Archive for Job Creation
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.
Senior Policy Manager, Mississippi River Delta Restoration Program
Environmental Defense Fund
(Formerly Legislative Assistant for Water Resources Policy for U.S. Senator Mary Landrieu)
Coast Builders Coalition
Policy Analyst, Mississippi River Delta Restoration Program
Environmental Defense Fund
Director, Government Relations
If you are a business and are interested in participating in this telebriefing, please register at this link.
Please email Shannon Hood (firstname.lastname@example.org) with Environmental Defense Fund for more information.No Comments
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.
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.
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.No Comments
By Elizabeth Skree, Environmental Defense Fund
In the wake of Hurricane Isaac, 12 miles of Louisiana coastline have been closed because of newly washed up tar balls. Though the oil still must be analyzed, many – including BP – say that these tar balls could be leftovers from the 2010 BP oil disaster. (Update: Tests taken today confirm that the oil is from the 2010 BP spill)
At the same time, the Department of Justice has filed a memo blasting BP and underscoring the federal case that BP may be held grossly negligent in its handling of the Macondo well — a designation that could have tremendous impact on the amount of RESTORE Act dollars that flow back to the gulf.
How many more stories do we need to read about oil washing ashore before BP steps up to the plate and makes things right? How many more beaches need to be closed before BP stops stalling and makes the gulf whole again?
BP must be held accountable to the fullest extent of the law for their carelessness. The Gulf Coast’s ecosystems and economies depend on it. BP also needs to reach a settlement as soon as possible. The sooner a settlement happens, the sooner restoration can begin.
Despite what BP might want you to believe in its advertisements, the Gulf Coast is still hurting. The gulf environment and the people and businesses that depend on it are still reeling from the effects of the spill. And while it will take years to understand the full extent of the spill’s damage, we do know that the oil continues to show up on beaches in the form of tar balls and mats, has severely impacted bird nesting habitat, has negatively affected endangered sea turtles, is probably at least partly responsible for a spate of dolphin deaths, sped marsh erosion in heavily impacted areas and that dispersants used to break up the oil have harmed plankton – a key link in the ocean’s food web.
The communities, businesses and wildlife of the Gulf Coast depend on a healthy environment for survival. Environmental restoration also provides economic restoration. By creating jobs and adding value throughout coastal economies, the same wetlands that protect coastal communities can also sustain them. The sooner a settlement can be reached, the sooner restoration funds can be made available and the sooner businesses and communities can get back on their feet and start recovering.
BP’s job in the gulf is not finished. It is time for BP to stop stalling and make the gulf whole again. For a region that has suffered so much, it’s the right thing to do.
By Whit Remer, Policy Analyst, Environmental Defense Fund
It’s been an exciting year for Louisiana and the Mississippi River Delta Restoration Campaign.
In July 2011, nine gulf senators banded together and introduced the RESTORE Act – legislation that would ensure penalties paid by BP and others responsible for the gulf oil spill would be used to restore the gulf region’s environment and economy. In September, the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee approved the bill and in October, Representative Steve Scalise (R-LA) and 20 other gulf representatives introduced the House version of the bill. Supporters worked hard and waited patiently as the RESTORE Act continued winding its way through congressional hearings and historic votes until finally, on June 29, 2012, the RESTORE Act was included as part of the final transportation bill and days later signed into law by the President. It was an amazing journey from start to finish, and we want to take a moment to reflect on the past year and begin looking forward to how the RESTORE Act will unfold to become the single largest environmental restoration investment ever made by Congress.
The idea of spending penalty money from the oil spill on environmental and economic restoration in the gulf region is only fair. Diverse groups, including conservation organizations, the Secretary of the Navy, chambers of commerce from across the gulf region and even a special commission created by the President in response to the spill, all agreed it was the right thing to do. Heeding this call, Congress came together to design a bill to return the money where it belongs: to the Gulf Coast. In the Senate, the RESTORE Act received 76 votes – a remarkable display of bipartisanship which highlights the broad support had by the bill. Of course, it could not have happened without our campaign’s supporters, who used social media, letters to the editor and appeals to their congressional representatives to make the bill a top priority.
