Archive for People

Profiles in Resilience: Royal Engineering & Consultants, LLC

May 9, 2013 | Posted by Delta Dispatches in Profiles in Resilience

By Kaitlin Brown, Environmental Defense Fund

"We look at coastal restoration as the future of our company." — Dwayne Bernal, CEO, Royal Engineering

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.

Royal Engineering's office in New Orleans.

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.

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Nominations Open for 2013 CRCL Coastal Stewardship Awards

January 8, 2013 | Posted by Delta Dispatches in Meetings/Events, People

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

All nominations must be received by March 4, 2012.

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Duck Commander Urges Restoration of Mississippi River Delta's Imperiled Wetlands

December 12, 2012 | Posted by Delta Dispatches in Hunting and Fishing, Media Resources, People

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.

Vanishing Paradise is delighted to announce that Duck Commander has signed onto to their letter to Congress in support of restoring the Mississippi River Delta — Click the image to LIKE and SHARE it on Facebook and help spread the news!

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


Nominations Sought For Top State Conservation Awards

December 3, 2012 | Posted by Delta Dispatches in Media Resources, People

(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 Interested people can also call the LWF office, 225-344-6707, or email 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),

Nomination form can be downloaded here:

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The Power of We: The Mississippi River Delta Restoration Campaign

October 15, 2012 | Posted by Elizabeth Van Cleve in BP Oil Disaster, Clean Water Act, Community Resiliency, Hurricane Katrina, Meetings/Events, Mississippi River Gulf Outlet, People, RESTORE Act

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.

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Community Conversations on Coastal Restoration

September 28, 2012 | Posted by Delta Dispatches in 2012 Coastal Master Plan, BP Oil Disaster, Community Resiliency, Meetings/Events, People, RESTORE Act

By Happy Johnson, National Wildlife Federation

Louisiana is facing a coastal crisis. We lose one football field of wetlands every hour. 1,900 square miles of land has been lost already since the 1930s, and another 1,800 square miles are expected to be lost within the next 50 years unless we implement significant coastal restoration projects. Coastal land loss has strong, direct impacts on all communities, especially Black and Vietnamese fishing populations in the Mississippi River Delta. Without urgent restoration of Louisiana’s dying wetlands, we stand to lose these vital groups, cultures and economies.

Local community members attend a Community Conversation on Coastal Restoration event at the New Orleans Healing Center in August.

Many fishermen who saw their families, homes and boats dismantled by Hurricane Katrina experienced compounded economic damage during the BP oil disaster.  As a result, communities of color making a living in the fishing industry are dramatically shrinking.

The before-mentioned disasters also present a remarkable opportunity to implement policy and project solutions that mitigate land loss, reduce carbon emissions and tackle relative sea level rise. Examples of those solutions include Louisiana’s 2012 Coastal Master Plan and the RESTORE Act, both of which harness science and community capacity to engineer a more resilient Gulf Coast.

On the third Tuesdays of June, July and August, the New Orleans branch of the National Wildlife Federation hosted a three-part series of informal residential gatherings titled “Community Conversations on Coastal Restoration” at the New Orleans Healing Center.

Representatives from neighborhood associations, community development organizations, curious residents, students and vocal coastal leaders attended these events to discuss the BP oil spill impacts, the RESTORE Act, the Coastal Master Plan and the Louisiana First Hiring Act. The overarching mission of this series was to help enhance coastal competency in urban communities.

State and federal investments in southeast Louisiana provide opportunities to build community strength against future catastrophes. How do we diversity grassroots and local residential interest and then turn that interest into advocacy? I think it begins with building trust, expanding opportunities and having in-depth conversations.

The emerging coastal restoration economy provides significant avenues for job growth, educational training and workforce development. Now is the time for New Orleans as a whole to prepare for the future.

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The Next 50 Years: Transition for Coastal Communities

September 21, 2012 | Posted by Delta Dispatches in Coastal Master Plan series, Community Resiliency, People

By Maura Wood (National Wildlife Federation) and Brian Jackson (Environmental Defense Fund)

For decades, the people of southern Louisiana have gradually struggled with the collapse of the Mississippi River Delta. Land that once provided shelter from hurricanes, space for agriculture, a basis for livelihoods and a source for recreation has — sometimes in one generation — disappeared. This slow-motion crisis has forced communities and economies along Louisiana’s coast to adapt to collapse.

