Water Resources Research Act Program

Details for Project ID 2015ID203B

The economics of flood risk management on the Columbia River and the Columbia River Treaty

Institute: Idaho
Year Established: 2015 Start Date: 2015-03-01 End Date: 2016-02-28
Total Federal Funds: $15,003 Total Non-Federal Funds: $30,145

Principal Investigators: Barbara Cosens

Abstract: Floodplains provide important ecosystem function not only as natural storage in flood risk management, but also to aquatic ecosystem resilience in general and salmonid habitat in particular. From the perspective of the social system, reliance on multiple geographically widespread locations for natural storage and local structural measures reduces the risk of crisis in the face of loss of a single flood-control structure and surprise from changing runoff with climate change. These concepts have broad applicability to any major river basin with high hydrologic variability, and the Columbia River Basin faces a unique opportunity to employ them. Columbia River Treaty review combined with a public desire for improved ecosystem function presents an opportunity to enhance ecosystem resilience outside the emotional crisis management that ensues following a flood. The first step in this process is to explore the differing positions between the U.S. and Canada on the level of flood risk management agreed to under the Treaty and the means to address it following expiration of assured flood control in 2024. No comprehensive study has been done of the economic cost of past, post-day flood events, the cost/benefit of implementation of local flood control measures as opposed to sole reliance on several major storage reservoirs that are also needed for hydropower and flood control, and the added benefits of localized floodplain restoration for salmonid recovery. This project will take that initial step. The results will be provided to stakeholders in the Columbia River Treaty review for use in the Treaty review process. In addition, the benefit will be analyzed from the viewpoint of bridging the gap between the U.S. position (Canadas flood control obligations kick in at flows of 450,000 cfs as measured at The Dalles), and the Canadian position (Canadas flood control obligations kick in at flows of 650,000 cfs as measured at The Dalles), with a view to determining whether diversification of flood risk management can bridge this gap while providing additional benefits