Establishing Correlations Between Upland Forest Management Practices and the Economic Consequences of Stream Turbidity in Municipal Supply Watersheds

EPA Grant Number: R825822
Title: Establishing Correlations Between Upland Forest Management Practices and the Economic Consequences of Stream Turbidity in Municipal Supply Watersheds
Investigators: Hulse, David
Current Investigators: Hulse, David , Niemi, Gerald J. , Grant, Gordon
Institution: University of Oregon
EPA Project Officer: Chung, Serena
Project Period: October 1, 1997 through September 30, 2000 (Extended to September 30, 2001)
Project Amount: $320,000
RFA: Decision-Making and Valuation for Environmental Policy (1997) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: Environmental Justice


Trends in human population growth and land use development create major challenges for land planning and management in the /willamette River Basin of western Oregon. This 30,800 square kilometer region contains some of the most productive forests and fisheries and one of the most vigorous regional economies in North America. Water has been a central concern in managing and planning for growth in this region throughout the twentieth century. At current rates of growth, water may well prove to be the limiting factor in the next century. Forty seven percent of surface water in the Willamette basin is currently appropriated for use by people and human population in the area is projected to double within the next thirty years.

Recent flooding in the Pacific Northwest has stimulated widespread concern about the extent to which land use activities in forest ecosystems,notabley logging and forest construction, have elevated risks to drinking water supplies due to increased turbidity: The flooding has prompted both new research and an extensive review of past efforts to understand the relationships between upland forest land management and downstream urban development. Debate over the appropriateness of alternative policy responses is occruring in the public press, resource-management agencies, legislative assemblies, city halls, and boardrooms. Although many have taken extreme views, such as calling for cessation of logging or, alternatively, for business as usual until things are understood fally, most are searching for responses that are both efficient and equitable. There is widespread agreement, however, that 1) existing information about the tradeoffs associated with alternative land management and water supply policies has not been organized in a manner that facilitates good policy analysis and (2) there are no conceptually sound and readily accessible tools for weighing the alternatives across the full spectrum of land ownership and physiographic landscape types found in the basin. Hence, although leading policy analysts in the region acknowledge that the floods of 1996 offer a significant opportunity to integrate flood-related issues into ecosystem-management policies, they fear the opportunity will be lost. In part, the challenge rests in identifying phenomena whose role in both ecosystem and economic processes is regionally important, systemically comprehensible, and locally quantifiable.


We propose to prepare and apply a framework for estimating the downstream costs from increased sedimentation and determining the extent to which sediment stems from land and reservoir management activities. We will focus on estimating the sediment costs incurred by the City of Salem, Oregon and its water users from such activities in the Santiam watershed, and work with stakeholders and other interest groups to identify and evaluate policy alternatives for managing these costs. The opportunity for this project emerged from flooding in 1996 at levels unseen in the Pacific Northwest for three decades. High sediment loads during and following the February flood overwhelmed the City s filtration capacity and caused it to cease water deliveries. The City has incurred extraordinary costs and major water customers have incurred costs to alter their operations or obtain backup supplies. The Santiam watershed contains predominantly forest land uses in the uplands and there is now focused debate as to the extent that logging and related activities in the watershed underlie the extraordinary sediment loads.

The floods heightened awareness in Oregon of urban areas exposure to sedimentation risks and of the potential for protection of forest ecosystems to mitigate these risks. Landowners, the U.S. General Accounting Office, the U. S. D. A. Forest Service and its research arm the PNW Forest and Range Experiment Station, the Oregon Department of Forestry, and others are investigating the factors that determine the increased sediment delivery from land management activities. Despite extensive, recent assessments of activities affecting forest ecosystems in the region, there exists no analysis of their full downstream economic consequences. Past efforts have focused on the impacts on fisheries and some recreational activities, but have not incorporated effects, such as increased sedimentation, or placed them in an economic context. The Salem-Santiam case study offers a unique opportunity to examine the risks, if any, to metropolitan economies from upland land and water management and other activities that affect forest ecosystems. These risks will intensify as the impacts on sediment and flooding of past activities persist and urbanization increases in downstream areas.

We will work with stakeholders in the Salem-Santiam case study and other interested parties. Stakeholders have formed the North Santiam Forum, and we will work with it and the City of Salem. We similarly will work with other interested parties, including the governor s office, key legislators, and participants in the Willamette Valley Livability Forum, a state-sponsored group co-chaired by the governor, formed to address alternative policies for accommodating anticipated population growth. Through aerial and ground-based identification and mapping of sediment sources within the North Santiam watershed, we will identify the location of episodic and chronic sediment inputs to the stream network. These data will be used to develop spatially distributed predictions of sediment delivery through time to the main river systems, by major tributary, and under various land and water use scenarios. We anticipate that the project will increase understanding of the external costs of land and water management, stimulate consideration of alternatives for internalizing these costs, and increase understanding of the economic basis for protecting the integrity of forest ecosystems.

It is the intent of this effort to test a methodology which will ultimately be refined and applied to a larger effort comparing and contrasting the effects of upland land and water management on municipal water supply watersheds in the Willamette River Basin.

Publications and Presentations:

Publications have been submitted on this project: View all 11 publications for this project

Journal Articles:

Journal Articles have been submitted on this project: View all 2 journal articles for this project

Supplemental Keywords:

Benefits, ecosystems, valuation, RFA, Economic, Social, & Behavioral Science Research Program, Scientific Discipline, Geographic Area, Water, Ecosystem Protection/Environmental Exposure & Risk, Water & Watershed, Hydrology, Ecosystem/Assessment/Indicators, Ecosystem Protection, State, Forestry, Ecological Effects - Environmental Exposure & Risk, decision-making, Pacific Northwest, Drinking Water, Watersheds, Economics & Decision Making, ecosystem valuation, risk assessment, logging, ecological exposure, community involvement, Oregon, Willamette River Basin, forest ecosystems, human population growth, other - risk assessment, economic incentives, environmental values, flood management, municipal supply watershed, watershed land use, environmental policy, aquatic ecosystems, forests, public values, stream turbidity, water quality, upland forest management, public policy, municipal sopply watersheds, cost effectiveness, land use

Progress and Final Reports:

  • 1998
  • 1999
  • 2000 Progress Report
  • Final Report