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Net Economic Benefits of Using Ecosystem Restoration to Meet Stream Temperature Objectives

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As stakeholders respond to temperature TMDLs, many are encountering significant compliance costs and looking for opportunities to lower them. Under the temperature TMDL for Oregon's Tualatin River, a public utility in suburban Portland faced the prospect of installing and operating a chiller at a twenty-year cost of approximately $104-255 million to reduce its thermal load. To lessen its costs, the utility (Clean Water Services) developed an alternative plan to establish riparian forests that provide shade to water upstream of the wastewater facilities and to augment stream flows. In essence, the utility developed a "trade" between point and non-point sources. Establishing streamside forest will reduce the utility's costs by about $50.5 million. In 2004 the Oregon DEQ approved this plan, the first of its kind in the U. S. This experiment with thermal-emission trading could provide a roadmap for other watersheds nationwide. A wastewater utility in the City of Centralia in western Washington, for example, faces approximately $35 million in costs to install a chiller to comply with the temperature TMDL for the Chehalis River. Using data from Clean Water Services (CWS), the City of Centralia estimated that it may have a comparable cooling effect on river temperatures at a lower cost by protecting and expanding riparian forest. The utility's enthusiasm for streamside shading involves more than the potential savings for wastewater-utility customers. It also provides economic benefits in addition to providing a cost-effective alternative to chillers. Altogether, examples in Oregon, Washington, and California demonstrate the potential for communities and states to realize significant economic benefits by incorporating expansion of streamside forests and related enhancements to streamside ecosystems as a core element of their efforts to accomplish the objectives of temperature TMDLs.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2007-10-01

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