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Report

Place-Specific Benefits of Great Lakes Restoration

John C. Austin, Soren Anderson, Paul N. Courant, and Robert E. Litan

Introduction

Previously, “Healthy Waters, Strong Economy: The Benefits of Restoring the Great Lakes Ecosystem”, provided a benefit-cost analysis of a major infrastructure program to improve water quality in and around the Great Lakes: the federal-state Great Lakes Regional Collaboration (GLRC) Restoration Strategy. Benefits were estimated in two ways, giving roughly equivalent answers.

Under the first approach, we summed the best available estimates of the various individual benefits the GLRC Restoration Strategy could be expected to generate—additional tourism, fishing and recreation, benefits to property owners from cleaning up “areas of concern,” reduced water operations costs for municipalities, benefits from new technology developed because of the cleanup program, and other unquantifiable benefits—and concluded that the benefits could reach as high as $50 billion.

Our second approach was to value the benefits on an aggregated basis by estimating the increase in values of residential property that would be affected by the cleanup. As we noted in our earlier report, “[I]n principle, the aggregate estimate of the increase in expected property values should equal or at least approximate the sum of the estimated values of each of the specific environmental and health benefits associated with living near bodies of water” that have benefited from eco-system restoration.

In this supplement, we use this second “aggregate” methodology to provide ranges of the approximate economic benefits of the GLRC Restoration Strategy for each of the eight major metropolitan areas bordering on the Great Lakes.

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