Archive for Job Creation


Geosynthetics Industry Poised to Grow as Gulf Coast Restoration Ramps Up

July 26, 2012 | Posted by Elizabeth Van Cleve in BP Oil Disaster, Clean Water Act, Job Creation, Media Resources, Reports, Restoration Projects, RESTORE Act

NEWS RELEASE

Contact: Elizabeth Skree, 202-553-2543, eskree@edf.org

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.

The Army Corps uses geotextile tubes to increase storm protection for Grande Isle, La. Credit: Team New Orleans, US Army Corps of Engineers.

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.

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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.

Online: http://www.edf.org/news/geosynthetics-industry-poised-grow-gulf-coast-restoration-ramps

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Profiles in Resilience: Ecology and Environment, Inc.

July 10, 2012 | Posted by Elizabeth Van Cleve in BP Oil Disaster, Hurricane Katrina, Job Creation, Profiles in Resilience, Restoration Projects, RESTORE Act

This is the next in our "Profiles in Resilience" series, highlighting companies that work on coastal restoration in the Mississippi River Delta and Gulf Coast. 

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 ConservancyNational Fish and Wildlife FoundationNational 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.”

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Profiles in Resilience: Biohabitats, Inc.

June 20, 2012 | Posted by Delta Dispatches in BP Oil Disaster, Clean Water Act, Job Creation, Profiles in Resilience, Restoration Projects, RESTORE Act

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

Wetlands at Jean Lafitte National Historic Park before restoration, with Chinese tallow growing along dredge disposal embankments, severing flow to adjacent marshes. Credit: Biohabitats, Inc.

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.

Wetlands at Jean Lafitte National Historic Park after restoration. Credit: Biohabitats, Inc.

“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.

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84% of Florida Voters Support Bill to Spend BP Fines on Gulf Restoration

December 12, 2011 | Posted by Delta Dispatches in BP Oil Disaster, Clean Water Act, Job Creation, Reports, RESTORE Act

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 FundNational Audubon Society,National Wildlife FederationThe Nature ConservancyOcean 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.”

Contacts:

Kevin Cate, Cate Communications, 850.320.7189, kevin@catecomm.com

Sean Crowley, Environmental Defense Fund, 202.550.6524, scrowley@edf.org

David J. Ringer, National Audubon Society, 601.642.7058, dringer@audubon.org

Emily Guidry Schatzel, National Wildlife Federation, 225.253.9781, guidrye@nwf.org

Heather Layman, The Nature Conservancy, 703.475.1733, hlayman@tnc.org

David Willett, Ocean Conservancy, 202.351.0465, dwillett@oceanconservancy.org

Andrew Blejwas, Oxfam America, (617) 785-7047, Ablejwas@oxfamamerica.org

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House Committee Praised for Holding Hearing on Gulf Restoration

December 7, 2011 | Posted by Delta Dispatches in BP Oil Disaster, Clean Water Act, Congress, Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Task Force, Job Creation, Meetings/Events, RESTORE Act

Hearing follows two new reports recommending Congress use oil spill fines to restore Gulf

(Washington, D.C.—Dec. 7, 2011) Groups supporting restoration of the Gulf Coast today thanked House leaders on the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee for drawing attention to the benefits of the RESTORE Gulf Coast States Act of 2011 by holding a committee hearing on the bill today at 10am. The RESTORE Act would ensure that fines paid by BP and the other parties responsible for last year’s Gulf oil spill are used to support both environmental and economic restoration in the region, instead of going to unrelated federal spending.

“Holding those responsible for the Gulf oil disaster accountable and making sure the fines they pay go back to the Gulf region is both a matter of fairness and common sense,” said a joint statement by Environmental Defense Fund, National Audubon Society, National Wildlife Federation, The Nature Conservancy, Ocean Conservancy and Oxfam America. “We thank Chairman Mica and ranking member Rahall for holding a full committee hearing on this critical issue. Our thanks also go to leaders throughout the Gulf region who are working across the aisle to get this bill passed, so the ecosystems of the Gulf can continue to be a driver of our nation’s economy and a safe home to the communities that make it a national treasure.”

A bipartisan group of nine Gulf senators have introduced a similar bill in the Senate, also called the RESTORE Gulf Coast States Act (S. 1400). The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee overwhelmingly approved the bill in September.

Today’s hearing comes on the heels of Monday’s release of the final report by the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Task Force. It recommends Congress ensure that a “significant portion” of the $5 billion to $21 billion in expected fines for last year’s 4.9 million barrel Gulf oil spill go to restoring the Gulf.

Duke University also released a report on 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.

