Entrepreneurs and businesspeople met at the New Orleans business incubator Propeller on Thursday night to learn about how they can help restore the coast.
After the the settlement with Transocean over the BP oil spill, $800 million was set aside for restoration work along the Gulf of Mexico, and state and local governments will work with many private contractors to plan and execute the work.
Government officials from the Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority, Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council, Governor’s Office of Coastal Activities, and Terrebonne Parish gave presentations on how the settlement money will be spent over the next 15 years.
Justin Ehrenwerth, executive director of the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council, says federal and state governments are counting on contracting with local entrepreneurs.
“We need your help getting this right,” says Ehrenwerth. “We have a massive opportunity in front of us and we don’t know the best way to do this for the entire Gulf of Mexico. No one state knows it. The federal government doesn’t know it. We have great ideas, but we don’t have the final answer.”
Karim Belhadjali, deputy chief of planning for the Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority of Louisiana, says “the next big idea could come out of here.”
Referencing the state’s map of coastal land loss, Belhadjali explained, “I recognize that there is a lot of innovation going on and... what I’m looking for is some inspiration from groups like this who have the ability to step outside of the discipline, step outside of their comfort zones, and really start thinking through the solution to that big red map.”
Audience members included participants in Propeller’s water management program, which has developed rain harvesters and do-it-yourself water testing devices. They asked questions about environmentally-friendly engineering, green infrastructure and community engagement.
Support for WWNO's Coastal Desk comes from the Walton Family Foundation, the Kabacoff Family Foundation and the Greater New Orleans Foundation.