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A Retrospective Benefit-Cost Analysis on the Elwha River Restoration Project


  • Bellas, Allen
  • Kosnik, Lea


In 1992, Congress passed The Elwha River Ecosystem and Fisheries Restoration Act with the goal of “full restoration of The Elwha River Ecosystem and native anadromous fisheries.†As part of that act, the federal government was required to produce a benefit-cost analysis on dam removal of the Elwha and Glines Canyon dams, which was published in 1994. This article revisits that initial 1994 benefit-cost analysis; background on its methods and assumptions is given, comparisons are made to current state-of-the-art techniques in benefit-cost analysis, and an ex post benefit-cost analysis of the project is conducted for comparison purposes. We find that the cost and scope of the project exceeded original expectations, the cost of the foregone electricity generation was less than expected, and that anticipated recreational and fisheries benefits were both delayed, and lower, than expected. Furthermore, issues such as the value of hatchery-spawned versus wild anadromous fish seem not to have been anticipated in the original analysis, highlighting the fact that in doing an ex ante analysis, researchers must expect that unexpected factors may influence the ex post results of any project.

Suggested Citation

  • Bellas, Allen & Kosnik, Lea, 2019. "A Retrospective Benefit-Cost Analysis on the Elwha River Restoration Project," Journal of Benefit-Cost Analysis, Cambridge University Press, vol. 11(1), pages 76-100, November.
  • Handle: RePEc:cup:jbcoan:v:11:y:2019:i:1:p:76-100_9

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