Project Merit: Habitat Restoration

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AECOM Technology Corp. (Los Angeles, CA) for its work in restoring coral habitat in the Maldives. As part of the expansion and development of Ibrahim Nasir International Airport in the Maldives, AECOM conducted one of the largest coral restoration (16 hectares) and transplantation feasibility studies anywhere in the world. The study included the technical evaluation of potential sites and feasibility of suitable coral transplantation and restoration techniques under local oceanographic conditions. The project was designed for implementation through involvement of local islanders for economic benefits and sustainability. Based on technical and social considerations (anthropogenic activities, light penetration, current and tides, availability of locally hired resources, etc.), three optimal lagoons were identified where coral transplantation and restoration work could be undertaken. Undersea sites were inspected by divers and snorkelers. Discussions were held with local councils to ensure stakeholder involvement. Multiple transplantation technologies were evaluated for suitability under local conditions and requirements. The study considered major risk scenarios, including tsunamis, cyclones, rise in temperature, and potential bleaching of corals.

Colorado Springs Utilities (Colorado Springs, CO) for restoration of habitat disturbed by a major pipeline project. Restoration of native vegetation on privately and publicly owned properties affected by construction of the Southern Delivery System (SDS) pipeline in Pueblo County, Colorado, reached a significant milestone during the 2013 growing season, employing these innovative techniques. The utility hired environmental restoration experts through a competitive process and managed them separately from the pipeline contractors. By the fall of 2013, native vegetation achieved significant growth and is on track to meet permit requirements. The utility also coordinated with university-based botanical experts to establish a foundation for placing native seed mixes on 323 acres. It installed an irrigation system, including 95,000 feet of underground HDPE pipe, 185,550 feet of PVC pipe, 222 watering zones, and nearly 16,000 sprinkler heads. Due to expense and water supply availability, irrigation typically is not used in restoration efforts; however, irrigation resulted in successful re-establishment of native plant varieties despite drought conditions before and after construction. Colorado Springs Utilities also assessed stakeholder needs and prevented or resolved issues by building relationships with hundreds of property and business owners, managers, and users of a state park, an all-terrain vehicle park, and other agencies.

Southeastern Archeological Research, Inc. (SEARCH; Jacksonville, FL) for its work in ensuring the protection of cultural resources during the restoration of the Chassahowizka Springs in Florida. For the project, which was aimed at restoring water quality and habitat of an important resource within the Southwest Florida Water Management District (SWFWMD), SEARCH developed the scope of work to ensure that restoration goals were achieved while complying with cultural resource legislation. SEARCH's underwater archeologists recovered thousands of artifacts spanning historic and prehistoric periods, including Paleoindian, Spanish settlement, and Civil War-era periods. Following the completion of the fieldwork, on behalf of SWFWMD, SEARCH provided materials interpreting the artifacts for the public, including the hosting of a Public Archeology Day at the springs that was covered by CNN.