2007 Industry Outlook
Restoration projects are 'no longer a niche.'
3 Key Issues
Florida's ecological restorers are closely monitoring three key issues in 2007, says Darla Miller, vice president for environmental services at Orlando's MSEW:
? Changes in federal wetlands rules that seek to reduce the high number of failed wetlands mitigation projects. New standards will emphasize offsite wetlands banks in areas where they are most likely to succeed, rather than postage stamp-sized projects near developments that have proven ineffective.
? Removal of the bald eagle from the U.S. Endangered Species Act. "But make no mistake," says Miller, "private property owners will still have to have management plans for eagles."
? More protection for the Florida gopher tortoise. The Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission is expected to reclassify the burrowing native from "species of special concern" to "threatened."
Company to Watch
Water Resource Associates
WRA was founded by Pete Hubbell, former executive director of the Southwest Florida Water Management District, and his second-in-command, Mark Farrell, after they left the district in 1997. Ten years later, WRA has grown to $4.8 million in annual revenue and 15 employees. Steering SWFWMD through the arduous Tampa Bay water wars well-prepared Hubbell and Farrell for their clients' primary demand: Finding water in scarce areas. The company does long-term water supply planning for governments throughout Florida and helps private developers land consumptive-use permits in places where they're hard to get, like southwest Florida's Southern Water Use Caution Area.
WANTED: Everglades restoration work will create 4,000 long-term jobs.
The United States builds one or two major reservoirs every decade. Florida's plan to fast-track eight key elements of the Everglades restoration plan means the state will build three in the next five years. But the areas targeted for the enormous reservoirs -- La Belle, Indiantown and the Everglades Agricultural Area 25 miles south of South Bay -- don't have the skilled labor to build them. Instead of bringing heavy-equipment operators and construction-craft workers in from elsewhere, the South Florida Water Management District plans to train hundreds of workers in the area, designated by the state as a region of "critical economic concern" because of higher-than-average unemployment.
SFWMD is partnering with Palm Beach Community College in Belle Glade and the Education Center of Southwest Florida in La Belle to provide the workforce training. "We're going to create 4,000 job opportunities, and they won't be over once the reservoirs are built," says Alvin Jackson, who is coordinating the training on behalf of the district. "These areas will have to be maintained and managed in perpetuity."