Economic Guidance for Coastal Management Professionals

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Coastal managers often need economic valuation information for project proposals, assessments, or funding applications. The following modules provide information about approaches for economic analysis, relevant examples, and guidance on how to conduct basic benefit-cost analysis and ecosystem service valuation. Hosts of this training can customize their workshop by selecting one or more of the following modules.

The Office for Coastal Management also offers an instructor-led, online version of this course.


Module 1: Introduction to Economic Analyses and Valuation

This module provides an introduction to economic analysis terminology related to benefit-cost analysis, economic impact analysis, cost-effectiveness analysis, benefit valuation methods, and more. Understanding these basics will help participants identify the most appropriate approach and the data needed.

Learning Outcomes

  • Recognize and understand basic economic terminology
  • Recognize relevant economic approaches and analyses
  • Identify the best approach to use based on project objectives, level of expertise, and funding
  • Locate support tools
  • Conceptualize appropriate questions to ask an economist or an expert

Duration: 90 minutes

Module 2: Pathways to Valuing Ecosystem Services

This module provides an overview of three common paths used to estimate the value of ecosystem services: site-specific studies, benefits transfer, and tools with built-in benefits. Each path will include information on its strengths and limitations, and on relevant support tools such as BlueValue (for benefits transfer) and the FEMA Benefit-Cost Analysis Toolkit (for tools with built-in benefits).

Learning Outcomes

  • Discuss ecosystem service valuation terminology
  • Conduct a rough benefits-transfer estimate
  • Choose the proper pathway for ecosystem service valuation based on available time, funding, and expertise
  • Access relevant support tools and valuation data

Duration: 2 hours

Module 3: Introduction to Benefit-Cost Analysis

This hands-on module provides the necessary contextual and background information to supervise a basic benefit-cost analysis. Learners will explore an applied example and practice completing steps of a benefit-cost analysis. It’s designed for anyone who (1) needs to supervise, contract, or evaluate a benefit-cost analysis or (2) better understand benefit-cost analysis tools.

Learning Outcomes

  • Determine when, why, and how to do a benefit-cost analysis
  • Implement the steps needed to conduct a basic benefit-cost analysis
  • Interpret analysis results
  • Recognize and interpret important economic terms and concepts
  • Locate support tools and data
  • Identify special considerations for nuances of benefit-cost analysis (i.e., equity, future conditions, and distributional aspects)

Duration: 3 hours


Professional Credit

American Institute of Certified Planners – one-and-a-half to seven hours (depending on the number of modules attended)

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