Restore Act will increase environmental remediation, spur economic growth,
according to a Duke University report
What are geosynthetics and why are they central to the creation of jobs and expansion of coastal
A July 26 press release from the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) describes a new Duke University
study, “Geosynthetics: Coastal Management Applications in the Gulf of Mexico.”
This study details how the emerging geosynthetics industry can create jobs benefitting nearly 200
employee locations in 36 states, including more than 72 in the five Gulf Coast states. Duke has also
created an online interactive map showing firm-level data and firm locations by state and
value chain segment.
The EDF press release describes various geosynthetic products including sand-filled
geotextile tubes used as containment dikes for restoration projects, as well as marine mattresses—large, rectangular geogrid pouches filled with rocks that
are used to support structures and control erosion.
Increased investment in coastal restoration, as expected through the recently approved Restore
Act, will stimulate more local projects and job sites using these innovative construction materials,
which will in turn stimulate job creation and the economy.
For Gulf Coast states, the biggest provision in the Restore Act will potentially bring billions
of dollars to the region because it allocates 80 percent of Clean Water Act fines from the 2010 BP
spill to the five Gulf states. The fines are estimated to total between $5 billion and $20 billion,
with the final amount depending on how much negligence the responsible parties are willing to admit
to, or, if negotiations fail, the degree of negligence determined by a federal judge.
The Restore Act directs that the fines returned to the Gulf Coast states be used for ecological
and economic recovery efforts. It sets up a Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council to develop and
finance a comprehensive plan for ecological recovery.
The Duke report, funded by Environmental Defense
Fund and The Walton Family
Foundation, is a study of 84 firms involved in the geosynthetics supply chain. The report finds
that increased investment in coastal restoration will provide quadruple economic returns and create new opportunities for the growing
More than 70 percent of the firms sampled in the study are considered small businesses according
to the U.S. Small Business Administration guidelines on number of employees, and nearly half the
firms have fewer than 100 employees. In addition to qualifying as small businesses, almost a quarter
of geosynthetics manufacturing firms cited were established in just the last 10 years.
Attesting to potential growth, Andrew Aho, managing director of the Geosynthetic Materials
Association said: “As the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers continues to test and prove effective a
substantial number of geosynthetics, and as a new generation of engineers familiar with
geosynthetics transitions into coastal planning and design firms, the market segment is positioned
“The geosynthetics industry has been heavily involved in coastal restoration projects
throughout Louisiana and the gulf states. As more projects are launched in response to Restore Act
passage, our member companies are poised to grow our business and local staff to meet increased
demand,” said Laurie Honnigford, managing director for the International Association of Geosynthetics
“As restoration projects ramp up along the Gulf Coast and Mississippi River delta as a
result of the Restore Act, so will the coastal engineering and construction profession and the
geosynthetics industry on which it relies,” said Jackie Prince Roberts,
director of sustainable technologies for Environmental Defense Fund.
“Geosynthetics—geotextiles and other manmade, polymer-based materials used in
environmental restoration, flood prevention, and erosion control projects—are an emerging
industry and projected to grow at an annual rate of 6.8 percent through 2015,” Roberts
She continued: “Long-term investment in coastal management will not only benefit the
environment, but it will also spur economic growth all along the geosynthetics supply chain by both
protecting current jobs—such as Gulf Coast fishing, tourism, and shipping—and creating
new jobs. It’s an economic and environmental win-win.”
The Duke study’s release is timely because earlier this month, the U.S. Congress passed and
President Obama signed into law the Restore Act as part of the Surface Transportation Extension Act.
It is the single largest investment in environmental restoration ever made by the U.S. Congress,
according to the release.
“The geosynthetics industry is growing and evolving rapidly as it finds more applications
for its product,” says the report. “Coastal management programs across the Gulf Coast
states are growing as well, developing plans worth billions of dollars for ecosystem restoration,
flood prevention, and erosion control. With geosynthetics playing an increasing role in coastal
management, this convergence of events presents an opportunity for geosynthetics manufacturers to
diversify and grow, and for coastal engineering to evolve and improve,” the report says.
The Geosynthetics study is a follow-up to two previous Duke University studies, “Restoring the Gulf Coast: New Markets for Established Firms” and “Restoring Gulf Oyster Reefs: Opportunities for Innovation.” The former,
released in December, 2011, determined that using Clean Water Act penalties from the 2010 gulf oil
spill could create jobs that would benefit at least 140 businesses with nearly 400 employee
locations in 37 states, including more than 260 locations in the Gulf Coast. The latter, released in
June, identified 130 firms nationwide involved with oyster reef restoration and poised to grow with
passage of the Restore Act.
For more information on how investing in environmental restoration provides quadruple economic
returns, visit www.mississippiriverdelta.org/economics.