Archive for People
Profiles in Resilience: ORA Estuaries wins 2014 Water Challenge business pitch at New Orleans Entrepreneur WeekApril 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.
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.
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.No Comments
By Philip Russo, Plaquemines Parish Outreach Coordinator, Mississippi River Delta Restoration Campaign
During the first weekend in December, local residents and tourists alike celebrated the bounty of Plaquemines Parish’s cultural and economic successes at the 66th annual Plaquemines Parish Fair and Orange Festival in Buras. Huddled between the protective Mississippi River levee and the elegantly decayed Fort Jackson, the festival was not entirely spared the blustery and frosty weather that is typical of early December. Yet despite the weather, fairgoers celebrated “the best Citrus in the Country” and reveled in the Mississippi River Delta’s natural beauty.
The fusion of Creole and Croatian cuisine served throughout the festival grounds presented a tasty backdrop for the series of navel-themed contests, such as orange peeling and orange eating, that festival queens from all over Louisiana came to compete in. The festival was successful and well-attended, but local residents still lament that the fair has not returned to being held within the confines of Fort Jackson itself – a tradition interrupted by extensive flood damage resulting from Hurricane Katrina. However, if coastal erosion and sea level rise are not countered with aggressive coastal restoration efforts, Millennials may be the last generation to enjoy the festival on this site.
Storied harvest festivals are a common but precious feature of the fragile human landscape of coastal Louisiana. As we design and implement coastal restoration projects, we are protecting and preserving not only the delta and its vital wetlands, but also the area’s occupants, their way of life and the cultural legacies of the region which depend on the health of the Mississippi River Delta. So whether you’re a fan of hearing the Crawfish Race Commissioner yell “ils sont partis” at the Crawfish Festival in Breaux Bridge or festival queens competing to see who can fit the most kumquats in their mouths at the Orange Festival in Buras, seeing Louisiana’s Coastal Master Plan thoroughly implemented should be a top priority.No Comments
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.
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.”
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.No Comments
By Will Lindsey, 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.No Comments
By Will Lindsey, Environmental Defense Fund
Louisiana-based company HESCO Bastion Environmental, Inc. is at the forefront of business innovations in response to the growing market for coastal restoration projects. Finding new uses for established products, the company is now involved in creating artificial oyster reefs and protective structures for wetlands. This arena of work is expected to expand and create more jobs in coastal communities as the RESTORE Act funds and other monies from the BP oil spill begin to flow.
HESCO’s original product, the Concertainer, is a barrier system that consists of galvanized welded mesh framed baskets complete with a non-woven geotextile liner. The product is offered in different dimensions and when properly assembled and filled with substrate, such as sand, creates a system of “walls of exceptional strength and integrity.” In the past, the Concertainer has been used primarily for flood protection and by the U.S. armed forces as a barrier against force.
Now, in the face of coastal erosion in the Gulf Coast, the Concertainer has been adapted to take on the challenge of coastal restoration. The aptly named “Concertainer Delta Unit” maintains the original shape and design of the Concertainer, but adds front, unlined compartments. These front compartments, which alternate between rectangular and triangular shapes, can be filled with materials, such as oyster shells, that provide habitat for aquatic organisms. The lined section can be filled with other substrates that encourage coastal plant life to be established. This allows for the restoration of coastal environments by creating a “living shoreline.”
Working with the University of New Orleans, HESCO demonstrated that the Concertainer could be used as an effective coastal restoration tool, by helping to rebuild degraded shoreline near New Orleans. Currently, with the potential for millions of dollars in funding to be directed to coastal restoration through the RESTORE Act and other payments from the BP oil spill, coastal restoration companies like HESCO could see a significant growth in business.
