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What is a "Good" Project? Breaking Down Our Survey Results on Gulf Restoration Priorities

Thursday, July 28, 2016
Teresa Chan

Teresa Chan

Senior Attorney

Note: This blog was cross-posted from ELI's Gulf-specific website, where you can find information on everything you need to know about Gulf restoration.

In June, the ELI Gulf Team released a survey on priorities for Gulf restoration in the wake of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. It was designed to understand what elements our partners and collaborators think are most important to good restoration projects. We started with a list of eight project elements:

Project Elements Diagram

We sent the survey to our listserv, with several people forwarding the survey more broadly. Our intent was to keep the sample relatively small in order to focus on the opinions of our partners and collaborators (at least to start). As of July 13, we received 134 responses to the survey.

The responses to the questions provide some wonderful insight into what matters most in Gulf restoration.

Project Element Ranking

The first question asked respondents to rank the eight project elements in order of their importance. The relative weights that the respondents accorded each element were as follows:

Survey Results

Of the respondents, 59% (79 of 134) ranked “Positive Ecological Benefit” as the most important element, and 76% (102 of 134) ranked it as one of the top two most important elements. Conversely, 43% of respondents (57 of 134) ranked “Positive Economic Benefit” as the least important project element, and 58% (78 of 134) ranked it among the bottom two elements. The second most important element was ensuring that the Needs of Communities are taken into account. The other elements – climate change resilience, public participation, coordination, regional integration, and monitoring and adaptive management – were all clustered close together in their rankings.

There were other notable findings from the survey. For example, certain elements had wide variations in their rankings (i.e. they were ranked at the top of the list by some people and at the bottom by others). This included the “Meaningful Public Participation” element, which ranked sixth overall but had the second-most first-place rankings. Other elements, like “Integration with Regional Goals and Objectives,” were ranked more consistently (i.e. there was not such a wide variation in how respondents ranked them).

Other Project Elements

Our second and third questions asked for suggestions about other important project elements and general feedback. In regards to other important project elements, responses generally fell into six broad categories. Those six categories are listed below, along with some examples of the comments we received for each:

Feedback Categories
Generally, the comments elaborated on the eight elements in the first question (many on “Positive Ecological Benefit”), though there were some new, important perspectives. These comments will be extremely useful as we think about criteria to evaluate whether restoration projects are ”good” ones.

Next Steps

Moving forward, we plan to develop a resource based in part on this feedback, which will help people and organizations in the Gulf think further about whether a particular restoration project is “good.” Getting your input was the first step. Next, we will work to support the priorities we heard from the survey. Thank you for your continued engagement!


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Sorry I missed the survey.

Sorry I missed the survey. Most important to me is that this extraordinary opportunity to "learn while restoring" not be missed. I recommend using adaptive restoration (phased field experimentation so that early results can inform later projects). This would lead to a win-win-win for the environment, for restoration practice in the field, and for restoration science as an adaptive process. There are opportunities galore to test field restoration methods, to compare effectiveness of individual methods used in very different settings across 5 states, and to assess the long-term outcomes of the same method over many years. Rarely is there so much money available to learn how to restore such a valuable ecosystem over such a large area. Unfortunately, the EIS has virtually nothing to say about field experimentation.

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All blog posts are the opinion of its author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of ELI the organization or its members.