Ecological Restoration: 5 Keys to Getting It Right the First Time

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Remediation Managers report that 75% of their budgets are directed to remediation, rather than investigation – a trend toward “hard spend” that has been growing over the last ten years. Of the remediation projects being conducted, high growth is expected in sediment remediation, as many ecological restoration projects (or portions of larger remediation projects) have been left until late in the restoration program. As a result, managers are facing portfolios of projects that are increasingly rich in ecological scenarios.

These scenarios are complex – intersecting jurisdictions and regulations, third parties and interest group involvement, increased technical challenges – with numerous pitfalls and liabilities. Managers have options to manage liability at several stages of the project, but much of the battle is won or lost in the initial scoping and planning.

We have worked through everything from simple perennial stream crossings to regional impacts from the ‘Manhattan Project’. From that knowledge base, here are the five keys to the game in the initial stages of the project:

  1. Be Strategic. The decisions you make at the beginning can define the project. Taking the time to understand the entire decision tree and lay out how each decision now impacts the way the project goes in the future is an important first step.
  2. Know the “local conditions.” Knowing where your contamination starts and ends is absolutely vital in scoping and liability protection. Understanding natural occurrences, other sources, and the “background” load of constituents needs to be a paramount concern in your planning.
  3. Work with regulators from the outset. Close collaboration with regulators saves time and money by ensuring that your approach will meet their expectations. A well-designed and executed plan with regulator buy-in will streamline your project significantly.
  4. Identify third party concerns. Be prepared for third party review. Your work will be scrutinized by local stakeholders, environmental groups, and regulators, and putting together a water-tight case for your preferred approach will make for smooth sailing. Holes in your reasoning will be exploited, so prepare for all arguments up front.
  5. Choose the right partners. You need to find an experienced partner that you can collaborate with. Assemble a team that can deliver on the planning, science, and communications aspects of this process or risk liability mop-up and re-work later.

Ecological restoration projects are significant undertakings. Read this whitepaper from Woodard & Curran on understanding local conditions and how they impact your project. Also, see Dave talk about this topic in the video below.

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About the Author:

Dave MacDonald has over 18 years of environmental consulting experience specializing in evaluating environmental liabilities and managing complex environmental projects at industrial, commercial, and public facilities. He focuses on applying risk management strategies to industrial and commercial use facilities and land development and reuse projects. He is actively involved in both professional and regulatory groups concerning environmental policy for commerce and industry.

“I have worked on land purchase and redevelopment, environmental restoration, water supply, and water treatment projects my entire career. The most satisfying part of my work is solving problems for my clients. My favorite projects are those that involve taking a property from a former use through permitting, demolition, restoration, and redevelopment. The first day I can walk around a completed project with my client is the best day of the project for me.”

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