“Our products provide 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…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.”1 Comment
By Kaitlin Brown, Environmental Defense Fund
"We look at coastal restoration as the future of our company." — Dwayne Bernal, CEO, Royal Engineering
Royal Engineering & Consultants, LLC (Royal), a New Orleans-based engineering and consulting firm, is one of the many innovative businesses committed to rebuilding the Gulf Coast after the 2010 Gulf oil disaster. Led by CEO Dwayne Bernal, Royal is dedicated to serving the public in a way that focuses not only on individual projects, but also on rebuilding strong local communities. The company’s 75 employees work in a variety of areas, including civil engineering, construction management, program/project management, environmental services, energy services and coastal engineering. Passage of last year’s RESTORE Act is expected to provide significant new funding for coastal restoration. This infusion will in turn benefit local companies like Royal and provide opportunities for them to grow.
"The RESTORE Act provides a catalytic opportunity for our nation to create and protect jobs, not only along the Gulf Coast, but in communities across the country that will provide materials, technologies and services for ecosystem restoration," says Dwayne. "We look at coastal restoration as the future of our company."
Royal’s coastal engineering services include but are not limited to: planning and design of ecosystem restoration projects, hydraulic and hydrodynamic modeling, shoreline protection, beneficial use of dredged material, marsh creation design and barrier island restoration. As coastal restoration funding is allocated to the Gulf Coast states as directed through the RESTORE Act, more projects like these will be approved, creating job and business growth opportunities for companies like Royal Engineering.
Bernal, who was born and raised in New Orleans, formed Royal in 2005, after witnessing the devastating effects of Hurricane Katrina on his hometown. "I worked in the engineering field for several local companies and then Hurricane Katrina hit, and I saw that basically as an opportunity to take that entrepreneurial spirit that I had within me and start my own organization," said Dwayne. One week after Hurricane Katrina, with 15 employees, Dwayne created Royal Engineering. Initially, the company assisted with hurricane cleanup, working on debris removal and quality assurance. But as time went by, Dwayne diversified Royal and added additional services and areas of expertise.
Following the devastation of Katrina, Dwayne realized that restoration of the Gulf was going to take more time and effort than anyone had predicted, and that everyone would need to play a role in order to restore the region and create a more sustainable environment for the future. Like so many other people throughout the Gulf Coast, Dwayne recognizes that the future of his beloved city and the Mississippi River Delta depends on the restoration efforts of companies like Royal Engineering. And Royal isn't planning on leaving New Orleans or the business of coastal restoration any time soon.No Comments
From the Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana:
Restoring and protecting the natural treasure of Louisiana’s coast is a duty embraced by many people with diverse backgrounds. Some may be volunteers, students, researchers, sportsmen, governmental or business leaders, or simply coastal citizens who care enough about the future of our state to take action.
Every year the Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana (CRCL) is proud to honor and individuals and organizations who demonstrate extraordinary commitment to the coast with a CRCL Coastal Stewardship Award. These awards are CRCL’s highest form of recognition for those who go above and beyond for our coast, and we need your help to discover worthy candidates for the honors.
This year’s 18th annual Coastal Stewardship Awards Program will be held on Friday, May 10, 2013 at the Hilton Baton Rouge Capitol Center.
Nominations are being accepted for the following categories:
Lifetime Achievement Award: awarded in recognition of an individual who has demonstrated many years of service to the Louisiana coast over a career or lifetime.
Distinguished Achievement Award: awarded to those who have shown extraordinary commitment to the coast, usually over a consistent period of several years.
Coastal Stewardship Award: awarded in recognition of service and outstanding effort in coastal restoration either in the past year or several years.
For a list of previous winners of Coastal Stewardship Awards, click here.
To nominate a person or organization for a Coastal Stewardship Award, download our nomination form here. For more information, contact CRCL at 1-888-LACOAST (1-888-522-6278) or e-mail our communications director, Scott Madere at email@example.com.
All nominations must be received by March 4, 2012.No Comments
This release was originally posted by Vanishing Paradise.
By Chris Macaluso, Louisiana Wildlife Federation
Duck Commander, a world-leader in the manufacture of duck calls and waterfowl hunting equipment and the company featured in the A&E television program “Duck Dynasty,” recently added its name to a list of more than 800 businesses and organizations to sign a letter urging Congress to support the restoration of the Mississippi River Delta’s imperiled wetlands.
