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U.S.-Side Principal Economic Indicators For the International Joint Commission Lake Champlain Richelieu River Study Project (2022)

September 12, 2022

General Abstract/Purpose (70 words): Data were collected to assist in cost-benefit analysis of flood mitigation actions that could be taken by the U.S. and Canada to prevent structural damage and associated costs and losses in future flood conditions, including conditions worse than the historical record flooding in spring of 2011. Data were commissioned to revise or fill gaps in estimates from structural damage modeling software commonly used for depth-damage economic assessments of flood impacts. The Summary text that immediately follows this introductory sentence offers overview information, but also includes context and detail that is not present in the Word document ("Principal Indicator Combo SET - REVIEW FINAL v2.docx") that constitutes the main body of this data release, supported by Excel files (that are copied without formatting in csv files for each Excel tab). Lake Champlain is a relatively large lake bordered by New York on the western side and Vermont on the eastern side, whose uppermost region spans the U.S.-Canadian border. The 436 mi^2 (1,130 km^2) lake sits within a 9,277 mi^2 (23,900 km^2) basin, and Champlain's only drainage point is north into Canada via the Richelieu River into the province of Quebec. About 75% of the Lake Champlain shoreline of New York is within Adirondack State Park, covering all or part of Clinton, Essex, and Washington counties. Of Vermont's 14 counties, Franklin, Chittenden, and Addison Counties border Lake Champlain, while Grand Isle is surrounded by Champlain and at its northern edge the Canadian border. Development and anthropogenic modifications, especially over the last 50 years, have converted wetlands, changed the timing and flows of water, and increased impervious surface area including new residences in floodplains on both sides of the border. Occasionally there is damaging flooding, with significant economic damages in New York, Vermont, and Quebec. With flood stage at 99.57' (30.35m) and major flooding from 101.07' (30.81m) over sea level, a 101.4' (30.91m) flood in 1993 broke the previous recorded high flood in 1869. Following the third heaviest recorded snow, almost no seasonal snowmelt, then heavy rains, the spring of 2011 brought record flooding more than one foot over the 1993 record to 102.77' (31.32m), expanding the lake's area by 66 mi^2 (106.2 km^2, or about 5.8%). From reaching flood stage to peak and then returning to a lake level below flood stage took around six weeks. Wind-to-wave-driven erosion was up to 5 feet (1.5m) above static lake elevation in some areas. The record flood height (102.77') is often reported as 103.07' or 103.27' in Burlington, owing to different vertical and horizontal datums and digital elevation models (DEMs), and some wave action. In a 1976 flood the U.S. side incurred more than 50% of the economic damages, but in 2011, Quebec experienced some 80% of structural and economic damages estimated at $82 million. Tropical Storm Irene hit the area in August of 2011 and did far more damage on the American side, for example spurring $29 million in home and business repair loans for damage across 12 of Vermont's 14 counties. Co-reporting across the two events for 2011 confounded some data, making it impossible to separately identify spring flooding numbers. Following the Boundary Waters Treaty between the U.S. and Canada in 1909, from 1912 the International Joint Commission (IJC) handles boundary water issues between the two countries. The IJC Lake Champlain Richelieu River (LCRR) Study Project is a bi-national (U.S., Canada) multi-agency effort to assess flood risk and flood mitigation options as they affect potential structural damages and wider non-structural damages that include secondary economic, community, and psychological effects. Key economic parts of the report to the IJC LCRR Study Board are calculated using a new tool developed for the study project, an Integrated Socio-Economic-Environmental (ISEE) model, with forecasting for damages up to 105.57' flood (105.9', or 106' [32.3m] for short, by alternative datum and DEMs, as apply in some of the modeling and estimations herein). There is also a Collaborative Decision Support Tool (CDST) that also processes non-structural economic damages, costs, or losses as inputs. CDST is a pared-down version of ISEE that applies historical estimates but does not project outcomes for higher floods in the future. Outputs from this data release are inputs to the ISEE or the CDST for calculations of the benefit-to-cost ratios projected to follow different structural interventions. For example adding a weir in the Richelieu River yielded a greater-than-one benefit-to-cost ratio in late-stage modeling, whereas a dam on either side, or an entirely new canal on the Canadian side, were never entertained as cost feasible or even appropriate. USGS economists were contracted to supply economic "principal indicators" for potential U.S.