How does scale matter? Incorporating production efficiency and public preferences to understand socially-preferred dam removal strategies

Authors: Ben Blachly*, University of Rhode Island, Samuel G. Roy, University of Maine, Emi Uchida, University of Rhode Island
Topics: Environment
Keywords: Dam removal, Ecosystem services, Production possibilities frontier, Choice experiment
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/7/2019
Start / End Time: 9:55 AM / 11:35 AM
Room: Jefferson, Marriott, Mezzanine Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Dams are a ubiquitous part of the American landscape. They were built to provide hydropower, water supply, flood control, or alter riparian ecosystem services in some other way that reflected societal preferences. But those preferences are evolving as the benefits of free-flowing rivers become more apparent, evidenced by an increasing number of purposeful dam removals. But the sheer number of existing dams, coupled with finite budgets, indicate that significant benefits could be realized from coordination of dam removal policy across various scales. We use the economic concepts of supply and demand to empirically identify efficient dam removal scenarios that reflect technological constraints and production efficiencies as well as public preferences for ecosystem services, and explore issues that arise when we vary the spatial scale of analysis. We use a production possibilities frontier to model the production capacities of dams for hydropower, Atlantic salmon habitat, river herring habitat, and flatwater recreation at two spatial scales in the Penobscot Watershed, Maine. Additionally, using data from a nonmarket valuation choice experiment, we estimate public preferences for tradeoffs between ecosystem services. Finally, we couple the simulated production efficiency and estimated public preferences to identify efficient combinations of removals and other improvements of dams in the study area that reflect current societal preferences, and explore the implications of a mismatch in the scales at which we measure production efficiencies and public preferences.

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