RESTORE Act Fines Could Provide Job Opportunities in Gulf Coast, 32 Other States
The Clean Water Act penalties from last year’s British Petroleum (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 a grant from the Walton Family Foundation to 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.”
“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, Fla., Texas and Louisiana, and has offices in Baltimore, Md.; Louisville, Ky.; Raleigh, N.C.; North Charleston, S.C., Denver, Colo.; Cleveland, Ohio; Glen Ridge, N.J.; and Santa Fe, N.M. “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 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, Fla., Savannah, Ga., Baltimore, Md., and Columbia, S.C. 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.”
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:
- 33 percent of the nation’s seafood harvest (National Marine Fisheries Service, 2011)
- $34 billion per year in tourism (Oxford Economics, 2010)
- 90 percent of the nation’s total offshore crude oil and natural gas production (Energy Information Administration, 2011)
- 4,000 offshore oil platforms and 33,000 miles of pipeline (Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement, 2011; National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, 2010)
- 10 of the nation’s 15 largest shipping ports, by cargo volume (American Association of Port Authorities, 2009)
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.
For more information, click here.
Environmental Defense Fund, a leading national nonprofit organization, creates transformational solutions to the most serious environmental problems. EDF links science, economics, law and innovative private-sector partnerships. Follow us at Twitter.com/EDF_Louisiana and at Facebook.com/EnvDefenseFund.
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EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
By Naomi Larsson
For centuries, the delicate silver dove has been a symbol of love and fidelity.
Biodiversity and Habitat Loss<p>Their near extinction is a symbol of the <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/global-biodiversity-outlook-targets-extinction-summit-new-york-pledge/a-54932895" target="_blank">biodiversity crisis</a> in the UK, largely driven by habitat destruction. Britain is now one of the countries with the most <a href="https://www.wwf.org.uk/future-of-UK-nature#:~:text=The%20UK%20is%20one%20of,than%20half%20are%20in%20decline" target="_blank">depleted nature</a> in the world according to the World Wildlife Fund. Half its plant and animal species are in decline and more than <a href="https://www.rspb.org.uk/about-the-rspb/about-us/media-centre/press-releases/let-nature-sing-wales/#:~:text=a%20natural%20tragedy.-,Over%2040%20million%20birds%20have%20vanished%20from%20UK%20skies%20in,unaware%20of%20the%20impending%20danger" target="_blank">40 million birds</a> have vanished in just half a century.</p><p>"[Turtle doves] are the canary in the [coal] mine because there are all these other species before it and after it," said Tree. "It's an umbrella for all the other species that are heading that way."</p><p>Turtle doves migrate south through Europe to sub-Saharan Africa between July and September, ending up in dry woodland and farmland areas of countries like Mali and Senegal for winter. </p><p>Droughts in West Africa and the Sahel region are believed to have contributed to the fall in turtle dove species recorded in northern Europe, with low rainfall reducing supplies of the seeds and insects the birds rely on for energy for the long journey home.</p>
Conservation and Farming<p><a href="https://www.operationturtledove.org/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Operation Turtle Dove,</a> a partnership project of charities including the Essex Wildlife trust, works with landowners and farmers to actively build turtle dove habitat.</p><p>Outten works with <a href="https://www.ebws.org.uk/birdsites/blue-house-farm-ewt-north-fambridge" target="_blank">Blue House Farm</a>, a 660-acre nature reserve in the UK county of Essex, where they have replicated weedy fallow plots. </p><p>"We work on it every year to make sure it's in the condition it needs to be with plants such as clovers and black medic," Outten said. "These plants are native to the landscape and produce the seed the birds feed on." </p><p>The birds eat a wide range of seeds from various plants that would have been abundant 50 or 100 years ago, added Guy Anderson, program manager for species recovery with The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB). </p><p>"But it's simply true that with the gradual process of <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/farming-without-pesticides-how-can-we-make-agriculture-greener/a-52216796" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">intensifying our agricultural production</a>, the availability of those seeds has dropped and dropped," said Anderson.</p><p>Part of the project includes supplementary feeding — providing sources of food in the form of seed or grain. Under the Countryside Stewardship Scheme in England, farmers can receive financial support to create a turtle dove habitat. </p><p>Though they haven't recorded an increase in doves across the sites in the four years of working on the project, Outten said they are seeing improvements in how landowners and farmers manage habitat for the birds. </p>
A Turtle Dove Haven<p>The 3,500-acre Knepp Estate in West Sussex is another project taking a different approach and one of the few places where turtle dove numbers are increasing.</p><p>Isabella Tree and her husband Charlie Burrell converted their intensively farmed land into a rewilding project almost 20 years ago. They have let the land return to nature.</p><p>Just one year after they'd finished <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/uks-most-talented-architects-are-not-human/a-35952128" target="_blank">rewilding</a> the southern part of their property, they heard turtle doves for the first time. It's now a breeding hotspot for the birds with an estimated 19 pairs. Knepp is also home to <a href="https://www.rewildingbritain.org.uk/rewilding/rewilding-projects/knepp-estate" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">2% of the UK's population</a> of nightingales. </p><p>Tree is critical of supplementary feeding schemes that, in her view, are short term. She questions the chances of turtle doves getting to feed on scattered seeds before other mammals eat them first.</p>
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