Restoration Dollars Bring Six Times the Return on Investment

The Takeaway: A 2020 follow-up study confirms 2011 projections by calculating that a NOAA habitat restoration investment of $10 million is powering up the local economy by at least $57 million, with more benefits every year.

Industrial pollution degraded Michigan’s Muskegon Lake, but a wetland restoration and shoreline stabilization project is enhancing the lake’s fishery and bringing new prosperity. Researchers projected in 2011 that an initial $10 million in restoration funds—made possible by NOAA Fisheries’ Office of Habitat Conservation with support from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act—would yield a six-to-one return on investment. A 2020 reexamination shows that these economic projections are spot-on and happening in real time. Subsequent coastal conservation and restoration efforts have received NOAA Office for Coastal Management support through the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative.

“In 2011, the housing value and additional recreational opportunities represented a six-to-one return on investment,” says Paul Isely, a professor of economics at Grand Valley State University and a researcher for both studies. “This [2020] study validates that that is true, if not bigger."

The 2020 study revealed that the total value of shoreline improvements, based on home sale prices, is an estimated $7.9 million. Researchers tie this rise in value to the restoration made possible by NOAA’s investment. In addition, the researchers found that the restoration’s recreational benefits bring in an estimated $27.9 million in value each year, a much higher figure than the 2011 estimate of $2.8 million annually. The reasons for this excellent return are many, such as prompting downtown investments and inspiring even more restoration projects.

Many of the subsequent projects were funded with support from the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative. NOAA’s Office for Habitat Conservation has brought nearly $25 million, in initiative funds, to restore coastal habitats in the area, including on nearly 100 acres that the local government acquired with additional initiative dollars from NOAA’s Office for Coastal Management. Key to these economic—and ecological—successes were strong implementation partnerships with the Great Lakes Commission and West Michigan Shoreline Regional Development Commission. (Original 2017; updated 2018 and 2020)

More Information: Muskegon Lake Restoration Website (includes links to the 2011 and 2020 studies)

Partners: Great Lakes Commission, NOAA Office for Coastal Management and Office of Habitat Conservation, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, West Michigan Shoreline Regional Development Commission