Coastal restoration industry to grow in Louisiana

Coastal advocates say Louisiana’s coastal master plan combined with the reparations from the BP oil spill will help expand the coastal restoration and water management industries in the state and create thousands of jobs over the next decade.

The $8.7 billion in reparations to the state from BP for the 2010 Deep Water Horizon oil spill represents an opportunity to not only to protect and restore the state’s coast but also to create new economic opportunities, said Justin Ehrenwerth, president and CEO of the Water Institute of the Gulf.

“One of our great hopes is that from a horrible tragedy, we have to always remember 11 people lost their lives and oil flowed into the Gulf for that 87 days — it was the worst environmental disaster in our nation’s history,” Ehrenwerth said. “But there’s no question that with the settlement of the litigation against BP and the other responsible parties, we have an unprecedented opportunity to not only restore and protect our coast but also benefit from the economic reverberations from such a large investment.”

The money from BP, which will flow into the state over the next 15 years, combined with the 50-year, $50 billion coastal master, plan puts Louisiana in a unique spot to accelerate and expand its coastal restoration and water management industry.

Greater New Orleans Inc., an economic development agency based in New Orleans, predicted there would be 5,294 middle-skill jobs and 5,837 high-skill job openings over the next decade.

Simone Maloz, executive director of Thibodaux-based coastal advocacy group Restore or Retreat, and Matt Rookard, CEO of the Terrebonne Economic Authority, said many of the workers and businesses in the area who work in oil and gas may be in a good position to switch or begin also working in coastal restoration and water management because they’re already trained to work in the dynamic coastal environment.

“I think it’s one of the bigger opportunities statewide,” Rookard said. “We’re obviously looking at it locally, but there’s a lot of local expertise in coastal restoration. … You’re still building the stuff, you’re still moving dirt, you’re still driving trucks, operating cranes, but the outcome is is a lot different. You’re just redeploying the same research.”

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