Looking forward, we are excited that the RESTORE Act has the potential to make the environment and economies of the Gulf Coast healthy again. The RESTORE Act includes a list of various eligible activities that states may use funds for, ranging from coastal restoration and shoreline protection to seafood and tourism promotion. All of these activities will provide new job opportunities for residents along the Gulf Coast and across the nation. As a recent Duke University report shows, the RESTORE Act is a win for the entire country.
The RESTORE Act also sets up a Restoration Council comprised of various federal agencies and states affected by the spill to create an environmental restoration plan for the Mississippi River Delta and Gulf Coast. The plan has the potential to address major, and very expensive, challenges in the Mississippi River Delta. A top funding priority in the plan for Louisiana will be designing and constructing large-scale sediment diversions along the lower Mississippi River. Sediment diversions provide wetlands with essential supplies of fresh water and new silt which help rebuild land and protect the coast.
Over the next few months, the Mississippi River Delta Restoration Campaign will update readers on important RESTORE Act developments. We hope to provide you with useful information as the Restoration Council forms and begins the important process of creating a restoration plan for America’s Gulf Coast.
Stay tuned.1 Comment
By Meg Sutton, Environmental Defense Fund
Oyster reefs in coastal estuaries around the globe have been degraded for the past 100-200 years due to a combination of overfishing, harmful dredging practices, decreasing water quality, sedimentation and oyster diseases.1 Many formerly productive reefs are now functionally extinct, and it is estimated that 85 percent of reefs have been lost globally.2 The majority of commercial oysters are currently sourced from only five eco-regions in the world, concentrated on the east coast of North America and the northern Gulf of Mexico.2 In Louisiana, restoration of oyster reefs has been proposed to both mitigate the decline in stocks and to secure a number of co-benefits which oysters provide. Such restoration has an associated cost which has some asking: How much is an oyster worth?
Restoration of oyster reefs in the gulf would impart several benefits to the region including increases in oyster and fish stocks, improved water quality, erosion control, storm attenuation and economic stimulus for local businesses. Each of these benefits has an associated economic value and should be factored into the decision to bring oyster reef restoration to scale.
The most readily apparent economic benefit of oyster reef restoration is an increase in, or maintenance of, primary oyster productivity. Louisiana is the leading oyster producing state in the U.S., supporting an oyster industry that generates $35 million in dockside value annually.3 Additionally, oyster reefs serve as refuge and feeding ground for many estuarine species including fish, mobile crustaceans and invertebrates. This ecosystem benefit is especially pertinent along the Louisiana coast, where oyster reefs are the primary three-dimensional habitats available. In Louisiana, 23 percent of annual marine fishing occurs over oyster beds, and these areas provide approximately $2 million (2003 dollars) in fisheries value annually for coastal Louisiana.4
Oysters are filter feeders, and this filtration notably reduces the turbidity and nitrogen loading of their surrounding water. Reduction of turbidity — the removal of suspended solids — has been shown to have a significant recreational value for boating and beach swimming. The willingness to pay for reduction in bacteria and oil, as well as improvement in water color for beach goers, was estimated to be $23.39 per person per year.5 In a study of the Choptank River in Maryland, the economic value of the nitrogen removed by an oyster over a ten-year interval was found to be greater than the dockside value of the oyster.6 In a separate analysis, an acre of healthy oyster reef was estimated to yield $3,000 in de-nitrification value annually.7
Additionally, the three-dimensional oyster reef structure attenuates wave energy, which can reduce erosion rates. Oyster reefs are generally understood to dampen wave energy by creating frictional energy between their rough outer surfaces and the wave. The associated economic value of wave attenuation is hard to determine, as it varies based on location. One factor to consider, however, is that the Gulf of Mexico has over 8,000 miles of shoreline that are at risk for erosion.8 Erosion rates and risk of flooding due to storm surge will continue to increase over time with global climate change, environmental degradation and subsidence of the area. If we choose to armor these shorelines, the current option is to install a bulkhead. Bulkheads can cost up to $1 million per mile, while oyster cultch placement — a common method for oyster reef restoration — can be completed for one-third of the cost.8
The industrial and commercial activity that would be generated by large-scale gulf oyster restoration will additionally boost the economy in the Gulf Coast and provide new job opportunities in the gulf and in 17 other states.9 Such restoration efforts would generally benefit small businesses, creating opportunities for local residents to both build new business and contribute to the sustainability of their region.
