The link below is to a consulting firm called ECONorthwest. Recently a Dr. Mark Buckley came to Soldotna and gave a presentation on ecosystem services and how decisions on projects have frequently underestimated the value of various ecosystem functions. Dr Buckley combines microeconomic and game theoretic techniques with competence in the biophysical aspects of natural systems to develop economic models and analytical methods for planning and behavior involving water resources and land use. The link is
As an example of how this works read the report on the value of beaver dams in Utah in the Escalante Basin. These studies are site specific. To wet your interest Table ES1 in the report provides the following:
Ecosystem Services Potentially provided by Beaver in the Escantante Basin, and per unit values:
Sediment retention - 2$ per cubic yard
Delayed Water Flow upstream of reservoirs - 520$ per acre foot
Riparian habitat - $1000 per acre per year
Wetland habitat - $8000 per acre per year
Aquatic habitat - $4000 per acre per year
Pollutant removal through sediment capture - $100,000 per year per percent improvement
Water temperature - $74,000 -$411,000 thousand per river mile
Recreation - $75-375 per recreation day
Aesthetic benefit - qualitative description
Existence value - qualitative description
Sensitive species habitat - $9-256 per household per year
Flood resilience - qualitative description.
Bottom line for this study " beaver could provide benefits to local residents and visitors well into the millions of dollars per year"
In other work Dr. Buckley worked with City of Seattle on a bank stabilization project along the Green River and showed that expanding the width of the rehab project would save the City millions in water treatment and other costs. The City followed his recommendation. This project was necessary as a dike system was failing and the question was to rebuilt it in place or move it back from the river and rehab. In a one mile section buying industries properties and moving it back was the most cost effective option.
Anyway, for Alaska we need to start bring these new concepts into the discussion. With large projects like Pebble or urban development this type of study could be very valuable in understanding the risks and costs.
Lets not get into a discussion of methods. I have no training in this but those who do are looking with favor on this approach. It is worth looking at for Alaska.