Date of Award

2018

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Environmental and Natural Resources Economics

Department

Environmental & Natural Resource Economics

First Advisor

Emi Uchida

Abstract

Many dams throughout New England are approaching the end of their engineered lifespan. Individual dam owners and governments at various levels find themselves navigating decisions to repair, remove, or modify the aging infrastructure. These decisions have implications for the ecosystem services that depend on the presence or absence of dams. By coordinating the ecosystem service tradeoffs at large scales we can more efficiently utilize the productive capacity of river systems. Implementing a large-scale coordinated approach, however, requires understanding stakeholder preferences at different scales, and the willingness of decision makers to coordinate (or not). In this dissertation I address issues surrounding a coordinated approach to ecosystem service provision with the goal of facilitating better decisions. In the first chapter, I administer a choice experiment survey to study how environmental risk preferences interact with scale to determine willingness to pay for ecosystem services from dam removal. Improved understanding of scale-dependent preferences can allow nonmarket valuation estimates for ecosystem services to integrate more smoothly into decisions at a variety of scales. In the second chapter, I explore environmental federalism in dam removal decisions (i.e., whether state goals diverge from larger-scale optimization). I use matching and instrumental variable techniques to model the determinants of dam removal using a large, spatially explicit dataset. Results suggest that states consider border proximity when selecting dams for removal, indicating a need for new incentive structures to realize efficiency gains from coordination. In the final chapter, I study how a production possibilities model can be combined with public preference data from a choice experiment, expressed as indifference curves, to identify socially preferred ecosystem service outcomes from dam removal. I find that the approach is useful for pinpointing areas of agreement and disagreement between stakeholder groups with varying preferences.

Available for download on Thursday, August 12, 2021

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