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Riparian Ecosystem Creation and Restoration:
A Literature Summary


Costs of Creation/Restoration

Cost is an important factor in riparian ecosystem creation or restoration, especially now as governmental agencies are increasingly required to adhere strictly to cost: benefit ratios (Dawson 1984). The greater the benefits and the lower the cost, the better chance a project has of proceeding.

Knowing the cost of revegetation projects is not the same as knowing the economic feasibility of revegetation (Anderson and Ohmart 1985). Answers to questions concerning feasibility are largely value judgments. Revegetation efforts are likely to be considered expensive; however, Anderson and Ohmart (1985) stress that a high degree of success in revegetating an area should be the major goal.

If funding is limited, certain measures can be taken to reduce the costs of creation or restoration. For example, by selecting a site requiring minimal preparation and having minimal weed problems, site preparation and subsequent labor costs associated with weeding could be reduced by 50%-75% (Anderson and Ohmart 1985). Cuttings are less expensive than seedling transplants in terms of labor and material costs, and have the added benefit of being selected from local plants, which are better adapted to the site and thus more likely to become established. Survival rates of cuttings, however, may be lower than that of seedling transplants, which decreases the costs savings due to necessary additional plantings.

Determining who pays the costs of restoring highly eroded streams and riparian ecosystems on private lands can be a problem. Although it would be advantageous for landowners to restore these habitats, in terms of erosion control and improved irrigation, the task often is too expensive for monetary benefits gained. In California, an informal task force of private landowners, private organizations, and public agencies has worked to develop methods and determine programs and funding resources available to help landowners solve erosion, fish and wildlife habitat, and irrigation problems on Willow Creek, a channelized stream flowing through irrigated pasture and cropland (Schultze 1984). Costs of stabilizing banks, regrading banks, revegetating, installing fish passages, and restocking trout would be shared by the private landowners, a private trout organization, the Soil Conservation Service, the Agricultural Stabilization and Conservation Service, and the California Departments of Fish and Game, Forestry, and Transportation.

The cost of restoring a site or implementing a mitigation measure may actually be substantially less than other land uses or the proposed alternative. For example, Anderson and Ohmart (1979) found that costs of revegetating and monitoring a desert riparian site in the lower Colorado River valley over a 10 year period were about $10,000/ha. Clearing an equivalent area for agriculture and farming it for 10 years would cost about four to six times that amount. In an urban project on a channelized stream in Mecklenburg County, North Carolina, costs of restoring a channel (which included sloping banks, creating meander bends, and some riprapping on highly erosive bends) were $5-$7 per foot, compared to more than $200/foot for traditional channelization (stream straightening and deepening with heavy riprapping) (Keller and Hoffman 1976).

For mitigation of the proposed U.S. 65 Bypass, located in Pine Bluff Arkansas, over 100 acres of wetlands will be created or restored, and about 158 acres of bottomland hardwood wetlands will be purchased and preserved (Richardson 1988). Integration of mitigation measures into project design will result in an estimated $4.7 million reduction in overall project cost. Mitigation will include purchasing land to preserve floodplain wetlands rather than providing frontage roads during construction, creating borrow areas and using borrow material for construction, and relocating bridges to lessen wetland impact, which consequently reduces proposed bridge length. Early coordination and incorporation of wetland mitigation into a project design can result in superior wetland mitigation, while actually reducing total project costs.

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