One of our goals at Restoration and Resilience is to offer a better analysis of green jobs potential from conservation work than past jobs multipliers have provided. To do this, we'll examine case studies of completed and proposed wetland restoration projects. Today we are presenting the fifth in a series of posts that lay out estimated job creation from a restoration project in the Central Wetlands Unit in southeastern Louisiana. Bear in mind, we rely on assumptions and estimates throughout our analysis, and we encourage you at the outset to send us feedback on our methods.
Installation of hydraulic head piezometers in Bayou Bienvenue (Source: Flickr (bringbackthebayou))
In our previous four posts on the Central Wetlands Unit, we looked at the initial steps involved in restoration of the basin. The first piece looked at the direct jobs generated by dredging in millions of cubic yards of sediment from nearby lake bottoms. The second post looked at the indirect and induced jobs stemming from dredging and site preparation. In the third post, we delved into estimated cost and job creation numbers for construction of a piping system to transport treated wastewater to different parts of the Central Wetlands. The fourth post examined a proposed project to replant 10,000 acres of the Central Wetlands with cypress seedlings. In this piece, we will look at what comes after the dredgers, construction workers, and tree planters have hung up their tool belts. This falls under the broad category of operations and maintenance (O&M).
To successfully restore the Central Wetlands, ecologists, groundskeepers, pesticide handlers, and other trained personnel will be needed to eradicate pests, support nascent communities of wetland species, and ensure that sedimentary and basin flow processes in the Central Wetlands approximate those that existed prior to construction of the Mississippi River Gulf Outlet (MRGO) during the 1960s. We estimate that over a ten-year period of growth and regeneration, a $37.61 million operations and maintenance (O&M) program could create the full-time equivalent of 114 direct job-years and 181 indirect and induced job-years in Louisiana.
Operations and Maintenance: Neutralizing Nutria in the Central Wetlands
Estimated Annual Labor and Material Costs on Nutria Control in the Central Wetlands Unit (Sources: Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS); Cumberland's Northwest Trappers Supply, Inc.; Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries)
As a first step, we looked at placement of traps and bait rafts to control nutria (Myocaster coypus) populations in the Central Wetlands Unit. In the fourth post of the series, we had mentioned how bare-root cypress seedlings would be planted with protective nutria exclusion devices (NEDs). These are needed because of the rapacious appetites of these rodents, which have damaged tens of thousands of acres across southern Louisiana since their introduction at the turn of the 20th century.
NEDs are typically made of durable material such as drainage pipe, held close to the plant’s stem with stakes and tie straps. However, to reduce the population of nutria in the Central Wetlands Unit, it would be necessary to introduce measures for eradicating the rodents with traps and poisoned bait.
In this scenario, we considered two types of nutria control – spring traps and nutria bait rafts. Based on price information from online hunting suppliers, we estimated that the cost of a typical double long spring trap with a 4” jaw spread would be $8.75 per unit. We estimated that these traps could be installed at a density of one trap per acre over the area replanted with cypress, estimated at 10,000 acres in our previous post.
We assumed that the traps would be checked by maintenance workers about one every two weeks. In the interim, local hunters would be allowed to check the traps for nutria tails to turn in for bounties through Louisiana’s Coastwide Nutria Control Program. The maintenance workers would check to make sure that the traps are functioning properly, and if necessary clean the traps of any rubbish or uneaten bait. If we estimate that this would require, on average, three minutes per inspection for each of the 10,000 traps in the Central Wetlands, then the total labor hours required of ground maintenance workers for annual nutria trap installation and cleaning would be 13,000 hours (= 3 minutes per trap inspection * 1 hour / 60 minutes * 10,000 traps in Central Wetlands Unit * 26 trap inspections per year).
