Benefits of Tillamook Bay wetlands restoration extend far beyond the scope of initial project, report finds

A 443-acre tidal wetland habitat restoration project in Oregon’s Tillamook Bay designed to reduce flooding and improve salmon habitat has also brought a host of other socioeconomic benefits to the community, a new report from Oregon State University researchers shows.

Since the $11.2 million project was completed in 2017, the restoration has led to water quality improvements; flood mitigation; salmon habitat improvements; increased carbon storage; added recreation opportunities; and increased home values, the researchers found. 

“This study provides strong evidence that ecosystem restoration is beneficial to communities as well as the environment,” said Steven Dundas, the report’s co-author and an environmental and resource economist in Oregon State University’s College of Agricultural Sciences and the Coastal Oregon Marine Experiment Station in Newport. “The positive impact on housing values near the restored site alone likely justifies the investment in this project.”

The report’s lead author is Graham Shaw, who recently completed his master’s degree in marine resource management at OSU. The Tillamook Estuaries Partnership and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Restoration Center, two of the partners in the restoration project, commissioned the economic impact report.

The primary aim of the wetlands restoration was to reduce severe and disruptive flooding in the city of Tillamook and on U.S. Highway 101 as well as improve habitat for salmon, some species of which are considered threatened or endangered. NOAA and the Federal Emergency Management Agency were the primary funders of the project.

The goal of the new report was to better understand the breadth of economic benefits a tidal restoration project might produce, said Lauren Senkyr, a biologist with the NOAA Restoration Center.

“This kind of information helps us to be able to talk about the community benefits of restoration projects,” Senkyr said. “Projects like this have ripple effects. Not only do they help the fish, they also help people.”

A concurrent NOAA economic impact analysis showed that during the four years the restoration work was underway, the project supported 108 jobs and $14.6 million in total economic output for the state of Oregon.

Shaw worked with Dundas to identify and quantify additional socioeconomic benefits of the project. They reviewed data from before and after the restoration, made comparisons to spot changes and conducted an analysis of the housing market to identify changes to home values near the restoration area.


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