New LCBP Study: Costs and Benefits of Floodplain Protection - Waterbury,VT and Willsboro, NY

One-sheet summary:  FLOODPLAIN MANAGEMENT ECONOMICS FACT SHEET WATERBURY, VERMONT

Evaluating the Costs and Benefits of Floodplain Protection Activities in Waterbury, Vermont and Willsboro, New York, Lake Champlain Basin, U.S.A.

R. Schiff, S. Bighinatti, E. Fitzgerald, N. Wahlund, D. Carlton, A. Church, J. Louisos, and B. Cote, Milone and MacBroom, Inc.; Fitzgerald Environmental Associates; Earth Economics, and DK Carlton and Associates. April 2015.

FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS

• Building damages, loss of contents, and loss of inventory decrease as mitigation strategies get more aggressive, such as from elevating to removing select buildings in the most floodprone areas to removing buildings in a larger area across the floodplain.

• Avoidance is the best way to minimize future damages. However, the reduction of damages and increase in ecosystem function value are often outweighed by the projected maximum loss of tax revenue. For building removals to make financial sense, moving existing buildings or building new structures out of the floodplain yet in the Village and Town is needed to maintain tax revenue.

• Elevating utilities across the entire floodplain to the 500‐year flood level and elevating the most floodprone structures to 1 foot above the 500‐year flood level lead to the largest benefits.

• Cost‐benefit data suggest that utility elevations should be implemented following flood damages to existing buildings given the lower cost compared to other mitigation strategies and the ability to implement utility elevations as part of flood recovery.

• Future building construction should be located outside of the 500‐year floodplain (preferred), be elevated to 1 foot above the 500‐year flood level if within the floodplain, or at a minimum have elevated utilities.

• The proposed floodplain restoration at three locations reduces current and future damages and improves the effectiveness of each mitigation approach. The project should be implemented when possible due to its large financial benefit.

• With floodplain restoration in place, elevating the most floodprone buildings 2 feet over the 100‐year flood level provides good benefits.

• The future costs of floodplain living will likely increase due to the expectation of larger floods, yet the increase in cost with floodplain restoration as seen over 50 years is less than if floodplain restoration was not performed.

• Waterbury has a large base of naturally functioning land that provides ecosystem services such as flood mitigation benefits that is of high value and important to preserve and expand for the future viability of the Village and Town.

Now available as report #78 on the Lake Champlain Basin Program Technical Reports page.