Graduate Project

 

Providing long-term funding for watershed management : an evaluation of strategies for the Coquille Watershed Association Public Deposited

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  • Salmon restoration has become a major priority in the Pacific Northwest. In the State of Oregon, much of the responsibility for habitat restoration has fallen on local watershed councils, with the majority of their funding coming from state and federal grants. Funding limitations, including the amount of funds allotted to council coordination, project management, and other stewardship positions, reduces councils' autonomy in determining best investments strategies. Furthermore, political uncertainties (particularly at the state and federal level) suppress councils' long-term visioning processes necessary for successful project planning and implementation Regardless of government's interest in restoring salmon abundance, the prioritization of stewardship is often overlooked and has not been highly desirable from a funding agency's perspective. This may be due to the fact that the costs associated with stewardship (e.g. administration and labor) often fall outside of the traditional management approaches (e.g. large woody debris structures and bioengineering.) Often there are limitations on project funding wherein the available money can only be spent on instream habitat features and not on improving stewardship of riparian systems. This study investigated the possibilities for diversifying the funding sources of the Coquille Watershed Association (CWA)—specifically in creating a local and sustainable revenue stream to augment state, federal and foundation grants. Research was conducted to estimate the revenue from watershed dependent resources in the basin. Secondly, interviews and focus groups were held to determine possible strategies of tapping this economic base to support on-going watershed management efforts through the CWA. A survey was then conducted to gauge land and business owners' attitudes about their economic dependence on watershed health and their willingness to support a variety of revenue generating strategies. The overarching premise behind this project is the following: The goal of watershed restoration and management programs is to create healthy watershed ecosystems. These systems produce economically valuable goods and services for the communities with which they coexist. By tapping into these sources of local wealth, funds can be generated and returned to the watershed for on-going management. The management then in turn works toward the long-term sustained health of the watershed that supports the local economy. In the Coquille watershed, the estimated economic revenue from watershed dependent businesses is a significant portion of the local economy. It translates to $130 million in annual timber revenues (millpond value), $29 million in annual agricultural production (farm-gate value), $18 million in recreation and tourism (expenditures), $900,000 in commercial and recreational salmon fisheries (local impacts), and $1 million in water bills (estimated values). The results of the survey indicated that 47 to 62 percent of respondents receive "moderate" to "significant" economic benefits from water quality, streambank stability, fish runs, water quantity, streamside vegetation, aesthetic qualities, and flood protection. Of the 24 percent of the respondents that owned their own businesses, 37 percent stated that they are "very likely" or "somewhat likely" to invest in the health of the Coquille watershed as part of their business plan. Furthermore, over 20 percent of property and business owners were "somewhat likely" to "very likely" to participate in a range of revenue generating strategies (e.g. donations, taxation, fees) to support Coquille watershed management. People who were aware of the work of the CWA were more willing to pay for management than those who are unaware. Based on the results this study, the following recommendations are made to the CWA board of directors: 1. The CWA should maximize its efforts to create public awareness of their projects and services. 2. The CWA should consider engaging in a donation-based strategy initially. 3. The CWA should consider the formation of a service-district and the subsequent passing of a property-tax measure or real estate tax measure. 4. The CWA should consider partnering with other economic development and non-profit organizations to build incentives and pathways for "green" entrepreneurism. Furthermore the following recommendations are made to the state and federal governments: 1. The state of Oregon (through OWEB grant funds) should provide dollar-for-dollar matching funds for locally generated revenue. 2. The state and federal governments should consider the expansion of commercial terminal fishing on selective robust stocks of salmon or restorative hatchery fisheries. 3. The federal government should revise estate tax concepts for land conservation. If the CWA is successful in its efforts to generate local and sustainable sources of revenue for its watershed management efforts, it can have positive effects for the organization and for the region as a whole. Diversified funding sources can help give the CWA greater autonomy in project planning and decision-making, as well as greater security for long-term planning, assessment and monitoring efforts. It can also provide a model for other organizations seeking to augment government and foundation grants. Ultimately, this approach could help the State of Oregon to develop funding solutions for watershed councils and coordinators statewide.
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