-side depth-damage effects from lake-rise flooding. The scope of this analysis is limited by several factors associated with the objectives of the IJC LCRR Study Board. Damages from tributary flooding were defined out of a project focused on joint-management options for mitigating flood effects, as tributary flows would be managed only by the U.S. Uncommonly low Lake Champlain levels were also ultimately considered as a stakeholder concern (the weir option also addressed this concern). It is standard to model economic damages to structures and related economic costs due to flooding using the FEMA-designed Hazus-MH (Multi-Hazard) Flood Model of structural damages (; the Hazus-MH Technical Manual, 2011, 569pp, which explains definitions and parameterization of the tool rather than use of the tool itself, is a frequently referred source here). "Hazus" (tool) modeling is used in the LCRR Study Board research to estimate structural damages at different flood depths, and the primary work presented in this data release estimates depth-damage values for "Principal Indicators" (PIs) that were defined to supplement or alternatively estimate results from applying Hazus, where gaps exist or where straight Hazus values may be questionable in the LCRR context. A number of Principal Indicators were estimated on the Canadian and U.S. sides, where no PIs include any estimates for repair of structural damage, as those calculations are done separately using the Hazus tool (or the ISEE model application with Hazus outputs as inputs). In the final list, the USGS team produced estimates for six PIs: temporary lodging costs, residential debris clean-up and disposal, damage to roads and bridges, damage to water treatment facilities, income loss from industrial or commercial properties, and separately and specifically recreation sector income loss. So associated with residential damage, the costs of securing emergency and longer-term lodging when a household is displaced by lake-rise flooding are estimated, and the costs of cleaning up and removing and disposing of debris from residential property damage are estimated. In the public sector, costs of clean up and repair of damages to roads and bridges from lake-rise flooding are calculated, as are damages and potential revenue losses from flood mitigation measures and service reductions where public or private water utilities are inundated by lake-rise flooding. In the commercial sector, revenue losses from being closed for business due to flooding are calculated outside of the recreation sector, and then also for the recreation sector as lakeside campgrounds, marinas, and ferry services (where the last is also used for local commercial traffic). All of these PIs are characterized by being little-discussed in the literature. To derive information necessary to bound economic estimates for each of the 6 PIs, consultation with subject-matter experts in New York and Vermont (or at agencies covering these areas) was employed more often than anything in peer-reviewed literature specifically applied. Depth-damage functions that result are not formal mathematical functions, and across the six PIs calculations and results tend to be in increments of one foot or more. Results thus suggest magnitudes of costs that comply with reasonable scenario assumptions for a small but fairly consistent set of flood depths from 99.57' to 105.57', where the latter value is almost three feet (1m) above the historic maximum flood. Nothing reported in these estimates is empirically deterministic, or capable of including probabilistic error margins. Simplifying assumptions serve first to actually simplify the calculations and legibility of estimated results, and second to avoid the impression that specifically calibrated empirical estimations are being conducted. This effort offers plausible, logical, reliable, and reproducible magnitudes for estimates, using a method that can be easily modified if better information becomes available for future estimations. Certain worksheets and specific results are withheld to avoid the outright identification of specific businesses (or homes). Facts in this abstract generally attribute to: International Lake Champlain-Richelieu River Study Board, 2019. The Causes and Impacts of Past Floods in the Lake Champlain-Richelieu River Basin - Historical Information on Flooding, A Report to the International Joint Commission, 108pp ( Some supplemental factual support is from: Lake Champlain Basin Program, 2013. Flood Resilience in the Lake Champlain Basin and Upper Richelieu River, 93 pp (

Publication Year 2022
Title U.S.-Side Principal Economic Indicators For the International Joint Commission Lake Champlain Richelieu River Study Project (2022)
DOI 10.5066/P9XWERGY
Authors Charles R Rhodes
Product Type Data Release
Record Source USGS Digital Object Identifier Catalog
USGS Organization Science and Decisions Center