The letter is part of the Vanishing Paradise campaign’s efforts to encourage outdoorsmen and women and the organizations and businesses that support them to advocate for coastal restoration in Louisiana, where the Mississippi River meets the Gulf of Mexico. The Vanishing Paradise Campaign effort is headed by the National Wildlife Federation, the Louisiana Wildlife Federation and Ducks Unlimited.
Duck Commander joins other world-renowned hunting and fishing equipment manufacturers and conservation organizations like B.A.S.S. Inc, Mercury Outboards, Shimano American Corp, Pure Fishing, Quantum, Plano Molding, Orvis, Frabill and the Coastal Conservation Association. Located in West Monroe, La., Duck Commander and its sister company Buck Commander join more than 150 other Louisiana companies and organizations to sign the letter.
“Duck Commander has long been a supporter of efforts to protect and restore our hunting and fishing habitats,” said Duck Commander Senior Manager Al Robertson. “Everyone working here at Duck Commander got into this business because we love to duck hunt. Without healthy wetlands, we lose opportunities to do what we love and we lose a chance to pass our love for the outdoors to the next generation. We are proud to support the Vanishing Paradise campaign.”
The marshes and swamps of the Mississippi River Delta offer world-class hunting and fishing opportunities. They are the wintering grounds for as many as 10 million ducks and geese migrating through the middle of North America and are the nursery for fish that populate the entire Gulf of Mexico.
Unfortunately, this unique and vital habitat is vanishing faster than any other landmass in the world. Levees along the Mississippi River have starved the area’s wetlands of vital sediment and freshwater while manmade canals have carved up wetlands and allowed saltwater to penetrate deep into freshwater and brackish swamps.
Nearly 2,000 square miles of coastal habitat has been lost along Louisiana’s coast in the last 80 years, an area equal to the size of the state of Delaware. Nearly 20 square miles sink or wash away every year. That land loss threatens hunting and fishing opportunities, entire communities and a unique culture and way of life.
“Losing wetlands in the Mississippi River Delta means the loss of healthy waterfowl populations in this country,” said National Wildlife Federation Senior Manager for Sportsman Leadership Land Tawney. “The Vanishing Paradise Campaign has played a vital role in securing some much needed funding for the restoration of the delta but there is an enormous amount of work to be done if we hope to fully address this dire land loss. The support of Duck Commander and other companies makes our work possible.”
Chris Macaluso, Louisiana Wildlife Federation,
(225) 344-6707 or (225) 802-4048
(November 30, 2012 – BATON ROUGE, LA) The Louisiana Wildlife Federation (LWF) is accepting nominations for the 49th Governor's State Conservation Achievement Awards. The program recognizes those persons and organizations making outstanding contributions to the natural resource welfare and environmental quality of the community, parish and state. There are eight award categories for which nominations can be made. They are: professional; volunteer; business; educator; youth; elected official; communications and organization.
Nominations will be accepted until January 21, 2013. The awards will be presented on February 23, 2013 at a special banquet held in conjunction with the 74th annual convention of the Louisiana Wildlife Federation at the Embassy Suites Hotel in Baton Rouge, La.
"The Federation’s Conservation Awards program has been endorsed by Louisiana’s sitting Governors since 1964 during the McKeithen administration and continues to be widely acclaimed as the most prestigious recognition of conservation accomplishment in our state," said Barney Callahan, chairman of LWF’s Conservation Awards Program. Callahan added, "The awards themselves, handsome statuettes of majestic wild animals, are unique to the program and highly coveted by all who receive them. We invite the public to help us recognize those individuals, organizations and businesses who demonstrate significant achievement in their efforts to conserve fish and wildlife resources, to enhance opportunities for all of our citizens to enjoy the outdoors, to improve the quality of the environment, and to educate and advocate on behalf of our natural resources in Louisiana."
More details about the program are posted on the LWF website at www.lawildlifefed.org. Interested people can also call the LWF office, 225-344-6707, or email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
The Louisiana Wildlife Federation is a statewide conservation education and advocacy organization with more than 10,000 members and 27 affiliate groups. Established in 1940, it is affiliated with the National Wildlife Federation and represents a broad constituency of conservationists including hunters, anglers, campers, birders, boaters and other outdoor enthusiasts.