Contacts:

Sean Crowley, Environmental Defense Fund, 202.572.3331, scrowley@edf.org

David J. Ringer, National Audubon Society, 601.642.7058 dringer@audubon.org

Emily Guidry Schatzel, National Wildlife Federation, 225.253.9781, guidrye@nwf.org

Heather Layman, The Nature Conservancy, 703.475.1733, hlayman@tnc.org

David Willett, Ocean Conservancy, 202.351.0465, dwillett@oceanconservancy.org

Jeffrey Buchanan, Oxfam America, 202.471.3055, jbuchanan@oxfamamerica.org

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RESTORE Act Fines Could Provide Job Opportunities in Gulf Coast, 32 Other States

December 5, 2011 | Posted by Delta Dispatches in BP Oil Disaster, Job Creation, Media Resources, Reports, RESTORE Act

Economic Study Released 2 Days Before House Hearing on RESTORE Act 

(Tallahassee, FL–December 5, 2011) The Clean Water Act penalties from last year’s BP oil disaster 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 more than 260 in the Gulf Coast and nearly 60 in Florida, according to a new Duke University study. The report—“RESTORING THE GULF COAST: New Markets for Established Firms,” funded by Environmental Defense Fund—is based on a sample of 140 firms linked to coastal restoration projects already undertaken or completed.

“Long-term ecosystem restoration would be an economic grand slam because it both protects current jobs in key Florida industries—like fishing, tourism, and shipping—and creates new jobs,” said Jackie Prince Roberts, director of sustainable technologies for Environmental Defense Fund. “A study of Everglades restoration by Mather Economics—based on data from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers—estimates that every $1 million of public investment in restoring the Everglades would create about 20 jobs. Our study helps Florida residents understand where those jobs can be created, and the opportunity Florida has to be a leader in this new industry sector that provides ecosystem restoration services to the Gulf, and to meet emerging global demand."

The study’s release is timely because the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee will hold a hearing Wednesday to examine bipartisan legislation, the RESTORE Act (H.R. 3096), that would dedicate 80 percent of the estimated $5-21 billion in Clean Water Act fines from the 4.9 million barrel spill to restoring the Gulf. The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee already has approved the Senate version of the bill (S. 1400), cosponsored by nine of the 10 Gulf state senators, including Florida’s Bill Nelson (D) and Marco Rubio (R).

“Restoration projects activate a full supply chain linking materials providers, equipment manufacturers, shipbuilders, machinery repair firms, engineering and construction contractors, and environmental resource firms,” the report says. “Many of the firms are based in the Gulf Coast region. Having long worked in the marine construction industry building oil and gas industry infrastructure, they can apply the same skills and equipment to coastal restoration, thus finding new markets and a more diverse client base.”

Florida companies involved in coastal restoration.

“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,” said Keith Bowers, president of Biohabitats, Inc., a conservation planning, ecological restoration and regenerative design firm that does restoration work in the Everglades, Big Cypress and Tampa Bay, FL, Texas and Louisiana, and  has offices in Baltimore, MD; Louisville, KY; Raleigh, NC; North Charleston, SC, Denver, CO; Cleveland, OH; Glen Ridge, NJ; and Santa Fe, NM. “This study proves ecological restoration can be a real catalyst for job creation, economic vitality and ecosystem resiliency. Passing the RESTORE Act could help restore the fishing and tourism industries in Florida and the other Gulf Coast states.”

Two-thirds of the firms sampled have offices in the Gulf Coast and qualify as small businesses, according to Small Business Administration guidelines on number of employees. One of the firms is Taylor Engineering, an employee-owned design firm Taylor Engineering that restored seven miles of critically eroded beaches battered by hurricanes in Walton County and the city of Destin in Okaloosa County and has full-service offices in Jacksonville and West Palm Beach, and local-service offices in Tampa and Destin, FL, Savannah, GA, Baltimore, MD, and Columbia, SC. The firm has provided a life-cycle commitment to the art and science of delivering sustainable solutions in the water environment since 1983.

“If our customer base picks up in response to RESTORE funding, there would be a positive and sustainable long-term impact on our hiring,” said James Marino, P.E., President of Taylor Engineering, and a certified Diplomat in Coastal Engineering, who was an officer in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for 20 years. “Restoration projects are very important to small and medium-sized firms like ours because they provide a valuable stream of work in a fragile economy. The cost to benefit ratio is very high for restoration projects, especially for beach restoration, which brings considerable value for regional economies in a multitude of business sectors. Not only do these projects serve as an immediate and prolonged benefit economically, but more importantly, the net positive effects provided to a sustainable environmental infrastructure are enduring.”

Gulf Coast and Mississippi River Delta-based firms involved in coastal restoration.

