PRIVATE SECTOR PROJECTS ONE SOLUTION TO FILL GAP OF WETLAND RESTORATION FUNDS SHORTAGE

America’s WETLAND Foundation to Launch Coastal Registry

Baton Rouge, LA – Noting it will require all hands on deck, the America’s WETLAND Foundation (AWF) today called for private sector investment in “transitional projects” necessary to shore up the coast as large scale public projects come on line in the future.

“Coastal land loss isn’t waiting for adequate funding for projects,” AWF managing director, Val Marmillion, said. “Private sector sponsored projects can be realized now to sustain wetlands in areas where fresh water marshes are subject to salt water intrusion and eventual land loss.”

AWF has worked for years to encourage private landowners and companies to invest in restoration, exploring practical avenues and incentives. On this topic, the Foundation has held leadership forums, meetings with industry leaders, and co-hosted a series of roundtables and a summit with CPRA in which details of the 2017 Louisiana Coastal Master Plan were released.

The Foundation recently completed a private project along the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway near LaRose, Louisiana, utilizing green recyclable plastic products and native grasses to rebuild a mile of waterway embankment to protect native habitat.

AWF plans to establish a wetlands registry to account for projects by acreage and costs that have been paid for through private sector funding by industry or private non-profit organizations and to list projects ready for sponsorship.

“With the state’s announcement that offshore oil and gas revenue through GOMESA will be half of what was anticipated, it is critical we enlist the help of industry and national organizations in sponsoring wetland restoration transitional projects,” Sidney Coffee, AWF senior advisor, said. “We must find ways to lower costs and move with urgency and the private sector is a good option for doing that.”

Utilizing AWF’s America’s Energy Coast Leadership Council as a base, the America’s WETLAND Louisiana Coastal Exchange (LCX) follows a model first introduced by Dr. Larry Blackburn of the SSPEED Center at Rice University in Texas. The concept imagines a registry of environmental projects collected and matched with private funders. AWF plans to work with CPRA to ensure the projects listed are consistent with the state’s master plan.

“Wetland restoration makes good business sense for companies with assets like pipelines in the wetlands or move commerce through navigable waterways that are feeling the negative effects or erosion,” Marmillion said. “National conservation organizations also raise large sums of money for environmental or habitat sustainability and we encourage them to spend it here and include their ongoing projects in the registry.”

Until now, there has not been a coordinated path for revealing or recognizing the volume of private monies spent for restoration. AWF is hopeful that such an accounting will create an incentive for more private funding. The weight of the combined effort could encourage even greater private investment.

The foundation has also worked to investigate private institutional investing in restoration; large funds seek environmentally beneficial investments. Such investments play into a company’s reputation for seeking responsible solutions as part of a business model.

“Companies are not charities and we need a path for them to act in the best interest of their bottom line,” Coffee said. “Tweaking the models for private investment in restoration – allowing for pooling mitigation dollars for larger scale projects and direct investments through mitigation banking – need to be part of the solution. Restoration can make good business sense and is one of the keys to the future of saving our coast.”

AWF encourages companies and NGOs who have promising wetland restoration projects planned or wishing to add projects to Lousiana Coastal Exchange to contact the Foundation directly.

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