Restoration of oyster reefs may be necessary to maintain oyster landings in Louisiana, and it would also contribute to the sustainability of the region through ecological co-benefits, shoreline protection and economic stimulus. While these benefits may be difficult to generalize to a per-oyster dollar value, it is clear that the overwhelming co-benefits of oyster reef restoration in Louisiana should be considered in conjunction with the total cost of restoration.
1 Grabowski, J.H. & Peterson, C.H. Restoring oyster reefs to recover ecosystem services. Theoretical Ecology Series 281-298 (Elsevier Academic Press: Burlington, MA, 2007).
2 Beck, M.W. et al. Oyster Reefs at Risk and Recommendations for Conservation, Restoration, and Management. BioScience 61, 107-116 (2011).
3 Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries. Oyster Stock Assessment Report. (Baton Rouge, LA, 2010).
4 Henderson, J. & O’Neil, J. Economic Values Associated with Construction of Oyster Reefs by the Corps of Engineers. United States Army C (2003).
5 Freeman, A.M.I. The Benefits of Water Quality Improvements for Marine Recreation : A Review of the Empirical Evidence. 10, 385-406 (1995).
6 Newell, R., Fisher, T., Holyoke, R. & Cornwell, J. Influence of Eastern Oysters on Nitrogen and Phosphorus Regeneration in Chesapeake Bay, USA. The comparative roles of Suspension Feeders in Ecosystems 47, 93-120 (2005).
7 Piehler, M.F. & Smyth, A.R. Habitat-specific distinctions in estuarine denitrification affect both ecosystem function and services. Ecosphere 2, (2011).
8 National Fish and Wildlife Federation. Toward a Healthy Gulf of Mexico: A Coordinated Strategy for Oyster Restoration in the Gulf. 1-6 (2012).
9 Duke Center on Globalization, Governance & Competitiveness. Stokes, S., Wunderink, S., Lowe, M. & Gereffi, G. Restoring Gulf Oyster Reefs: Opportunities for Innovation (2012).
Did you know that coastal restoration helps not just the environment but also the economy? Restoration activities, like the construction of sediment diversions, coastal dredging and barrier island restoration, directly create jobs through the firms hired to carry out the projects.
Additionally, Louisiana’s coast supports a $34 billion tourism industry, 33 percent of our nation’s seafood harvest, 10 of our 15 largest ports and 90 percent of our offshore crude oil and natural gas production.1 Coastal restoration protects these industries by keeping ecosystems intact and protecting and restoring the natural barriers against storm surge and other natural disasters.
Here at the Mississippi River Delta Restoration Campaign, we are committed to highlighting how restoring the Gulf Coast will not only rejuvenate an ailing ecosystem but also create new jobs and revitalize the gulf’s economy – an environmental and economic win-win.
Recently, economists with Environmental Defense Fund and Duke University have identified how coastal restoration provides quadruple economic returns by supporting jobs in multiple sectors. To better break this down, we have built a suite of Web pages called “Building a Restoration Economy” to show the different areas where jobs can be created:
- Tourism and fishing jobs
- Infrastructure-related jobs
- Restoration jobs
- Export industry jobs in restoration technology
A healthy coastal ecosystem is vital for the gulf’s economy and has the potential to create thousands of jobs in new, high-paying sectors, and with the recent passage of both the Louisiana 2012 Coastal Master Plan and the RESTORE Act, large-scale restoration will come sooner rather than later. For an ailing economy and wounded ecosystem, this is great news.
To learn more about our how coastal restoration provides quadruple economic returns, visit “Building a Restoration Economy.”
Map: Relevant U.S. employee locations of firms linked to Gulf Coast restoration projectsNo Comments
Contact: Elizabeth Skree, 202-553-2543, email@example.com
Geosynthetics Industry Poised to Grow as Gulf Coast Restoration Ramps Up
RESTORE Act will increase environmental restoration, spur economic growth
(Washington, D.C.—July 26, 2012) What are geosynthetics and why are they central to the creation of jobs and expansion of coastal restoration projects? A new Duke University study, “GEOSYNTHETICS: Coastal Management Applications in the Gulf of Mexico,” details how the emerging geosynthetics industry can create jobs benefitting nearly 200 employee locations in 36 states, including more than 72 in the five gulf states and 24 in Louisiana. Duke has also created an online interactive map showing firm-level data and firm locations by state and value chain segment.
