coastal restoration projects that will ensure a stable coast and healthy environment.”

Mark Romig, president,  New Orleans Tourism Marketing Corporation: “New Orleans attracts the experiential discover type of tourist, one who enjoys using the city as a base to go out and explore any authentic and unique aspects of the city and region, including the natural world. For the many businesses in this region, the need to restore and preserve our coastal wetlands is not optional; it’s an urgent economic necessity.”

Capt. Ryan Lambert, owner, Cajun Fishing Adventures: “I’ve grown up loving and making a living from the waters of the Louisiana coast and for more than 30 years, my business has been taking people fishing in those waters. But every year, as I see places disappearing from the map, I fear I may be part of the last generation to live off the water.”

Ralph Brennan, president, Ralph Brennan Restaurant Group: “Family restaurants like mine depend on a healthy Gulf Coast for the fresh seafood that has made New Orleans the culinary capital of the United States. The money states are beginning to receive to repair the damages from the Deepwater Horizon spill are our best – and may be our last real chance – to reverse decades of mistakes.”

Marcy Lowe, president, Datu Research LLC.: “This study shows the vital connection between the health of the ecosystem and the economic health of the Gulf region. Wildlife tourism is a major contributor to the Gulf Coast economy, but it’s very survival depends on the restoration of an endangered and irreplaceable ecosystem.”

Part III: Key study findings

Report: Wildlife Tourism and the Gulf Coast Economy

Key findings for the Gulf region

Wildlife Tourism and the Gulf Coast Economy,” a survey produced by Datu Research LLC, finds that in the five Gulf Coast states:

  • Tourism generates 2.6 million jobs, nearly five times the number of jobs created by the region’s other three largest resource-based industries combined: commercial fishing, oil and gas, and shipping.
  • In Gulf Coast coastal counties and parishes where economies are particularly dependent on tourism, 20-36 percent of all private sector employment is tourism-related.
  • Wildlife tourism, which includes wildlife watching, recreational fishing and hunting, generates more than $19 billion in annual spending.
  • Wildlife tourism generates $5.3 billion annually in federal, state and local tax revenues, divided roughly equally between local and state tax revenues and federal revenues. In 2011, Gulf Coast state and local governments received $2.5 billion and the federal government $2.8 billion from wildlife tourism. Recreational fishing generates the highest amount of tax revenue at $2.2 billion followed by $2 billion from wildlife watching and $1.2 billion from hunting.
  • Wildlife tourism attracts 20 million participants annually across the five Gulf Coast states. The wildlife tourism industry consists not only of wildlife guide businesses that directly serve wildlife tourists, but also the lodging and dining establishments where they eat and sleep.
  • Gulf Coast tourism – and wildlife tourism in particular – is highly dependent on a healthy coastal environment.
  • More than 11,000 lodging and dining establishments and 1,100 guide and outfitters businesses create business networks that depend on each other for referrals. In a survey of over 500 guide and outfitter businesses, about 40 percent of respondents said clients ask them for hotel recommendations and 55 percent said clients request restaurant recommendations. Likewise, more than 60 percent of guide businesses receive clients based on recommendations from hotels and restaurants.
  • Guide and outfitting operations represent a strong network of small businesses that have a large impact on local tourism. More than 86 percent of these businesses have one to five employees, and nearly 60 percent host more than 200 visitors per year, with many hosting several thousand.

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May 3 Telebriefing: Next Steps for Increased Funding for Coastal Restoration

May 2, 2013 | Posted by Elizabeth Skree in BP Oil Disaster, Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council, Job Creation, Meetings/Events, RESTORE Act

Coast Builders Coalition and the Mississippi River Delta Restoration Campaign will host a telebriefing on Friday, May 3, 2013 at 11 a.m. EST. Businesses and business associations seeking an update on the RESTORE Act, Deepwater Horizon settlement and the Gulf Council are encouraged to register. These issues will impact a wide range of businesses, from the coastal restoration companies that can expect to see increased demand for their services to the tourism companies that depend on a healthy Gulf ecosystem. All businesses are welcome and urged to attend.