The BP oil disaster worsened the damage to the badly degraded Mississippi River Delta wetlands, a priceless resource that “sustains the Gulf region’s unique people and cultures and brings the U.S. economy billions of dollars each year in energy, fishing, shipping and tourism,” the report states. “At stake in the loss of coastal wetlands is not only the environmental health of the Gulf region, but also several of the nation’s vital industries.”

The Gulf region’s critical economic role, and the extent to which this role depends on the delta ecosystem, is evident in the following assets provided by the Gulf region:

The report notes that a robust coastal restoration sector has been developing in the marine construction industry, but recent budget cuts have stalled many authorized restoration projects.

“In Florida, the economy is the environment, but funding for environmental restoration projects has been reduced by the state and most local governments,” said Michael L. Davis, Vice President and Principal, Keith and Schnars, P.A., an environmental, planning and engineering consulting firm that currently is working on the South Miami-Dade Watershed Study and Plan and has offices in Fort Lauderdale, Jacksonville, and Doral, Florida. “The RESTORE Act is a win for Florida’s economy and Florida’s environment because it will enable environmental consulting firms like mine to hire additional biologists and engineers, and restoration construction contractors to buy more equipment and hire more operators.”

The report concludes that coastal restoration is needed in Florida, California, the Pacific Northwest and the Great Lakes. If U.S. markets expand, the firms that serve them will be well positioned to sell to international markets as they develop in the future. For example, several countries in Asia are developing integrated coastal management programs, and recently India, Bangladesh, Indonesia, and Vietnam have undertaken hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of coastal restoration projects. The RESTORE Act would continue to build this promising new sector.

Contact: Sean Crowley, 202-550-6524-c, scrowley@edf.org

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New Orleans Restoration Project Will Increase Resiliency, Create Jobs

November 22, 2011 | Posted by Elizabeth Van Cleve in Community Resiliency, Hurricane Katrina, Job Creation, Meetings/Events, Restoration Projects

By Elizabeth Skree, Environmental Defense Fund

Central Wetlands Assimilation Project groundbreaking ceremony (Credit: Amanda Moore, National Wildlife Federation)

On Nov. 10, the City of New Orleans and St. Bernard Parish broke ground on the important and innovative $10 million Central Wetlands Assimilation Project. On hand for the ceremony were New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu, St. Bernard Parish President Craig Taffaro, members of the New Orleans Sewerage and Water Board and approximately 75 others representing community organizations, environmental non-profits and other interested parties. All agree the project is a critical first step towards restoring the entire Central Wetlands Unit, mitigating historical impacts of the Mississippi River Gulf Outlet (MRGO) channel, improving fish and wildlife habitat, and creating new jobs in restoration and ecotourism.

The Central Wetlands Assimilation Project is a vital step to restore impacted wetlands in the Central Wetlands Unit, a 30,000-acre area east of downtown New Orleans, containing open water that was once a thriving cypress forest just over the levee from urban communities like the Lower 9th Ward and Chalmette.

However, in the early 1960s, construction of the MRGO shipping channel negatively impacted and dramatically altered hundreds of thousands of acres of coastal ecosystem surrounding the Greater New Orleans area including the Central Wetlands.  The MRGO inundated the area with saltwater, killing the cypress trees in the Central Wetlands and leaving behind open water. In 2005, the lack of a coastal wetland buffer contributed to catastrophic flooding during Hurricane Katrina, worsening the damage it caused in the Lower Ninth Ward and St. Bernard Parish.

New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu

The Central Wetlands Assimilation Project will provide fresh water and nutrients needed to reduce salinity and encourage plant growth—by redirecting and reusing treated wastewater and effluent from the East Bank Sewage Treatment Plant into the area—rather than discarding all of it into the Mississippi River. Restoring freshwater flows and taking maximum advantage of the resources available serves as a model for all coastal Louisiana restoration efforts.

The Central Wetlands Assimilation Project is also an important first step to showing that environmental restoration equals economic restoration, creating recreation opportunities, improving habitat and creating new jobs. In fact, restoring the entire Central Wetlands Unit has the potential to create 680 direct and indirect restoration related jobs, according to a study by Environmental Defense Fund (EDF).

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Coastal Restoration and Job Creation: A Win-Win

August 17, 2011 | Posted by Elizabeth Van Cleve in Job Creation, Meetings/Events

By Amanda Moore, National Wildlife Federation

Monika Gerhardt of Equity and Inclusion moderates a panel on coastal policy with Royal Engineering, Oxfam America, AmeriPure Oyster Company and Louisiana Oyster Association representatives.

Last Friday in the remote town of Davant, Louisiana (on the east bank of the Mississippi River in Plaquemines Parish), more than 100 people who care about the coast spent the day engaging in a productive dialogue about coastal restoration and protection. The forum, “Getting the Water Right, Getting the Jobs Right,” brought together fishermen, environmental NGOs, community and faith-based organizations, coastal engineering firms, academics, workforce development organizations as well as local, state and federal government representatives to start a vital and urgent series of conversations about Mississippi River Delta restoration and protection.

