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The Nature Conservancy and CH2M HILL team to integrate natural and conventional infrastructure

Denver — CH2M HILL and The Nature Conservancy announced a new five-year collaboration to bring innovative and integrated engineering and environmental solutions into the global marketplace.  

“The planet faces powerful systemic challenges that together, we are well-positioned to address,” said Kacky Andrews, Director of Conservation Programs North America at The Nature Conservancy. “Both natural ecosystems and human-made infrastructure, require creative new solutions to address the intertwined and increasing challenges of a rising and urbanizing population, overtaxed natural resources and a changing climate.”

“Evaluating the capabilities and benefits of natural infrastructure – such as reefs, wetlands and urban green spaces – alongside built structures, such as breakwaters, seawalls and levees – can offer engineers, planners and communities the broadest possible menu of options in any given place,” said Elisa Speranza, CH2M HILL’s executive sponsor for the collaboration. “It’s all about achieving the most efficient, flexible and cost-effective blend of solutions for communities.”

Natural systems offer a suite of services to people that can complement, or in some cases replace conventional infrastructure. Healthy oyster and coral reefs can help protect coastlines from wave damage and erosion; wetlands help process pollutants and protect against flooding; and urban trees and green spaces can filter stormwater, reduce flooding, and improve air quality.

The new collaboration between the Conservancy and CH2M HILL will focus on three key areas:

  • reducing community risks associated with climate change and extreme weather;
  • securing freshwater through stronger source-protection; and
  • increasing urban conservation.

This collaboration has evolved from a number of previous engagements between the Conservancy and CH2M HILL in the Gulf of Mexico, one of the most notable being a project to build oyster reefs and other natural habitats to protect aging oil and gas pipelines, while providing coastal ecosystem benefits.

“We work hard to put our values into action every day, in service to our clients and the planet,” said Elisa Speranza, CH2M HILL’s executive sponsor for the partnership. “We’ve worked with The Nature Conservancy for years, and our values are well-aligned. This new relationship is a force multiplier for progress on critical infrastructure challenges and opens the door for us to have an even greater positive impact.”

The organizations will share their expertise and resources to pursue new joint efforts on the ground in key regions, and evaluate, test and publish new scientific findings and associated business cases for integrating natural infrastructure with conventional infrastructure, which are expected to show the way toward new design and building practices. 

“As we continue to look for innovative ways to address pressing environmental issues like storm preparedness, fresh water access and adapting to the effects of climate change – we see working with sectors that complement our expertise as a crucial element to achieving success,” said Andrews “The Nature Conservancy sees this collaboration with CH2M HILL as the logical next step towards putting natural infrastructure on the menu as we work to increase our resilience to a changing climate and build a more sustainable future.” 

The collaboration will initially focus on four key US geographies: the West coast; the Mid-Atlantic seaboard most impacted by Hurricane Sandy; the Upper Mississippi River and the Gulf of Mexico — with the goal of learning together, and continuing to promote the viability of natural infrastructure solutions to some of our greatest sustainability challenges.