What is this project about?
A major objective of the research is to identify the “real” cost of wetland restoration, and to provide suggestions for using wetland restoration to achieve important social environmental goals, such as flood damage reduction, increased biodiversity, and water quality improvements. This project is led by a team of university researchers who wish provide information to governments (provincial and municipal) and other organizations about how they can achieve environmental improvements in an economically efficient manner.
Why do you want to restore my wetland?
Under the provincial wetland policy, whenever the government issues a permit to drain or fill a wetland, there is a requirement to compensate (replace) the wetland habitat that is lost. Most of the potential wetland restoration sites in the province are located on private lands, and because of this, we are interested in better understanding whether private landowners – from farmers to acreage owners – are willing to accept a payment to restore a wetland on their property.
You want to pay me cash to restore my wetland – where is the money coming from?
The majority of wetland compensation in Alberta is provided through a payment that is made in-lieu of restoring or constructing wetland habitat. Each payment is given to a Wetland Restoration Agency, who is then responsible for creating or restoring wetland habitat to replace the habitat that was lost. All of the money that we will be using to pay landowners to restore wetlands in Rocky View County will be coming from the provincial wetland compensation fund. This money was collected primarily from industrial and land development projects in the City of Calgary. The research team has been given the authority to use some of this compensation money to test the effectiveness of using a market-based instrument to select wetland restoration sites.
How much will you pay me to restore my wetland?
The amount of money that we will pay to restore your wetland depends upon you. As part of this project, you tell us how much you are willing to accept as payment for restoring a wetland on your land. You get to tell us the price for your wetland, because you know your costs better than anyone else.
What factors should I consider when setting the price to restore a wetland on my land?
Each situation is going to be a little bit different, and each wetland is unique, so the prices will vary. When you consider how much money you would accept to have a wetland restored on your land, you might think about the costs that you would incur if the wetland were restored. For example, an agricultural producer could consider costs associated with reduced crop yields because the restored wetland will reduce the amount of land that can be cultivated. For an acreage owner, restoring a wetland may eliminate the opportunity to use that land for other purposes, such as building a shed. There may also be nuisance costs associated with having to live and work around a wetland. Each landowner can consider their own costs, and then decide how much money they want to be paid.
What happens once I decide how much I want to be paid?
Once you have decided how much money you are willing to accept to restore a wetland, you can submit this cost to us as a bid. We expect to receive a number of bids, so you are likely to be competing against others for our restoration budget. Once we receive all of the bids, each bid will be ranked, and the highest ranked bids will be selected until we exhaust our restoration budget. This process is called a “reverse auction”.
How will the bids be ranked?
Each bid that we receive will be ranked according to the environmental benefits that we think each wetland will provide once it is restored. We will estimate these environmental benefits, including things such as the potential flood storage, nutrient removal, and carbon sequestration, by examining the location, size, and depth of each restored wetland. Those wetlands that provide the greatest environmental benefit for the lowest cost will be selected in the reverse auction until our restoration budget runs out.
When will the research team begin to accept bids to restore wetlands?
We will be in Rocky View County talking to residents throughout the summer of 2015, describing the research project and telling people about the reverse auction. By the fall of 2015, we hope to have a list of landowners who are interested in participating in the reverse auction. We will begin working closely with this group of people, and for each interested landowner, we will conduct a land survey to delineate the area that would be restored if they participated in the project. This detailed survey information can then be used landowners to help them formulate a bid for the auction. We will start accepting bids from landowners early in 2016, and the successful bids will be selected in the spring of 2016. We plan to carry out the wetland restoration activities in the fall of 2016.
How will the payments be made to landowners?
We are currently working on the details of how landowners will be paid, including the payment type (lump sum versus annual payment) and contract length. If you have any thoughts or comments on how the payments could be structured, please let us know.
What happens after the wetland is restored?
Part of the goal of this research is to understand how ecosystem and watershed function recovers after a wetland is restored. In order to do this, the research team will need to visit each of the restored wetlands for a couple of hours once a year, for a period of up to 5 years. This means that you will have to allow the research team access to the restored wetland in order for them to conduct their research. The research team will only access the wetland on foot, and we will work with each landowner to ensure that we do not cause damage to any land or property while we carry out our work.
Once the wetland is restored, can I remove it if I don’t like having it on my property?
It is important for landowners to know that any wetlands they restore could be a lasting part of their property. After the wetland is restored, it will be considered a water body under the provincial Water Act and will be subject to management under the provincial wetland policy. This means that you will have to apply for a permit from the government if you ever wish to remove it in the future. Once a government permit is issued, you will be required to compensate (replace) the wetland habitat that was lost, either through the restoration of wetland habitat, or through a compensation payment. This should be kept in mind when formulating a bid for the reverse auction.
Why are you paying me to restore a wetland?
Wetlands may not have direct benefits to you as a landowner (in fact, they might be a bit of a nuisance), but there are a number of benefits that wetlands provide to your community, and to communities living downstream. These benefits, or “ecosystem services,” include things like water quality improvements, flood reduction, and climate regulation.
Will landowners have to participate in this research?
No. Participation in the reverse auction is completely voluntary. If you have a wetland that is eligible for restoration, we really hope that you will consider participating, because the more people who enrol in the study, the more we will learn about the economics and science of restoring wetlands in Alberta.
Where in Rocky View County will this research be happening?
Because we have a limited budget to devote to wetland restoration activities, we will be focusing our research efforts in the Nose Creek watershed. If you own land within this area and are interested in participating, please let us know and we will get in touch with you.
I’m interested in participating, how do I learn more?
We will be hosting a number of meetings in Rocky View throughout 2015, and these meetings will provide you with an opportunity to ask questions and learn more about the research.
Please get in touch if you have any questions or feedback about Alberta’s Living Laboratory Project.
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org | Ph: 780.248.1073