This foundational event was the idea of Reverend Tyronne Edwards of Zion Travelers Cooperative Center, who understands that “the time is now” to develop a vision for our coast’s future that will be embraced by all who love it. With a spirit of collaboration, he knowingly brought together a group of organizations with diverse interests in coastal restoration to plan and execute a meaningful forum, which included discussion about coastal restoration policy, local job training and opportunities in restoration, and project planning and implementation 101.

Attendees learned about coastal restoration policy, local job training and opportunities in restoration, and project planning and implementation.

Dr. Woody Gagliano was instrumental in the success of the event, and with more than 50 years of experience in the world of coastal restoration planning and implementation, he relayed the following: “Everyone [who attended the forum] is searching for a better way to save and protect our coast. It was a seminal event. It will lead to action. There was a great amount of energy in the room. If we can harness that action and shape it into a vision plan for action, we can make it happen.”

We’ll be sure to keep you posted on future “Getting the Water Right, Getting the Jobs Right” forums. You can see more photos from Friday's forum here.

The event was sponsored by: Plaquemines and St. Bernard Parish Coastal Restoration Offices, Zion Travelers Cooperative Center, Louisiana Oystermen Association, National Wildlife Federation, Ocean Conservancy, Gulf Restoration Network, Advocates for Environmental Human Rights, Oxfam America, The Louisiana Justice Institute, Deep South for Environmental Justice at Dillard University, Foundation for Louisiana, Equity and Inclusion Campaign, Coastal Environments, Inc. and Royal Engineering, Inc.

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New Orleans Ranked First in Decade-Long Population Loss Due to Natural Disasters, Not Economic Decline

January 31, 2011 | Posted by Delta Dispatches in Community Resiliency, Hurricane Katrina, Job Creation

Guest post by Seyi Fayanju, Environmental Defense Fund

Seyi works on the coastal Louisiana restoration project at Environmental Defense Fund.  He is a contributor to EDF’s Restoration and Resilience blog, in which he writes about the links between hazard mitigation, environmental rehabilitation, and economic recovery in the Mississippi River Delta.

Between 2000 and 2009, New Orleans lost more than a quarter of its residents, outpacing Cleveland, Pittsburgh, and other struggling “Rust Belt” cities in its pace of population loss.  This decline was largely attributable to the twin disasters of 2005: Hurricane Katrina’s landfall, and the catastrophic levee failures that occurred soon after.  While the storm forced the temporary evacuation of hundreds of thousands of people, it was the floods afterwards that kept many New Orleanians from returning to their homes.  The Big Easy has rebounded in a big way since 2005, but the population of Louisiana’s largest city remains well-below its pre-Katrina figure.

New Orleans, Louisiana (credit: NASA)

What will be needed to help New Orleans on the path to demographic recovery?  The answer could lie in wetland rehabilitation and hazard mitigation.  Along with stronger levee protection, New Orleans would benefit from increased investment in complementary forms of flood and storm protection.  The restoration of area wetlands and the elevation of homes and commercial structures would provide additional protection for the residents of New Orleans, and create jobs for workers throughout the Mississippi River Delta.  Implementation of these recommendations could help New Orleans and other communities in coastal Louisiana to flourish in the years to come.

You can read Seyi's in-depth analysis of New Orleans' population loss on EDF's Restoration and Resilience blog.

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Working Environments Workshop Highlights Restoration Job Creation

December 1, 2010 | Posted by Delta Dispatches in Community Resiliency, Job Creation, Meetings/Events

By Brian Jackson, Environmental Defense Fund

Last week, Oxfam America and the Louisiana State University (LSU) School of Social Work co-hosted a two-day workshop (Nov. 15-16) on LSU's campus in Baton Rouge, La. about how to put Gulf State residents back to work restoring and improving their coast.  The Working Environments Workshop brought together local and national architects, academics, state and parish officials, non-governmental organizations, community advocates, and business interests to discuss how to create sustainable "working environments" across the Gulf.

Economic development opportunities for the Gulf Coast included job creation via renewable energy creation, resilient housing construction, and coastal wetlands restoration.

"There was a lot of enthusiasm in the room, people were very interested in the job creation opportunities that restoration could provide, especially in coastal Louisiana," said Environmental Defense Fund's Community Resiliency Specialist Brian Jackson, who participated in the workshop.  "In addition, jobs in coastal restoration or construction of resilient housing and infrastructure have a huge potential for employing local workers and being a source of local innovation exportable to the world.”

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