This cemetery in Leeville, La. is disappearing under water because of coastal land loss. Credit: Ben Weber, National Wildlife Federation.

Large-scale restoration of the delta provides new hope that the system can again become sustainable. But turning coastal Louisiana around from a system losing land to one rebuilding it will require transition and adaptation for coastal residents and communities. Change is inevitable, but the direction of that change will shift dramatically from the loss that communities have been adapting to for generations to a more dynamic and sustainable system that is gaining land.

Louisiana’s 2012 Coastal Master Plan sets out bold action for restoration and importantly highlights the need for “providing for transitions,” i.e. addressing potential changes that stakeholders may face as projects are implemented and acknowledging the grief and adjustment imposed by existing land loss.

The master plan uses many methods of restoration, asserting that “The action we need requires changing the landscape, not just tweaking what we already have.” Projects such as marsh creation, sediment diversions, ridge restoration, oyster barrier reefs and hydrologic restoration have been chosen for their ability to build land and sustain the coast over the long term. At the same time, they may also be accompanied by short or long-term changes in water elevation and salinity regimes as diversions are operated; changes in access as land is built and hydrology is restored; shifts in habitats in response to land building; and other social, cultural, and economic changes as a result of physical changes to the landscape. The plan stresses that “If we don’t take large-scale action, land loss and flooding will grow so severe that ours will be the last generation that benefits from Louisiana’s working coast.”

The master plan commits to helping communities and user groups adapt to these changes three ways: by developing a planning framework for adapting to change; by involving stakeholders in project design to minimize impacts; and by identifying tools that may assist communities, businesses, and individuals in transitioning to a sustainable — but likely different — new coastal regime.

The challenge is to flesh out these commitments into a creative discussion that moves beyond despair and dislocation. Ideally, transition from the collapsing coast of today to a dynamic but sustainable coast of the future will continue and renew the connection between land, livelihoods, communities and culture. Perhaps through the “planning framework,” stakeholders themselves will be able to propose how transition can result in building a better future for individuals, communities and businesses.

Because the environmental challenges we face are unprecedented, bold actions must be taken. The ultimate benefits and impacts of such actions lie in the future and cannot be completely known. But we know that without action, our coast will continue collapsing. Increasing our ability to work together — marked by increased collaboration, communication, networking and interaction, as well as the establishment of common goals and mutual trust — increases our ability to make decisions, correct mistakes and create a coastal future together. Therefore, the Coastal Master Plan’s commitment to engaging stakeholders and addressing transition is a linchpin for successful forward progress toward a sustainable coast for everyone.

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Meet Alisha Renfro

August 8, 2012 | Posted by Delta Dispatches in Staff Profiles

Alisha Renfro, Staff Scientist, National Wildlife Federation

Alisha Renfro is the staff scientist for the National Wildlife Federation’s (NWF) Mississippi River Delta Restoration program. Based in New Orleans, she provides accurate scientific information to help advocate for the best coastal restoration projects for Louisiana. She also helps translate scientific information for the Mississippi River Delta Restoration Campaign’s public outreach and communication efforts.

Prior to joining NWF, Alisha had been actively involved in research examining beach erosion in South Carolina, sediment transport in tidal riverine marshes  and swamps in North Carolina, and sediment transport and deposition in coastal marshes in New York. For her doctoral work, she used naturally occurring radioactive forms of elements to trace sediment transport and deposition in the bay and the deteriorating wetlands of the Jamaica Bay Gateway National Recreation Area near New York. She holds a B.S. in marine science from Coastal Carolina University, an M.S. in marine science from the University of North Carolina at Wilmington and a Ph.D. in marine and atmospheric science from Stony Brook University.

“Although I grew up in land-locked central Indiana, I always loved the coast,” said Alisha. “Going to school in South Carolina gave me an opportunity to do coastal research, but I also found that I was really interested in coastal management. My work at NWF has given me the opportunity to combine my interests in coastal management and science and to do something I’m really passionate about — using the best science available to build a better future for coastal Louisiana.”

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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.”

Related Resources:

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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.

Related Resources:

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