Off-site costs of soil erosion in the Willamette Valley of Oregon Public Deposited

http://ir.library.oregonstate.edu/concern/graduate_thesis_or_dissertations/v405sf89w

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  • Soil erosion is a major source of pollution in the United States. Erosion can cause both on-site and off-site damages. It has been argued that off-site damages are a significant component of soil conservation benefits and are currently not well known. Off-site effects of soil erosion are uncompensated externalities. Given significant external costs from erosion, there may be potential for net gains in social welfare from increased soil conservation. The major objective of this study was to examine, and where possible estimate, the off-site costs of soil erosion in the Willamette Valley. The value of erosion was measured in terms of increased production costs. These costs are incurred by economic agents in offsetting the effects of erosion. Six types of publicly owned enterprises were studied to determine erosion damages and related costs. These were municipal water supply, county and state road agencies, navigation supply, water storage reservoirs, and hydroelectric power plants. Of these enterprises, only water storage reservoirs and hydroelectric power plants did not incur substantial costs to offset the effects of erosion. Municipal water treatment costs were found to be significantly affected by erosion. A sediment damage function for the water treatment process was estimated using econometric modeling. The estimated coefficients relating suspended sediment and treatment costs indicated that the latter increased with an increase in river borne sediment. A 50 percent reduction in river turbidity experienced by the treatment plant studied would decrease chemical water treatment costs and sediment disposal costs by $4750 per year or approximately $4.55 per million gallons of water treated. A 50 percent reduction in sediment loads for the entire Willamette Valley would reduce municipal water treatment chemical costs by an estimated $231,000. An average cost analysis was also performed. This analysis indicated water treatment costs were $21.00 per million gallons of water treated. Inference to total municipal surface water supply in the Willamette Valley yielded an annual average erosion cost estimate, from natural and man made sources, of $1,052,000. County and state road maintenance departments must frequently clean drainage structures in response to sediment deposition from erosion. Benton county road maintenance costs, for sediment removal, were estimated to be approximately $222,000 per year in 1984 dollars. An inference to all county road departments in the Willamette Valley, yielded a total erosion cost estimate of $3,743,000 per year. State highway maintenance costs in the Valley due to sediment front erosion were estimated to be $503,000 per year in current dollars. Sediment removal involved with maintenance of a navigation channel on the lower reach of the Willamette river costs an average of $270,000 per year, expressed in 1984 dollars. Aggregate erosion costs for all these activities were estimated to be $4,758,000 per year in current dollars. This figure is equal to approximately $0.67 per acre and $432 per square mile for the Willamette Valley. These findings suggest that there exists potential for off-site benefits from increasing soil conservation activities in the Valley. However the economic feasibility of soil conservation projects in the Willamette Valley depends on their implementation costs as well as the on-site and off-site benefits. Cost studies of other activities impacted by erosion are needed to estimate the total off-site costs of erosion in the Willamette Valley.
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