March 10, 2015
Report says restoring coastal habitat is good for economy
By TRISTA TALTON
Coastal Review Online
benefits of restoring North Carolina’s coastline extend beyond the
state’s environment, infusing millions of dollars into local economies,
according to a recent report that will be unveiled in Raleigh today.
Restoration and Community Economic Development in North Carolina," a
study of RTI International, examined the economic effects on local
economies of four N.C. Coastal Federation restoration projects.
report, which was completed in January, reveals just how much these
projects affected local communities by creating jobs, supporting local
businesses and educating the public.
report does a nice job of demonstrating that these types of restoration
projects benefit the environment, but that’s not the only benefit they
have,” said Erin Fleckenstein, a coastal scientist and manager of the
federation’s Manteo office. “I think it’s a paradigm shift in how we
think of restoration projects in that they’re not just good for the
environment but they’re also good for the economy – a way of creating
local jobs, a way of supporting the tourism industry.”
63-page report will be officially released on Tuesday, the first day of
a two-day public meeting on oyster restoration projects in the
state. The federation and two of its key partners in oyster projects,
the Albemarle-Pamlico National Estuary Partnership and the North
Carolina Sea Grant, are sponsoring the so-called Oyster Summit.
restoration projects reviewed in the report totaled investments of a
little more than $8 million. Through these projects, 116 full-time jobs
were created, $13.8 million in revenue was generated to coastal county
businesses, and an estimated $4.1 million was injected into coastal
household earnings, according to the report.
projects also generated extensive engagement in local schools,
community events and pulled together a large number of volunteers.
four projects examined were: a living shoreline that created oyster and
salt marsh habitat at Morris Landing in Onslow County, oyster
restoration in Pamlico Sound, stormwater runoff reductions at Bradley
Creek Elementary School in New Hanover County, and wetlands restoration
at North River Preserve in Carteret County.
found that these projects support industry growth, create employment
opportunities for local workers and foster community development
through educational outreach, volunteerism and creating local parks and
public access points for public use,” the report concludes.
Such projects also increase a community’s resilience to storms and other extreme weather events.
average of anywhere from 10 to 29 full-time jobs are created for every
$1 million spent as a result of coastal restoration projects, the
is important to note that these jobs figures represent a full-time job
for a full year of work,” it states. “They do not reflect the actual
number of people hired to work on these projects.”
that gain benefits from the projects are wide-ranging. Everyone from
barge operators, fishermen, scientists, technicians, biologists,
construction workers, engineers, natural resources sources, site
surveyors, archaeological consultants, graphic designers and nursery
workers are employed to make these projects successful.
Towing Company, a mid-size freight transportation company, moved 57,000
tons of limestone rock from land into the Pamlico Sound as part of the
oyster reef restoration project. That equated to about 2,280 truckloads
of rock, said Simon Rich, general manager of the company’s mid-Atlantic
office based in Edenton.
The job came at a good time in 2009 for the company, which like so many others, was affected by the ongoing recession.
timing of that was very good for us because the economy was slow,” Rich
said. “We had a lot of extra equipment sitting around so that was a
great way to keep us working and keep our employees working who
otherwise may have had to have been laid off. I thought it was a great
experience and I thought it was great to see large industry working
with environmental groups to build a good project. I think we were able
to bring some economies of scale and do what otherwise would have been
10 years worth of work in one year.”
Wilgis, coastal education coordinator in the federation’s Wilmington
regional office, has seen firsthand how these projects spread the
years, many of the oyster restoration projects in which he was involved
were done in coordination with the N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries.
worked out really well, but as projects got more complicated and more
frequent it just became easier to separate the two,” he said. “There
grew a need to have more people in this restoration work. We found a
lot of marine contractors were interested in doing these projects. They
bring with them a unique skills set. It’s been great working with
contractors and getting their input. It’s kind of opened up a whole new
who take on these projects act almost as ambassadors, Wilgis said,
educating the public on what the projects entail and why they’re
are also very good at looking at costs so they can explain that it’s
good for ecological reasons and economically smart,” Wilgis said. “Take
living shorelines, they last longer and they’re more resilient.
Stormwater reduction is another one, where property owners can use
water in cisterns to save water over time. What we’re showing with
these projects is that they can be both environmentally beneficial and
least five contractors worked on the Morris Landing project, one Wilgis
referred to as a “lab” where those contractors gained experience while
creating a place regulators can visit to get a better understanding of
The Bradley Creek stormwater reduction project received a great deal of in-kind and community support, Wilgis said.
He’s seen private contractors not only showcase their work on such projects but advocate to do more.
that happen and seeing more demand for that is very rewarding because
it means good work is being done for the environment,” Wilgis said.
than 50 state legislators plan to attend the oyster meeting, which is
being held at the N.C. Museum of Natural Sciences, Fleckenstein said.
meeting will give attendees a broader understanding of how coastal
restoration projects go beyond the shoreline and weave into local
communities, she explained. It will also help advance the goals in an
oyster restoration and protection plan that the federation and its
strategy of habitat restoration as an economic development is a new
concept that’s being incorporated into our overall blueprint for
action,” Fleckenstein said.
plan outlines a series of goals, the first of which is to incorporate
coastal environmental restoration into the state’s economic development
article is provided by Coastal Review Online, an online news service
covering North Carolina's coast. For more news, features, and
information about the coast, go to www.coastalreview.org.)