Superstorm Sandy Choice Experiment Valuation Survey

Photo of signage for Edwin B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge

Project Brief

The Challenge

On October 29, 2012, Hurricane Sandy struck the New York-New Jersey area, causing $50 billion in damage and resulting in the 117 fatalities. Following Sandy, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and its partners looked for opportunities to restore habitats and make informed decisions that considered the full range of benefits that could results from using restoration options that improve ecosystems and protect coastal areas from future storms. NOAA also determined that the economic value restoration would create should be a key input into those decisions. Ecosystems provide a myriad of goods and services (ecosystem services) that have value to society. Ultimately, the value of restoration work rests in the value of the ecosystem services that were restored. However, there is an active debate on whether living shoreline options or shoreline armoring offers better protection and more value to the people being protected. NOAA asked ERG to develop a survey and related analyses to estimate the ecosystem service values associated with restoring salt marshes damaged by Sandy and to provide evidence on the extent to which people value living shorelines over built infrastructure for coastal protection.

ERG's Solution

ERG developed two choice experiment surveys to address two key issues: (1) the value of and trade-offs between ecosystem services generated from restoring salt marches damaged by coastal storms, and (2) the relative value of living shorelines compared to armored shorelines for protecting communities from coastal storms. For the first survey, ERG developed a choice experiment that asked respondents to select among various restoration options (each with a cost) and a “do nothing” option, and we collected data from a representative sample of 531 people around the Edwin B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge in New Jersey. Based on the results, we estimated the value of wildlife viewing, bird habitat, and protection from coastal flooding for several proposed restoration projects. The resulting estimate provided a value for each ecosystem service and estimates of trade-offs between those services. For the second survey, ERG implemented a choice experiment to 541 residents of New York City’s Jamaica Bay area, which was hard-hit by Sandy, to estimate how respondents valued living shorelines compared to armored (built) shoreline protection. ERG’s analysis of the survey results showed that residents valued living shorelines almost five times more than armored ones. 


National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration