Terrebonne Parish in the US state of Louisiana has historically been prosperous due to its rich environment on the coast of the Gulf of Mexico, abundant natural resources and unique Cajun culture. In recent years though, the area has been threatened by coastal erosion and land loss.
The Louisiana state’s 2017 Coastal Master Plan forecasts that inaction to address coastal land loss could result in irreversible environmental damage, and dangerous and damaging storm surges that could affect livelihoods, force community relocation and create other adverse economic ramifications.
Recognising these long-term community challenges, in 2018 BHP’s US-based Petroleum business committed US$3.4 million over five years through a public-private partnership with the America’s WETLAND Foundation (AWF) and Resource Environmental Solutions (RES).
Known as the Terrebonne Biodiversity and Community Resilience Projects, the partnership has restored 60.7 hectares (150 acres) of wetlands in the Barataria-Terrebonne National Estuary, one of the largest and most productive systems in the US, with an economic value of US$1.2 million per year.
The Terrebonne Biodiversity and Community Resilience Projects were the first projects listed on the AWF’s Louisiana Coastal Exchange, an inventory and reporting of privately funded coastal projects and research efforts in coastal Louisiana.
More than 35,000 native trees from a local nursery owned and operated by RES were used to restore the area, and RES local team members designed and implemented innovative regional-specific natural solutions.
In FY2019, over 150 community volunteers planted 2,000 trees on site, learning about the importance of ecological restoration and the direct and indirect benefits to the long-term sustainability of local Louisiana communities.
The project is expected to deliver annual environmental benefits including 280 tonnes of carbon sequestered and the elimination of up to 266 pounds of phosphorus and 10,600 pounds of nitrogen to improve water quality in the lower Terrebonne Parish. RES will monitor the project to ensure these ecological goals are met.
A hallmark of the partnership is the way we have worked to inform the media, general public and government on the value of natural or green engineering in building resilience into the environment, as well as the role of public-private collaborations in advancing these types of projects.
Using public forums, media and stakeholder outreach, AWF has demonstrated how a sound environment supports communities, habitat and a secure economy. RES brought public-private partnership experience which proved a core focus on restoration best practices and long-term site stewardship, while BHP’s championing of the project has shown the important role of private sector support in helping to securing our future.