Preliminary Estimates of the Economic Effects of Stream Restoration on the Big Wood River Valley, Idaho
(PAG Issue Brief, no. 18) Several organizations in the Big Wood River (BWR) valley of south-central Idaho have proposed the Big Wood River Watershed Restoration Project (BWRWRP), a large-scale effort to restore the river channel to more naturally functioning conditions and enhance habitat with the objectives of improving the fishery, reducing flood risk, and enhancing other ecosystem services provided by the river. This report outlines a general framework for valuing economic effects of river restoration, provides preliminary estimates of the economic benefit and impact of the BWRWRP, and suggests areas for future research to refine the preliminary estimates and expand to additional ecosystem services. Three types of economic effects of the BWRWRP are modeled based on existing data: economic benefit to anglers of an improved recreational fishery, near-term economic impact to Blaine County of restoration treatment construction, and long-term economic impact to Blaine County of increased use of the improved BWR fishery. The cost of the BWRWRP is expected to be about $15 million. Using a benefits transfer method, the economic benefit to anglers of the improved BWR fishery is estimated to be between $3.1 and $22.1 million over 20 years. The near-term economic impact to Blaine County of restoration treatment construction is estimated to be $1.6 million in value added annually for five years. The long-term economic impact to Blaine County of increased use of the recreational fishery is estimated to grow to $1.3 million in value added annually over 15 years as the fishery improves. The estimates of the economic effects of an improved BWR recreational fishery developed here are sensitive to assumptions about the use and benefit of the current fishery, enhancement of the fishery after restoration, and anglers' responses to an improved fishery. Original research focusing on BWR anglers would improve the accuracy of these preliminary estimates.