An expert panel will provide the latest information on the RESTORE Act, the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council, the Deepwater Horizon trial and key legislative developments in the state of Louisiana. Topics to be covered include:

  • What can businesses expect and when?
  • What opportunities do businesses have to get involved in the process?
  • When can we expect the Council’s plan and what can we expect from this document?
  • When can we expect the Deepwater Horizon settlement funds being administered by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation? What can we expect from these funds?

We will provide guidance and recommendations for what advocates for coastal restoration are looking for from the Council moving forward. Please join us for 15-20 minutes of presentation, followed by discussion.

SPEAKERS:

Elizabeth Weiner
Senior Policy Manager, Mississippi River Delta Restoration Program
Environmental Defense Fund
(Formerly Legislative Assistant for Water Resources Policy for U.S. Senator Mary Landrieu)

Scott Kirkpatrick
President
Coast Builders Coalition

Whit Remer
Policy Analyst, Mississippi River Delta Restoration Program
Environmental Defense Fund

Cynthia Duet
Director, Government Relations
Audubon Louisiana

If you are a business and are interested in participating in this telebriefing, please register at this link.

Please email Shannon Hood (shood@edf.org) with Environmental Defense Fund for more information.

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Path Forward plan must focus on ecosystem restoration

February 6, 2013 | Posted by Delta Dispatches in BP Oil Disaster, Diversions, Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Task Force, Job Creation, Reports, Restoration Projects, RESTORE Act, Science

By Whit Remer, Policy Analyst, Environmental Defense Fund

The Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council recently released "The Path Forward to Restoring the Gulf Coast: A Proposed Comprehensive Plan." The RESTORE Act, signed into law in July, required the newly created Restoration Council to publish a Proposed Plan within six months of the legislation becoming law. Only six pages in length, the Path Forward provides a general framework for the Restoration Council to follow while developing their more robust Initial Comprehensive Plan, due out in July 2013. Moving forward, it is important that the Restoration Council create a Comprehensive Plan concentrated on restoring Gulf Coast ecosystems, which are the backbone of a healthy and thriving gulf economy.

Following the 2010 gulf oil disaster, Congress passed the RESTORE Act to ensure robust restoration of the Gulf Coast. Through the RESTORE Act, Congress developed a framework for federal and state officials to undertake comprehensive restoration. Congress provided money for restoration by ensuring at least 30 percent of funds under the RESTORE Act are dedicated to ecosystem projects. To oversee much of the restoration, the RESTORE Act establishes a highly experienced body of federal and state stakeholders, known at the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council. Finally, the law requires the Restoration Council to develop a scientifically-based Comprehensive Plan to guide ecosystem restoration projects to implementation. The “Path Forward” document is a first step to building a plan for ecosystem restoration.

Allocation of RESTORE Act Funds (Source: The Path Forward to Restoring the Gulf Coast: A Proposed Comprehensive Plan).

As expected, and required by law, the Path Forward builds on the work and recommendations of the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Task Force, which was led by the Environmental Protection Agency. The Task Force strategy had four overarching goals: habitat restoration, restore water quality, replenish marine resources and enhance community resilience. The newly released Path Forward adds a fifth goal of revitalizing the gulf economy. Moving forward, it is important for the Restoration Council to ensure that funds dedicated to the Comprehensive Plan are used solely for ecosystem restoration projects. After all, numerous studies have shown that ecosystem restoration supports economic restoration, including healthy tourism and fishing industries. New jobs created by the ecosystem restoration projects help protect existing infrastructure, rebuild critical wetlands, and create a new export industry focused on coastal and delta restoration.

Initial Comprehensive Plan Development Timeline (Source: The Path Forward to Restoring the Gulf Coast: A Proposed Comprehensive Plan).

We are excited about the Restoration Council’s commitment to long-term recovery in the gulf. In the Path Forward, the Restoration Council has reaffirmed their plans to invest in “specific actions, projects, and programs that can be carried out in the near-term to help ensure on-the-ground results to restore the overall health of the ecosystem.” By incorporating the best available science and adapting the Comprehensive Plan over time to incorporate new science, the plan can advance innovative ecosystem restoration solutions, like freshwater sediment diversions.