Geosynthetics are plastic materials manufactured into fabrics or sheets of various sizes, strengths and textures that are used in engineering projects. Some geosynthetic products include sand-filled geotextile tubes used as containment dikes for restoration projects, as well as marine mattresses – large, rectangular geogrid pouches filled with rocks that are used to support structures and control erosion. Increased investment in coastal restoration, as expected through the recently approved RESTORE Act, will stimulate more local projects and job sites using these innovative construction materials, which will in turn stimulate job creation and the economy.
The report, funded by Environmental Defense Fund and The Walton Family Foundation, is a study of 84 firms involved in the geosynthetics supply chain. The report finds that increased investment in coastal restoration will provide quadruple economic returns and create new opportunities for the growing geosynthetics industry.
Seventy-three percent of firms sampled in the study are considered small businesses according to the U.S. Small Business Administration guidelines on number of employees, and nearly half the firms have fewer than 100 employees. In addition to qualifying as small businesses, almost a quarter of geosynthetics manufacturing firms cited were established in just the last 10 years.
“The geosynthetics industry has been heavily involved in coastal restoration projects throughout Louisiana and the gulf states. As more projects are launched in response to RESTORE Act passage, our member companies are poised to grow our business and local staff to meet increased demand,” said Laurie Honningford, managing director for the International Association of Geosynthetics Installers (IAGI).
“As restoration projects ramp up all along the Gulf Coast and Mississippi River Delta as a result of the RESTORE Act, so will the coastal engineering and construction profession and the geosynthetics industry on which it relies,” said Jackie Prince Roberts, director of sustainable technologies for Environmental Defense Fund. “Geosynthetics – geotextiles and other manmade, polymer-based materials used in environmental restoration, flood prevention and erosion control projects – are an emerging industry and projected to grow at an annual rate of 6.8 percent through 2015. Long-term investment in coastal management will not only benefit the environment, but it will also spur economic growth all along the geosynthetics supply chain by both protecting current jobs – like Gulf Coast fishing, tourism and shipping – and creating new jobs. It’s an economic and environmental win-win.”
The study’s release is timely because earlier this month, the U.S. Congress passed and the President signed into law the RESTORE Act as part of the Surface Transportation Extension Act. This historic legislation will direct 80 percent of the Clean Water Act penalties paid by BP and others responsible for the 2010 gulf oil disaster to the Gulf Coast states to use for restoration. It is the single largest investment in environmental restoration ever made by the U.S. Congress.
“Our geotextile products are incorporated into a welded-wire system which provides a low-cost solution to a wide range of coastal restoration and protection challenges, from oyster reef construction to flood protection,” said Stephanie Victory, president of HESCO Bastion Environmental Inc. “We have completed projects all over the world. Some of the most recent range from emergency flood responses in Thailand to building HESCO Delta® Unit oyster reefs just north of Gulf Shores, Ala. We are thrilled that the RESTORE Act passage will create more opportunities for jobs and coastal restoration efforts back home in Louisiana and across the gulf region.”
“The geosynthetics industry is growing and evolving rapidly as it finds more applications for its product,” says the report. “Coastal management programs across the Gulf Coast states are growing as well, developing plans worth billions of dollars for ecosystem restoration, flood prevention, and erosion control. With geosynthetics playing an increasing role in coastal management, this convergence of events presents an opportunity for geosynthetics manufacturers to diversify and grow, and for coastal engineering to evolve and improve.”
The study also serves as a follow-up to two previous Duke University studies, “RESTORING THE GULF COAST: New Markets for Established Firms” and “RESTORING GULF OYSTER REEFS: Opportunities for Innovation.” The former, released in December, determined that using Clean Water Act penalties from the 2010 gulf oil spill could create jobs that would benefit at least 140 businesses with nearly 400 employee locations in 37 states, including more than 260 locations in the Gulf Coast. The latter, released in June, identified 130 firms nationwide involved with oyster reef restoration and poised to grow with passage of the RESTORE Act.
