An Aug. 13 article in The Advocate highlighted the Landrieu-Scalise RESTORE Act and the tremendous structure the Louisiana congressional delegation has helped put in place to push billions in Deepwater Horizon Clean Water Act fines down to the Gulf Coast. However, a time line for a settlement related to the Clean Water Act fines and other penalties is undetermined.
The timing of additional restoration and protection funding also is a significant issue for companies across Louisiana who are set to design and construct crucial coastal projects. Many of these companies participated in the nearly $15 billion worth of post-Katrina work to rebuild the New Orleans area storm protection system. The timely funding and rollout of the RESTORE Act and other coastal programs outlined in the state’s Coastal Master Plan will allow this large industry sector to pivot from that New Orleans area work to broader work along the coast. While 10 years ago there may have been little recognition of this small “coastal workforce,” it is now estimated it makes up 1 in 10 Louisiana construction jobs, a ratio that should grow with Deepwater Horizon related funds.
An editorial in The Advocate on Aug. 13 described the challenges to fill middle-skill positions. The “coastal workforce” falls into the category of industries relying on middle-skill workers. A recent report by Oxfam America and The Nature Conservancy included interviews and survey data from coastal project industry leaders about restoration jobs and training needs. Their report reveals that the construction of barrier island, marsh creation and oyster reef projects will spur demand for middle-skilled workers such as pipe fitters, boat captains, welders and heavy equipment operators. Building the skills of our coastal workforce will help Louisiana residents secure these jobs.
We must take full advantage of these developing business and workforce opportunities. A successful strategy requires new collaborations across industry, community colleges and training institutions, government and communities to grow companies and recruit, train and place new workers.
The result of a well-designed and well-funded effort to support the industry and its workforce will allow for world-class execution on Louisiana’s Coastal Master Plan and the ability for companies in the coastal industry to then provide their best-in-class services to coastal communities in need across the world.
Scott Kirkpatrick, president
Coast Builders Coalition