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One Simple Idea That Could Revolutionize Wetlands Conservation in New Orleans

The Rockefeller Foundation 100 Resilient Cities Centennial Challenge: Resilience Blog

By: Chris Michael and Elena Goodinson

Louisiana state officials estimate that the cost of restoring the wetlands around the Mississippi Delta—which are the primary buffer between New Orleans and the hurricanes that hit the city nearly every summer, and which have been seriously degraded over the past eight or so decades by levee- and dam-building and oil and gas industry activity—will cost around $50 billion. They estimate the process will take at least half a century, over which time—let’s be realistic—the cost could increase drastically. But what’s even less certain than the actual cost of the undertaking is where the money will come from. Creators of the Louisiana Coastal Master Plan say they are “reasonably sure” that damages from the BP oil spill, congressional appropriations for levee and restoration programs, and a share of federal offshore oil money will be enough to cover the bill. But with the future of New Orleans and the entirety of southeast Louisiana very seriously at stake, actors in both the public and private sectors are looking for ways to create novel revenue streams that can help fund this monumental task.

Sarah Mack was working as the liaison between the Sewerage and Water Board of New Orleans and other agencies responsible for the post-Katrina recovery when she came across the idea of using carbon-offset credits as a source of funding. She was trying to initiate a project that would use treated wastewater to nourish a newly planted 10,000-acre cypress wetland, but money allocated from FEMA would not be enough. She began looking at carbon credits—which companies that emit the carbon that fuels global warming can purchase under cap-and-trade programs—and, today, she has positioned herself and her new company, Tierra Resources, at the forefront of a nascent industry that could prove a serious boon to coastal restoration coffers.

Read the full article here.

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