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An Ecosystems Services Approach to Public Facilities Planning: On Developing an Implementation Plan

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The new City of Damascus has taken a cutting edge approach to public facilities planning (PFP), which is required under Oregon state land use planning requirements. Traditional public facility plans focus on an inventory of existing water, wastewater, stormwater and transportation services followed by a service needs assessment based on growth projections and a resultant list of capital improvement projects to meet future demand for services. The City's innovation stems from being newly incorporated in 2004, and developing a new standard and vision for creating a sustainable city for the future of this 10,000 acre area on the outskirts of the Portland metropolitan area.

The cost of new infrastructure for the city is estimated to be in the 3–4 billion range. Because of these costs and the community's desire to sustain a high quality of life, Damascus is analyzing and quantifying the role their natural resources play in providing public services. Natural resources provide public services (e.g. stormwater management, open space, water quality protection, carbon sequestration, erosion control) thereby reducing the need for built infrastructure and improving quality of life. The City's goal is to quantify, protect and enhance natural ecosystem services to reduce capital costs, increase sustainability and preserve the city's natural character. By including ecosystem services in the public facilities planning process as another essential system, the City hopes to forestall increased costs to the citizens of Damascus in the form of built infrastructure to replace the natural services (as in stormwater management), increased regulatory compliance hurdles (as in clean water and endangered species act compliance), and loss of quality of life. Using existing data on natural resources aerial extent and quality, the PFP addresses the services these resources currently provide the City, including protection from endangered species and water quality permitting issues, damaging floods and natural hazards. The multiple benefits that natural resources provide the City are termed ecosystem services.
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Keywords: Natural resources; benefits; core values; ecosystem services; infrastructure planning; sustainability

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2010-01-01

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