For more information on how investing in environmental restoration provides quadruple economic returns, please visit www.MississippiRiverDelta.org/economics.
Environmental Defense Fund (edf.org), a leading national nonprofit organization, creates transformational solutions to the most serious environmental problems. EDF links science, economics, law and innovative private-sector partnerships. Connect with us at Twitter.com/EDF_Louisiana and on Facebook.No Comments
By Audrey Payne, Environmental Defense Fund
Ecology and Environment, Inc. (E & E) is an environmental consulting firm that was founded in 1970 and prides itself on its ability to get “the most environmental bang for your buck.” A few of their projects include helping countries around the world write environmental policy; working on environmental issues through social and political turmoil, oil embargoes and environmental disasters; and helping to restore the Gulf Coast. Environmental restoration has become a major part of E & E’s work, and the company has paired up with several non-profit organizations on projects, including The Nature Conservancy, National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, National Audubon Society, Riverkeeper and a few land trust organizations. The company’s goal is to remain ahead of the curve in environmentally sustainable practices, and it has been instrumental in not only carrying out restoration projects in the Gulf of Mexico, but also in planning them.
“The Gulf Coast is everyone’s responsibility,” says Bill Hudson of Ecology and Environment. “We are particularly pleased that Congress has finally passed the RESTORE Act. Beyond directing much-needed funding to the gulf, the legislation does a great job of integrating ecological and economic recovery and making sure that projects across the region are planned, coordinated, and managed using the best available science and ecosystem-based and adaptive management approaches.”
Ecology and Environment, Inc.: A philosophy of sustainability
Ecology and Environment, Inc., headquartered in Lancaster, N.Y., has offices in 43 cities across the United States, including one in Baton Rouge, La., as well as 17 more offices throughout the world. The company has worked in just about every ecosystem imaginable, from the arctic to the tropics, and it employs over 1,150 experts in 85 different science and engineering disciplines, contributing to its multidisciplinary approach to problem solving. The company strives to promote economic and human development in an environmentally sustainable manner and says that “sustainability is the culture in which we live, work, and conduct business; it extends from our local neighborhoods to the global community.”
Ecology and Environment, Inc. offers services in several markets, including power, government, oil and natural gas, renewable energy and mining. One of its points of pride is its approach to ecological and ecosystem management. Hudson says an example of E & E’s expertise in ecosystem management is its work with oyster beds. “Anybody could go out and build an oyster bed,” explains Hudson. “But you don’t want to build an oyster bed in water that’s not good for growing oysters. If there’s too much sediment, or if the water’s not right, or you’re destroying a bed of seagrass to put in the oysters, then they’re not going to grow like you want them to, and it’s not worth it. That’s why we do a lot of planning, testing and assessing before we actually take action.”
Ecology and Environment and the Gulf of Mexico
Before Hurricane Katrina and the BP oil disaster of 2010, wetland restoration in the Gulf of Mexico had not been a main priority of the nation, even though it is well-documented that wetlands provide storm and flood protection to communities and natural areas as well as habitat for wildlife and seafood. However, those two disasters put restoring the gulf on the nation’s radar, and E & E has been heavily involved post-disaster. Hudson points out that E & E staff has attended almost every gulf restoration conference since the BP oil spill.
After Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, E & E worked with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the Army Corps of Engineers and the state of Louisiana to document damage to coastal wetlands. They conducted habitat analyses to find out where the most damage had been done, and they also helped develop restoration plans in several national wildlife refuges, such as Sabine, Cameron Prairie, Big Branch Marsh and Bayou Sauvage, to diminish the negative effects of storm damage. The Mississippi River Delta acts as an incredibly important habitat for waterfowl, and this habitat has been put at risk by damaged wetlands and strong storms.
In collaboration with Arcadis, E & E worked with the Louisiana Office of Coastal Protection and Restoration (OCPR) on the Innovative Dredging Initiative project. The purpose of the project was to develop a plan to look at new contracting techniques and bidding methods that could reduce the cost and streamline the design of constructing restoration projects. E & E also led the development of the Inland Marsh Restoration Plan for Louisiana and investigated new dredging contracting techniques and bidding methods that could reduce costs while streamlining the design of dredging projects.