A nutria rat munching on a piece of carrot (Source: Flickr (Hobby-Photograph))
In addition to spring traps within the planted acreage, nutria bait rafts could be installed in waterways and open channels throughout the Central Wetlands. Because nutria are herbivores, the “bait” would likely consist of roots, fruits, or vegetables coated with zinc phosphide (ZN3P2), a common pesticide for rodent control. We estimated that each bait raft, consisting of a buoyant styrofoam sheet, several pounds of vegetables and fruits, and about a pound of zinc phosphide coating on the plants, would cost a little less than $15 ($14.79) to construct. If we assume that one raft has a coverage of five acres, that the rafts are replaced (on average) once every two weeks (twenty-six times per calendar year) to account for wear and tear, and that the rafts would be placed in the approximately 20,000 acres that were not reseeded with cypress, then the estimated annual cost of nutria bait rafts in the Central Wetlands Unit would be $1,538,160 ( = $14.79 / 1 nutria bait raft * 1 nutria bait raft / 5 acres * 20,000 acres * 26 rafts per year). If we assume that installation takes, on average, three minutes, then a total of 5,200 labor hours would be required for putting in place and maintaining nutria bait rafts.
We assumed that the nutria traps would be installed by grounds maintenance workers, while employees trained to work with pesticides would install the nutria bait rafts. According to the May 2008 Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average wages for grounds maintenance workers and pesticide handlers in Louisiana were $11.98/hour and $11.61/hour, respectively. Adjusting for deflation since then, we used an estimated groundskeeper hourly wage of $11.94 and an estimated pesticide handler wage of $11.57 to arrive at an annual nutria control payroll of $215,384 for 13,000 hours of work by maintenance workers on nutria traps and 5,200 hours of work by pest controllers on nutria bait rafts ($215,384 = ($11.94 / grounds maintenance work hour * 13,000 grounds maintenance work hours) + ($11.57 / pesticide handler work hour * 5,200 pesticide handler work hours)).
Operations and Maintenance: Annual Upgrades to the CWU’s Water Provisioning System
Source: Municipal Sewer & Water Magazine
For the pipelines and conduits of the Central Wetlands Unit, we estimated that the system would need to be fully replaced after fifty years of operation. To translate this into annual repairs, we assumed that, on average, two percent (or one-fiftieth) of the piping, walkways, and outfalls would be due for repairs and replacement in any given year.
Using the piping system materials costs from the third post on the Central Wetlands Unit ($9.02 million, out of a total project cost of $11.02 million), we estimated that the yearly cost of system upgrades would be about $180,304 ($180,303.77 = 0.02 * $9,015,188).
We estimated that the project would require a maintenance crew of fifteen laborers (average hourly wage (deflation-adjusted OES) of $12.48), one project manager (average hourly wage of $26.23), and one system inspector to check for leakages and other engineering issues (average hourly wage of $23.80).
Estimated Annual Labor and Material Costs for Pipeline System Repairs in the Central Wetlands (Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics)
Assuming that the annual repair projects could be completed in about two percent of the time used to construct the original piping system (39.94 hours = 0.02 * 1,997 hours for initial outfall/pipeline installation), then the cumulative payroll for annual upgrades to the Central Wetlands Unit’s water provisioning system would be $9,476.02 (≈ ($12.48 per maintenance crew laborer work-hour * 39.94 work-hours / laborer * 15 maintenance crew laborers) + ($26.23 per maintenance crew manager work-hour * 39.94 work-hours / manager * 1 manager) + ($23.80 per system inspector work-hour * 39.94 work-hours / system inspector * 1 system inspector)).
Operations and Maintenance: Annual Landscaping in the Restored Central Wetlands Unit
Source: Yuki Kokubo
As cypress seedlings and other young trees begin to mature, there will be a need for routine maintenance of plant life in the basin. This could involve removing fallen logs obstructing boat channels, clearing dense thickets of weeds, and creating space for later reforestation projects by hired workers or local volunteers.
