The environmental and economic impacts of moorage marinas on the west coast

Focus Areas Current Projects > Impacts of moorage marinas 
Jim Moore, USC Viterbi School of Engineering
Christine Bae, University of Washington
Nathaniel Trumbull, University of Connecticut

Marina development is increasing in almost all coastal areas, but especially on the West Coast, where there are approximately 200 homeport marinas: CA (105) and WA (96). Local governments are interested in increasing revenues from mooring fees, and local populations support marinas for the public enjoyment. The trend will continue: the amenities and the weather of the West Coast are suitable for boat users with very little downtime. However, there is a lack of research on how mooring facilities harm the marine environment and shoreline health as a result of oil spills, soap and waste discharges and other environmental consequences and the extent to which these are offset by regional economic benefits.

Additionally, as recreational marina growth on the West Coast continues to grow rapidly, it is not the clear domain of study of either urban planners, economists, or environmental scientists. Therefore an interdisciplinary approach is needed for the study of marina growth and its wide range of impacts. An understanding of the economic drivers and negative environmental externalities of marina growth is critical from a planning, regulatory, and development perspective.

This study will examine the full range of these issues in Washington and California. A major data source for the environmental implications of marinas is information from NOAA’s National Mussel Watch since 1986, complemented by data from the US Census, the Economic Census Bureau, local governments and IMPLAN for the economic analysis. The key methodologies used are a multiregional input output (MRIO) model using widely known IMPLAN® data sources for both the economic and environmental impacts and a Geographically Weighted Regression (GWR) to measure the influence of marinas on the environment. Once the model is implemented and analyzed, its outputs will be used to analyze alternative mitigation and economic promotion scenarios for coastal development strategies.

This project’s proposed solution is to provide policy makers and coastal communities with more reliable and environmentally friendly coastal development strategies for moorage development, renovation, and location. The policy goal is to find ways of reducing the environmental costs with minimal damage to the substantial economic and social benefits.

2017 Research Update:

Key outcomes:

1) Research determined the economic value of moorage marinas, and marina-related activities, is $4.6 billion annually in Southern California and $8.1 billion annually in Washington State.

2) Analysis of economic and environmental impacts of West Coast marinas are providing insight and tools for sustainable development.

The project made progress on the environmental analysis, although this is not finished. In this reporting period, the study completed: an interactive map of land uses near marinas in the Puget Sound, WA area; a map of oil spill occurrences and quantities from 2011 to 2015; a compilation of tax information from the Department of Licensing, WA; a database of costs of Clean Marinas BMP; and a compilation of the costs of pump out. An interactive online map has been created to share the data collected thus far. Next, to quantify environmental impacts in monetary terms, the project will tackle: environmental pollution data; the fines that accrue among the marina owners; and the additional cost to meet more environmentally friendly marina building and maintenance. 

2016 Research Update:

Researchers have developed a model to look at economic input and output for marinas in both states. Results thus far: (1) For Southern California, the annual direct economic impact (gains) of marina activities is $3.0 billion, and the annual total economic impact (including marina-related industries) is $4.6 billion; and (2) For Washington State, the annual direct economic impact of marina activities is $5.0 billion, and the annual total economic impact is $8.1 billion. Additionally, sectors (i.e., retail trade, manufacturing, accommodation and food service, information, and professional, scientific and technical services) have been identified in each state that provide the biggest economic gains. These findings set up the next phase of the project to ground-truth model results and determine the economic costs of marinas and the net value of marinas to the economy in each state.

2015 Research Update:

Researchers found marina owners to be aware of best environmental practices and to be using them. Indeed, increasingly higher environmental awareness among boat users was widely reported.  Entirely careless or negligent environmental practices on the water related to marina use appear to be largely an issue of the past. 

Two IMPLAN models were developed for Southern California and Washington. Each model includes zip-code level information but was aggregated to each region. Consistent to other economic impact studies conducted previously but with minor modifications, 19 industry sectors associated with marina activities were selected. 

Researchers are now developing zip-code level MRIO models for Southern California (1083 zip-codes) and Washington State (708 zip-codes). Developing spatial econometric models for each sector with IMPLAN’s zip-code datasets for Southern California and Washington State will figure out geographical ripple impacts. These results applied with the zip-code MRIO models will also be visualized with ArcGIS software to comprehensively present geographical differences in economic impacts for both regions. 




For more information, contact Ms. Phyllis Grifman, Associate Director.

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