These projects included a study proposal on alternatives to dumping dredged soil into upland confined disposal facilities (CDFs) or into the Gulf of Mexico. The U. S. Army Corps of Engineers is required to dispose of sediment dredged during the maintenance of waterways in the most cost-effective way possible. E & E proposed instead that the dredged sediment could be beneficially used to for wetland restoration. The proposal included locating ideal wetland areas to restore with sediment, creating a schedule of high-priority beneficial use restoration projects, developing cost projections and integrating these findings with OCPR’s existing plans. This was all part of E & E’s decision to take an active role in proposing how best to restore the coast.
“With the passage of RESTORE, there is a huge opportunity here to set a new international standard for integrated, large-scale ecosystem restoration, and E&E is eager to be a part of it,” said Hudson. “Hopefully, RESTORE will lead to many, many more restoration projects once the funding becomes available.”
- Building a Restoration Economy: Environmental Restoration = Economic Restoration
- Ecology and Environment, Inc.
This piece builds on the "Profiles in Resilience" series started on Environmental Defense Fund's Restoration and Resilience blog. Please check back here for future installments.
By Audrey Payne, Environmental Defense Fund
“Restoring the earth, one community at a time.…” This tagline appears on the website of Biohabitats, Inc., an ecologically-driven company based in Baltimore, Md. Biohabitats specializes in conservation planning, ecological restoration and regenerative design and does restoration work in the Everglades, Big Cypress and Tampa Bay, Fla.; Texas and Louisiana; and has several office locations across the country, including Virginia, Ohio, Kentucky, North Carolina, South Carolina, Colorado, New Mexico and New Jersey.
Company president and founder Keith Bowers has been a strong supporter of the RESTORE Act – legislation currently making its way through Congress that would bring 80 percent of the $5 to $21 billion in expected Clean Water Act penalties from the gulf oil spill back to the five gulf states for ecological restoration and economic development. Passage of the RESTORE Act would help companies like Biohabitats increase work along the Gulf Coast.
Economic Benefits of Coastal Restoration
“The Mississippi River Delta is home to millions of acres of coastal wetlands, providing habitat for commercial fisheries, recreation, natural filtering and storm surge protection,” said Mr. Bowers. “The ecological and economic value of these wetlands is undeniable, yet we are losing thousands of acres each year to overdevelopment, poor management and neglect. Restoring these wetlands will not only begin to reverse this decline, it will also add thousands of jobs in the process.”
“Coastal habitat restoration typically creates at least 3-4 times as many jobs as road infrastructure or oil and gas projects for every $1 million invested,” continued Bowers, who readily acknowledges that ecological restoration can be a real catalyst for job creation, economic vitality and ecosystem resiliency throughout the Mississippi River Delta. “Passing the RESTORE Act would help revitalize local communities while simultaneously increasing the natural capital that we all depend on for clean air, fresh water, healthy soils and wholesome food. It’s a win-win for everyone!”
Introducing Biohabitats, Inc.
The Biohabitats mission is twofold: To “restore the earth and inspire ecological stewardship” and to “inspire communities to rediscover a sense of place through preserving indigenous ecosystems, restoring biodiversity and inspiring ecological stewardship.” Biohabitats believes it has an ethical responsibility to protect nature and to restore it for future generations, and it does so with practices that are defined by blending sound science, place-based design and ecological democracy. Biohabitats stays true to its mission through a multifaceted approach to its work that revolves around ensuring that its actions respect and celebrate life, by engaging people and communities and by constantly evolving and improving its practices.
Some examples of Biohabitats’ work include performing ecological baseline studies, using geographic information systems, conducting focus groups, ecological modeling, ecological restoration, landscape management, invasive species management and stormwater management. The company has won several awards for its exemplary work, including three this year: The Texas ASLA Honor Award for Planning & Analysis, the Texas ASLA Merit Award for Residential Design Constructed and the Texas ACEC Engineering Excellence Silver Award for Water Resources.
