Economic Valuation of River Systems

Economic Valuation of River Systems

New Horizons in Environmental Economics series

Edited by Fred J. Hitzhusen

The book applies benefit–cost analysis and a wide array of non-market and distribution economic valuation methods in ecologic context to determine the pay-off and distribution impacts of various infrastructure and water quality improvements to eight river systems in the Great Lakes region of the US. The generally positive results have important implications for public policy and future research.

Chapter 5: The Economics of Low-head Dam Removal: A Case Study on the Salmon River in Fort Covington, New York

David Warren and Fred J. Hitzhusen

Subjects: economics and finance, environmental economics, valuation, environment, environmental economics, valuation, water


David Warren and Fred J. Hitzhusen INTRODUCTION Dams have been a common site on American waterways for hundreds of years, providing electricity, water supplies, and recreational opportunities for millions of citizens. In the 30 years since the “golden age of dam building” came to an end (Doyle et al., 2003b), however, a new trend involves the removal of dams for various socioeconomic and ecological reasons. Of great concern to many proponents of dam removal is the safety hazard that aging structures pose to the general public. The life expectancy of a dam is generally about 50 years (FEMA, 1999; Heinz Center, 2002), but 25 percent of all dams in the US are already over 50 years old with estimates of 80 percent being past their life expectancy by the year 2020 (Heinz Center, 2002; NRC, 1992). Furthermore, many small dams were constructed over a century ago and are no longer fulfilling their intended uses while raising public safety concerns due to structural deterioration (Johnson and Graber, 2002). This is an obvious concern for states and local governments which must decide whether to repair dams, remove them, or do nothing and hope nobody gets hurt or incurs downstream flood damage. Environmental benefits are also important factors driving the dam removal boom as advocates increasingly point to removal as a means of river restoration (Doyle et al., 2003a; Hart et al., 2002). In Lowry (2003), dozens of dam removal case studies involving goals of river restoration are discussed, including projects...

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