Tradeoffs of Ecosystem Services from Wetlands in the Houston Region

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1 Tradeoffs of Ecosystem Services from Wetlands in the Houston Region L. James Lester 1, Gregory R. Biddinger 1 and Lisa A. Gonzalez 1 1 HARC, The Woodlands, TX, USA

2 The Starting Point: ES Workshop Galveston Bay Watershed Ecosystem Services Planning Workshop September 27, 2011 Day 1 Workshop All presentations are loaded on the GBESS website at: White paper developed- The Valuation of Ecosystem Services with Relevance to the Lower Galveston Bay Watershed Authored By: Eric Biltonen, Greg Biddinger, Jim Lester, Kenneth Bagstad, Richard Bernknopf, Marc Russell, David Saah, David Yoskowitz, and Kendra Williamson

3 Workshop supported development of local land use decision support system based on ecosystem services. Initial focus should be Water, Wetlands and Flooding

4 Classification of Final Ecosystem Goods and Services (EPA)- Wetlands and Estuaries Ecosystem Attributes Water quality Water amount Plants and animals Sensory experience Human beneficiaries Residential Industry Transportation Government agencies Recreational interests Cultural groups Agriculture Subsistence users

5 Wetland Services vs. Land Value Major positive benefits of urban wetlands Stormwater retention Nutrient and pollutant assimilation Habitat Climate amelioration (heat island effect) Major issues with urban wetland protection Loss of land value if undeveloped Increased cost of development and infrastructure if wetlands protected Lack of regulatory and nonregulatory frameworks for protection at various levels of government

6 LU/LC Map of Houston 2008 Legend No Data Developed Agriculture/Grassland Forest Wetland Bare Open Water Houston-Galveston Area Council

7

8 Harris County and Wetlands Harris County is currently 16.7% floodplain Reduced by development Neighboring counties are 21% 46% floodplain Texas Coast palustrine wetlands (prairie pothole complexes) Typical size 0.5 ac 25 ac Typical depth 3 in 16 in Typical palustrine wetland stores 76% - 93% of annual input (Forbes et al. 2010) From Harris County lost ~4,100 acres of palustrine wetlands to development (0.3% per year)

9 Functional Analysis of Local Palustrine Wetland in (Forbes et al. 2010)

10 Prairie Pothole Wetland Complexes in Harris County

11 Flood Damage in Harris County Tropical Storm Allison June 2001 (Extreme) Precipitation up to 37 inches in 4 days 30,662 insurance claims (>45,000 homes damaged) $1,103,765,221 total cost Flood Damage $1,162,105,186 total Non-Allison = $58,339,965

12 High Rainfall & Flooding Are Common High Monthly Rainfall Amounts July 2005 = inches October 2006 = inches April 2009 = inches April 18, 2009 flood 5 deaths 350 homes flooded $3.5 million in damages

13 NWF Study of Insured Flood Losses (Higher Ground 1998) FEMA Database (Claudette 79 and Alicia 83) Houston & Harris County had 3,681 properties with repetitive flood loss 2.9 losses per property over 18 years $211.5 million paid out (no uninsured losses included)

14 Wetland Permits and Flooding* (Trading Wetlands for Development) 11,149 Section 404 permits in Texas coastal counties % affecting palustrine wetlands Limited protection (2001 and 2006 supreme court rulings) Permits in 100 year floodplain in USACE Galveston District : 32% - 41% annually Each permit on average increases flood damage by $212 per flood (urban permits are costliest) *Brody et al. 2011

15 Brody et al. 2012

16 The Economic Tradeoff Urban wetlands retain storm water and provide other valuable services Urban areas have high demand for land Undeveloped floodplain land in Harris County is $40K to $1M per acre Development in Gulf Coast urban areas creates high wetland conversion activity Profit from wetland conversion results in costs from flood damage

17 Economic Value of Palustrine Wetlands Economic cost of wetland conversion is cumulative and long term Values for development or flood mitigation are greatest in intensively developed area Flood damage avoidance can be improved by protection of ecosystem services Land development codes and protected areas have highest negative correlation to flood damage (Brody et al. 2011) Land use decisions currently favor economics of wetland destruction and structural flood mitigation

18 Information Gaps Effect and value of wetland mitigation policy Local spatial analysis of economic values and impacts Ability of low impact development/ storm water retention designs to replace wetland benefits

19 Next Steps Funding for metro Houston project Compilation of local ecological and economic data Spatial modeling of ecosystem services production functions Demonstration project of ecosystem services value in NW Harris County Outreach to developers and local government development authorities

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