Biohabitats and the Mississippi River Delta
Years of building canals through Louisiana’s wetlands for fossil fuel extraction have contributed to major ecological problems throughout the Mississippi River Delta. During canal construction, soil was piled up in mounds on the sides of waterways, creating opportunities for invasive species, such as the Chinese tallow tree (Sapium sebiferum), to move in and disrupt the surface flow of fresh water. Kevin Heatley, a senior scientist at Biohabitats, works on restoring the wetlands of Louisiana. In a recent OnEarth Magazine article, Mr. Heatley described the Chinese tallow trees as “biological pollution.” In order to fix the environmental damage caused by these canals, they must be filled in with dirt and the invasive trees extracted, thus creating habitat for native species and restoring the natural flow of water and sediment in the wetlands.
The Barataria Preserve is one of the wetland areas that were disrupted by canal construction. It is a 20,000-acre forest and marsh that is part of the Jean Lafitte National Historic Park and Preserve. Located south of New Orleans, it is part of the greater Mississippi River Delta region. Biohabitats is working with the National Park Service to repair damage to the landscape and restore healthy marsh ecology by removing invasive tree cover, placing excavated soil back in the canals, preserving native trees, restoring native soil levels to where they were before the canals and allowing the free flow of water and recolonization of native marsh species in the area.
“The backfilling of canals is one of those rare restoration initiatives where the results and gratification are almost instantaneous,” said Heatley. To date, Biohabitats has restored over five linear miles of marsh within the preserve, eradicated the invasive Chinese tallow trees, allowed the natural free flow of water and created habitat for native vegetation.
“I work across the United States on restoration projects and our work in the Barataria Preserve is something that I am particularly proud of,” said Heatley.
There are over 10,000 miles of exploratory canals in coastal Louisiana, so these five restored miles are just a start. Hopefully, the passage of the RESTORE Act will lead to many more successful restoration opportunities like this one.
- Building a Restoration Economy: Environmental Restoration = Economic Restoration
- Duke University report: Restoring the Gulf Coast: New Markets for Established Firms [PDF]
- Duke University report: Restoring Gulf Oyster Reefs: Opportunities for Innovation [PDF]
- Walton Foundation report: Job Creation from Gulf Coast Wetlands Restoration [PDF]
75% of State Voters More Likely to Support Candidates Who Back Bill
(Tallahassee, Fla.—Dec. 12, 2011) Eighty-four percent of Florida voters and 92 percent of Panhandle voters support a bill approved by a Senate committee that would ensure the BP oil spill fines are spent on Gulf restoration, according to a new poll released today at news conferences in Tallahassee and Pensacola. The poll also showed 75 percent of Florida voters and 82 percent of Panhandle voters are more likely to support candidates who back the legislation.
“Voters haven’t forgotten the BP oil spill was the worst environmental disaster in U.S. history because our ecosystem and economy are still recovering from it a year-and-a-half later,” said Pensacola Mayor Ashton Hayward. “They recognize that the BP oil spill fines would dramatically accelerate our recovery.”
The telephone poll by U.S. Senator Bill Nelson’s pollster, Hamilton Campaigns, and U.S. Senator Marco Rubio’s pollster, Ayres McHenry & Associates, was conducted between November 30 and December 4, 2011, and sampled 700 registered Florida voters in the metropolitan areas of Miami, Orlando, the Panhandle/Northeast, South Central Florida (Ft. Myers and West Palm Beach media markets), and Tampa, who are likely to vote in the November 2012 election. It includes an oversample of 100 registered likely voters in the Panhandle (Pensacola and Panama City media markets) because that’s where the BP oil spill caused the most environmental and economic damage.
“Regardless of political party or region of the state, this is an issue that unites Florida voters, when so many other issues divide them,” said Dave Beattie, president of Hamilton Campaigns, based in Fernandina Beach, Florida, which does consulting and polling for Democratic campaigns and progressive organizations. “There is broad, bipartisan support for ensuring that fines paid by BP and any other parties responsible for the spill actually are targeted to the Gulf Coast states hurt by the spill.”
