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RESTORE Act creates jobs along ailing Gulf Coast

11th June 2012   ·   0 Comments

By Zoe Sullivan
Contributing Writer

Greater New Orleans, Inc. (GNO, Inc.), released a study last week on the job opportunities in wetlands restoration. The study, commissioned by the Walton Family Foundation and conducted by Mather Economics, found that the potential positive impact of RESTORE Act funding would be substantial. The RESTORE Act is an amendment attached the transportation bill currently being discussed in conference committees between the U.S. House and Senate. The Act would create a trust for Clean Air and Water Act fines levied against BP and others for the damage to the environment caused by the 2010 BP oil disaster.

A press release from GNO, Inc. containing some statistics from the study stated that coastal restoration could create 29.54 jobs for every million dollars dedicated. It also projected that the Gulf Coast would gain 57,697 jobs during the first 10 years of wetland restoration activity. Another point made in the press release was that this gain would be balanced across the region since some of these jobs would be created indirectly. Further, the document stated that the jobs generated by funds allocated to coastal restoration would encompass a range of pay scales, from $13,334-$54,471 annually per person.

Dan Favre of the Gulf Restoration Network, an environmental advocacy organization based in New Orleans, told The Louisiana Weekly that, given the job creation rate of wetlands restoration, the impact of such an investment would outweigh that of oil jobs. He added: “With $50 billion of restoration proposed in Louisiana, that’s a lot of jobs. Here in the Gulf, we need to make sure there is local hiring that will bring the benefit to communities that continue to feel the impact of BP’s oil disaster. If we restore our wetlands, we’ll restore our economy.”

Communities across Southern Louisiana are familiar with the importance of rebuilding the area’s wetlands. Not only do marshes and swamps provide a buffer from hurricanes, but they also provide critical habitat to oysters, shrimp and other fish and wildlife. To combat the state’s dramatic rate of land-loss, the legislature recently approved a 50-year plan to rebuild land in coastal areas.

Another significant report for coastal residents was also released on the seventh, this one by Duke University and the Environmental Defense Fund. It highlighted that “oyster reef restoration projects could quadruple economic returns on restoration funding,” according to the GNO, Inc. press release.

Asked whether the Mathes report had addressed employment among women and minorities, Matthew Lulay, a spokesperson for the firm, explained that it had not investigated this question. He told The Louisiana Weekly that “The report was just looking at the correlation between federal outlays to the region and its impact on regional employment,” and that “we did find a significant positive correlation between those two variables.”

According to Scott Burns, who Directs the Walton Family Foun­dation’s Environment Focus Area, “this study makes it clear that wetlands restoration has significant employment potential across the Gulf Coast and could be a tremendous economic driver across the whole region.”

Recognizing the significant that local knowledge can play rebuilding the wetlands, the president & CEO of GNO, Inc., Michael Hecht, stated in the press release that “projects that target coastal restoration will be able to take advantage of the expertise that we have developed within these coastal states.”

This article was originally published in the June 11, 2012 print edition of The Louisiana Weekly newspaper

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