Restoration costs are frequently underestimated, particularly those costs associated with evaluating baseline conditions, post implementation monitoring and long-term management. There is often pressure to further reduce anticipated costs to save money either because funding resources may be limited (in the case of a voluntary restoration project) or in order to increase profits (in the case of mitigation). Regulated entities commonly seek to reduce both the time frame and parameters for monitoring. When funding is inadequate, resources are not available to address project failures. There is also very little information available to compare restoration costs from site to site or by wetland type so that reasonable cost estimates may be developed.
Further, the overall economic benefits of wetland restoration are often either undervalued or not even considered even though they are frequently greater than the cost of the restoration itself. This is primarily because many wetland benefits are difficult to derive a monetary value for and are non-exclusive so there may often be no direct economic benefit to the agency or organization that is paying for the restoration. Rather, the benefits are spread more broadly and are considered a “public good” (e.g., habitat conservation, flood water attenuation, clean water, intrinsic value, etc.). See our webpage on Ecosystem Service Valuation for more information on this particular topic.
Accurate cost estimates are important for budgeting to cover all anticipated project costs, including monitoring and reporting, and that the lack of accurate budgeting has led to many projects being underfunded. This underfunding leads to early termination of long term monitoring and reporting. Lack of reporting on the full range of results limits the lessons that can be learned. Since there is little or no good quantitative data the results are prohibited from being published, and thus routine mistakes in design and construction are repeated.
Cost control and contingencies should be anticipated during design so that the contract includes adaptive measures or construction items that can be implemented if need be to achieve restoration goals. Clear lines of communication and an agreed upon system for project documentation (that includes accurate measurements and quantities) should be maintained by both the construction oversight and contractor personnel. Weekly progress reports by the contractor and regular site meetings to discuss progress, delays and challenges, can help keep a project on schedule and on budget.