Contact: Rebecca Triche, 225-362-9007 (cell), email@example.com
Nomination form can be downloaded here: http://www.mississippiriverdelta.org/files/2012/12/LWF-49th-Governors-Conservation-112912.pdfNo Comments
By Happy Johnson, Amanda Moore and Elizabeth Skree
Our Mississippi River Delta Restoration Campaign works to reconnect the Mississippi River to its delta to protect people, wildlife and jobs. At our core, we are the “Power of We”: a coalition of five national and local non-governmental organizations — the National Audubon Society, Environmental Defense Fund, National Wildlife Federation, Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana and the Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation – working together to save a national treasure: the Mississippi River Delta.
The Mississippi River Delta is losing an area of land the size of one football field every hour. Yes, you read that right. Turning the tide on wetland loss, which totals over 1,900 square miles since the 1930s, is no small feat. To take on this task, we turn to the Power of We.
Whether it’s by supporting our nation’s fisheries, vital wildlife habitat, trade routes or energy production, the Mississippi River Delta is important to the entire country. Here in the delta and across the nation, citizens are learning more and more about the crisis in the delta and taking action to help restore the area. Locally, our campaign works to engage area residents throughout their neighborhoods. Together, we rally. Together, we hold press conferences. We release reports. We host public forums that empower citizens to speak directly to their legislators, state officials and federal agencies about moving restoration forward. We harness the Power of We to make change.
Community Conversations on Coastal Restoration
This year we organized a series of community conversations to enhance and increase coastal competency in Louisiana urban areas. Those gatherings provided an informal outlet to openly discuss the comprehensive challenges and opportunities as a result of staggering wetland loss. In particular, people were interested in how they can become advocates and participate in the emerging job market created by coastal restoration investment.
MRGO must go
The Power of We shines in one major delta project: restoring tens of thousands of acres of protective wetlands just southeast of New Orleans destroyed by a federal shipping channel, the Mississippi River Gulf Outlet (also known as the “MRGO” or “Mister Go”). Since Hurricane Katrina, we’ve worked hand-in-hand with local landowners, local government, academia, local neighborhood associations and national environmental organizations to advocate for closure of the shipping channel (which happened in 2009) and for a strong restoration plan for the area. We worked closely with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in planning, and in the last few years alone, we’ve generated over 75,000 comments to the agency calling for urgent and careful ecosystem restoration along the MRGO. These comments poured in from across the nation, and we now have a $2.9 billion recommended plan for restoration by the Army Corps’ Chief of Engineers.
BP oil disaster
We harnessed the Power of We to pass landmark legislation after the BP oil disaster. The Mississippi River Delta Restoration Campaign has been working since the spill to ensure that the Clean Water Act fines BP and other responsible parties will pay as a result of the spill are returned to the Gulf Coast to be used for restoration. For this to happen, Congress needed to pass legislation ensuring the money was sent to the gulf states — that bill was the RESTORE Act. A little over two years after the spill had started, Congress passed the RESTORE Act and the President signed it into law. This historic bipartisan legislation came to be in part because of the many letters sent to Congress by people all across the country. Our campaign helped generate over 160,000 letters to Congress asking them to make the RESTORE Act a priority.
Holding BP accountable
But even though the RESTORE Act is now law, our work is not done. It’s been over two years since the gulf oil disaster started, and BP has still not paid a penny in Clean Water Act fines. BP has been stalling the process and is actively trying to walk away from its obligations to clean up the gulf. We can't let that happen. The Power of We can help make things right for the environment and communities of the gulf. Please sign our petition to BP and tell them to stop stalling, stop litigating and make the gulf whole. It’s the right thing to do.
What else can you do?
Like the Mississippi River Delta Restoration Campaign on Facebook! By liking our page, you can be the first to receive updates and action opportunities for the delta.
Follow us on Twitter! @RestoreDelta is Twitter's best resource for Mississippi River Delta news, action items and project updates.
Subscribe to Delta Dispatches! Delta Dispatches is the Web's foremost blog on the policies and science behind Mississippi River Delta restoration.No Comments