As wetland forest grows throughout the basin, some areas would require less landscaping work than others. If we estimate that the average acre would require four minutes of labor per year, then the total maintenance work required in the 30,000-acre Central Wetlands Unit would be 2,000 work hours = 30,000 acres * 4 minutes per acre * 1 work-hour / 60 minutes. This is equivalent to having one full-time bayou keeper on payroll for eight hours of work, five days a week, fifty weeks per year. If we assume that this employee would work in conjunction with a full-time supervisor trained in botany and wetland ecology, then, using the average hourly wages for landscaping workers ($10.07) and landscaping managers ($15.37) in Louisiana, the estimated payroll for annual landscaping work in the Central Wetlands would be $50,880 (= (2,000 landscaping worker work-hours * $10.07 / landscaping worker work-hour) + (2,000 landscaping manager work-hours * $15.37 / landscaping manager work-hour)).
Estimated Annual Labor and Material Costs for Vegetation Control and Other Landscaping Work in the Central Wetlands (Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics)
The cumulative annual payroll for all operations and maintenance work in the Central Wetlands Unit would be about $276,000, while the cost of material inputs would be approximately $4.02 million. Using a 5% discount rate and a 3% annual growth rate in our present value calculation, we can estimate that the cost of O&M over a ten-year period would be approximately $37.61 million ($37,607,699 = (4,299,204/(0.05-0.03))*(1-(((1+0.03)/(1+0.05))^10)). Based on the labor inputs from earlier in this post, we estimate that 114.4 direct job-years would be generated in nutria control, pipeline repair, and landscaping in the Central Wetlands over the ten-year period. Using the RIMS II jobs multiplier for waste management and environmental remediation (2.687 in 2006) and adjusting it downward by 6% to account for changes in wage levels, the estimated indirect and induced job-years stemming from operations and maintenance in the CWU would be about (2.687 – 1) * (1 – 0.06) * 114.4 ≈ 181.4 job-years. The aggregate job-years stemming from operations and maintenance would thus be 114.4 direct job-years + 181.4 indirect/induced job-years ≈ 295.8 job-years. Converting this into a jobs per budgeted $1 million ratio, we estimate that approximately 7.9 job-years would be generated for every million spent on operations and maintenance in the Central Wetlands Unit (7.87 jobs / $1 million ≈ 295.8 job-years / $37.61 million).
So, Will 296 People Actually Be Employed in Maintaining the Central Wetlands?
Source: National Wetlands Research Center (NWRC), United States Geological Survey (USGS)
Our estimates are just that – estimates. We have made them based on assumptions about material and labor inputs that others might modify. While they are grounded in conversations with local specialists and firms employed in regenerative work on coastal wetlands, it seems fair to point out some areas where rigorous analysis might diverge from reality.
For one thing, much of the nutria eradication in the Central Wetlands Unit could be left to outsiders rather than maintenance staff. In addition, we have included only infrequent monitoring of nutria traps and pesticide-laced baiting. It could be preferable to have a system of trap lines checked daily by local volunteers or area hunters.
Our pest control has focused on nutria, but other animals could be included. For instance, while local species of rabbit and deer are not considered "invasive" like nutria, they too consume cypress seedlings, and could potentially be targeted for dedicated hunting programs by the Central Wetlands Unit's site managers. Feral swine (Sus scrofa), most commonly found in remote parts of southern Louisiana, might also have to be monitored for their effect on wetland regeneration in the CWU, as they have been observed with increasing frequency in more densely populated areas. Including these other species in our animal control efforts might raise the costs and labor inputs for the O&M program.
Summary Costs and Jobs/Spending Ratios for Operations and Maintenance Work in the Central Wetlands Unit (Source: Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA))
While we have calculated the estimated job-years in maintenance and support sectors, how these job-years would be distributed among workers is subject to debate. We could make assumptions about the duration of maintenance worker positions which would affect how these job-years translate into payroll positions for area workers. For instance, if operations and maintenance (O&M) workers, on average, stay in their positions for two years, then the total number of workers directly employed in upkeep during the first ten years of restoration in the Central Wetlands Unit would be 114 direct job-years for O&M / (2 job-years / O&M worker) = 57 workers.
Notwithstanding, we feel confident that our numbers give an idea of the potential for job creation from a wetland restoration project in the Central Wetlands Unit. In our final post in this series, we will summarize some of our findings, and lay out where we will go next in our analysis of job creation and conservation projects.