The poll is timely because last Monday, the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Task Force issued its final report, recommending that Congress ensure that a “significant portion” of the BP oil spill fines go to restoring the Gulf. In late September, the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee approved the RESTORE the Gulf Coast States Act, (S. 1400), co-authored by Senators Nelson and Rubio. It would dedicate 80 percent of the estimated $5-$21 billion in expected fines for the BP oil spill to restoring the Gulf ecosystem and economy. The House version of the bill, (H.R. 3096), is co-sponsored by nine Florida House members: Congressmen Ander Crenshaw (FL-4), Mario Diaz-Balart (FL-21), Jeff Miller (FL-1), Richard Nugent (FL-5), David Rivera (FL-25), Thomas Rooney (FL-16), Dennis Ross (FL-12), Steve Southerland (FL-2), and Allen B. West (FL-22).
However, if Congress fails to pass the RESTORE Act, the spill fines will be used for unrelated federal spending or to reduce the federal deficit.
The poll showed that voters favored using the oil spill fines for Gulf Coast restoration instead of reducing the deficit by nearly a 7-1 margin: 79 percent to 12 percent.
“Support for this proposal cuts across traditional partisan lines. Florida GOP voters and Tea Party supporters also favor using the Gulf spill fines for Gulf restoration over deficit reduction by nearly a 7-1 margin, said Dr. Whit Ayres, founder and president of Ayres, McHenry & Associates, Inc., a national public opinion and public affairs research firm based in Alexandria, Virginia. The firm specializes in providing research and strategic advice for corporations, associations, and GOP candidates.
The poll found strong support across party lines for legislation to ensure BP oil spill fines are spent on Gulf restoration:
- 82% of Republicans and 84% of GOP presidential primary voters
- 84% of Tea Party supporters
- 88% of Independents
- 83% of Democrats
The poll also found that the vast majority of Florida voters–regardless of political affiliation–also support candidates who back legislation to ensure BP oil spill fines are spent on Gulf restoration:
- 73% of Republicans and 73% of GOP presidential primary voters
- 72% of Tea Party supporters
- 72% of Independents
- 78% of Democrats
“Florida voters statewide across the political spectrum expect their representatives in Washington to ensure that fines from the BP oil disaster are used to restore the lingering environmental and economic damage from the spill, where they belong,” said a joint statement by Environmental Defense Fund, National Audubon Society,National Wildlife Federation, The Nature Conservancy, Ocean Conservancy and Oxfam America, the groups which funded the poll, except for Ocean Conservancy. “The reason is simple: 98 percent of the voters in this poll believe a healthy Gulf ecosystem is important to the state’s economy.”
Duke University also released a report last Monday concluding the Gulf oil spill fines could kick start the launch of a long-term investment in ecosystem restoration and create jobs that would benefit at least 140 businesses with nearly 400 employee locations in 37 states, including nearly 60 in Florida.
“Investing in coastal restoration work is a highly leveraged activity that creates ripple effects for hundreds of businesses and a wide variety of workers,” said James Marino, P.E., president of Taylor Engineering, an employee-owned design firm that restored seven miles of critically eroded beaches battered by hurricanes in Walton County and the city of Destin in Okaloosa County and has offices in Jacksonville, West Palm Beach, Tampa and Destin, Florida. “Restoring wetlands and beaches would help many small business owners in ecotourism, the marine construction sector, and equipment manufacturing, produce jobs and local tax revenue, and grow the economy.”
“Members of Congress from both parties have an opportunity to put aside their differences and pass this bipartisan bill—which doesn’t spend any taxpayer funds—and has huge public support,” said Michael L. Davis, Vice President and Principal, Keith and Schnars, P.A., an environmental, planning and engineering consulting firm with offices in Fort Lauderdale, Jacksonville, and Doral, Florida. “The RESTORE Act will help right the wrong of the BP oil disaster by funding restoration projects that will trigger a value added chain that goes far beyond planning and design firms like mine, benefiting contractors and equipment manufactures as well.”
Kevin Cate, Cate Communications, 850.320.7189, firstname.lastname@example.org
Sean Crowley, Environmental Defense Fund, 202.550.6524, email@example.com
David J. Ringer, National Audubon Society, 601.642.7058, firstname.lastname@example.org
Emily Guidry Schatzel, National Wildlife Federation, 225.253.9781, email@example.com
Heather Layman, The Nature Conservancy, 703.475.1733, firstname.lastname@example.org
David Willett, Ocean Conservancy, 202.351.0465, email@example.com
Andrew Blejwas, Oxfam America, (617) 785-7047, Ablejwas@oxfamamerica.org