We look forward to the next draft of the Comprehensive Plan due out sometime before July.

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What is Our Coast Worth (In Dollars)?

January 24, 2013 | Posted by Delta Dispatches in 2012 Coastal Master Plan, Economics, Science and Engineering Special Team (SEST), Seafood

This story was originally posted on the Coalition the Restore Coastal Louisiana's Coastal Currents blog.

By Scott Madere, Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana

Our coastal wetlands have immeasurable worth to Louisiana in terms of culture. Our history, art, celebrations, recreational opportunities and so much more are tied to the muddy waters and vast green expanse of our swamps, forests and coastal marsh. Our love for our land defines us as a people, and we often cite it to those who are not from here as the main reason why Louisiana’s coast is worth saving. It seems natural for us to talk about the coast this way, but to those outside of Louisiana it may be a little hard to understand. That’s why it’s also valuable to be able to talk about Louisiana’s worth in another way: raw dollars, the sheer economic value that the Mississippi River Delta provides to the nation.

Understanding the massive dollar value of what Louisiana provides to the country helps us make the case to our fellow Americans that Louisiana is worth the resources sent here to restore our wetlands. In a political environment where budgets are tight and decisions are made based on investment return, this could potentially be Louisiana’s best angle toward building more national support for restoration.

So let’s explore it. The Mississippi River Delta Science and Engineering Special Team (SEST), made up of 22 of our nation’s best coastal scientists and engineers, published a report in 2012: “Answering 10 Fundamental Questions About the Mississippi River Delta.” Within the report, SEST compiled some convincing data about the economic value of Louisiana’s coast from a number of sources. Here are some of the highlights:

  • Mississippi River Delta ecosystems provide economically valuable services to the people of our state such as storm protection, fresh water, food, habitat, waste treatment and other benefits. These annual benefits alone are worth up to $47 billion per year to our citizens. With these annual benefits taken into consideration, the present value of the Delta’s ecosystem services could range as high as $1.3 trillion.
  • Between 80 and 90 percent of Louisiana’s economy, seafood production and quality of life is linked to coastal ecosystem goods and services.
  • Commercial fisheries have a yearly impact of $2.85 billion.
  • Recreational fishing generates $1.7 billion annually.
  • Economic activity linked to wildlife (hunting, wildlife watching, trapping, etc.) exceeds $1.6 billion each year.
  • Tourism generates as much as $10 billion every year for Louisiana.
  • The deepwater ports along the Mississippi River from Baton Rouge to New Orleans collectively form the largest tonnage port in the Western Hemisphere. Waterborne commerce in this corridor generates $35 billion annually and as many as 300,000 jobs.

And we haven’t even mentioned oil and gas yet.

According to the Louisiana Oil & Gas Association:

  • Our state is the nation’s number one producer of crude oil and the number two producer of natural gas among the 50 states.
  • Approximately 80 percent of the nation’s offshore oil and gas resources come from or through Louisiana. That equates to 30 percent of the nation’s energy consumption.
  • The Louisiana oil and gas industry exceeds $70 billion of economic impact annually.

After reviewing this very short list of economic benefit provided to us by the coast, it is easy to see two undeniable facts.

First, Louisiana’s coast is an economic engine that needs to be protected. In a time when so much national focus is set on employment numbers, Louisiana contributes positively by providing hundreds of thousands of jobs related to the coast. Even more jobs can be provided by the coastal restoration process itself.

Secondly, placing a national priority on Louisiana coastal restoration is a wise move. The 2012 Louisiana Coastal Master Plan sets a cost of $50 billion to fund its 50-year coordinated coastal restoration strategy. When compared to the potential economic output of Louisiana for the next 50 years, that $50 billion price tag actually seems small.

In the years ahead, Louisiana’s citizens will have to continue to make the case, both on Capitol Hill and in Baton Rouge, that coastal restoration is a top national priority. The numbers do add up when it comes to supporting that claim, and our leaders and citizens should feel confident in taking that position when seeking support from others around the country.

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