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WWRC 87-22
Reservoir Eutrophication and Recreational Activity on Flaming Gorge Reservoir


The primary objective of this study is to estimate the value of recreational activity at Flaming Gorge Reservoir. With this value, the economic loss from any reduction in recreational activity associated with eutrophication can be assessed.

In order to estimate the value of recreational activity, and the potential loss in this value from eutrophication, three secondary objectives must be met. They are:

  1. Review and evaluation of alternative valuation methods that have been used to estimate the benefits from recreational activities;

  2. Selection of a particular valuation method appropriate for the water quality and recreational situation at Flaming Gorge Reservoir;

  3. Development of survey procedures for determining the current and potential impact of eutrophication on water-based recreation (i.e., what activities have been affected by algae, what alternative site would be used if algae precluded use of a particular site?).

The second section of this study provides a brief review of the valuation methods for estimating the economic benefits of recreational resources. The third section describes the methodology used to estimate the benefits from recreational activity at Flaming Gorge Reservoir as well as the potential loss in benefits stemming from eutrophication. A discussion of survey procedures used to elicit the necessary information from recreational users is also presented in this section. The fourth section discusses the results of the survey and presents the estimated benefits from recreation at Flaming Gorge as well as the loss in benefits due to eutrophication. Finally, the fifth section provides a summary of the results and the conclusions of the study.

This study is concerned only with estimating the value of recreational activities in Flaming Gorge Reservoir and the potential loss in these benefits from eutrophication. Estimation of other costs associated with the eutrophication problem in Flaming Gorge is beyond the scope of this study. For example, the bluegreen algae do have the potential to become toxic, and thus, if consumed, could result in the loss of animal life. Costs associated with this consequence are not assessed in this study. Also, since eutrophication is prevalent in the northern end of the reservoir, recreation benefit estimates are limited to recreation on the reservoir. The recreation taking place on the Green River below Flaming Gorge Reservoir and along the Canyon Rim, as well as hunting activities on land surrounding the reservoir, are not considered in this study. Thus, the value estimates devised in this study do not represent the value of the total recreation opportunities available in the Flaming Gorge National Recreational Area.

Finally, this study does not account for non-user benefits. There are benefits to individuals in addition to the values they receive from visiting a site. These benefits are commonly referred to as preservation values. They reflect the value individuals place on just knowing that the possibility of future recreation use is guaranteed and/or that a site or natural resource will be protected. However, since Flaming Gorge Reservoir is not a unique resource with regard to the recreation opportunities available, exclusion of option and existence values should not create any significant bias on the values established from data for current users of the reservoir. As Walsh (1986) notes:

For less outstanding resources with regional rather than national significance, the proportion of the population who hold preservation values appears to be a declining function of the distance that they live from the resource.

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