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When, Where, and How to Intervene? Tradeoffs Between Time and Costs in Coastal Nutrient Management
Journal of the American Water Resources Association  (IF3.202),  Pub Date : 2020-12-14, DOI: 10.1111/1752-1688.12897
Nathaniel H. Merrill, Amy N. Piscopo, Stephen Balogh, Ryan P. Furey, Kate K. Mulvaney

Policies and regulations designed to address nutrient pollution in coastal waters are often complicated by delays in environmental and social systems. Social and political inertia may delay the implementation of cleanup projects, and even after the best nutrient pollution management practices are developed and implemented, long groundwater travel times may delay the impact of inland or upstream interventions. These delays and the varying costs of nutrient removal alternatives used to meet water quality goals combine to create a complex dynamic decision problem with tradeoffs about when, where, and how to intervene. We use multi‐objective optimization to quantify the tradeoffs between costs and minimizing the time to meet in‐bay nutrient reduction goals represented as a Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL). We calculate the impact of using in‐bay (in situ) nutrient removal through shellfish aquaculture relative to waiting for traditional source control to be implemented. We apply these methods to the Three Bays Watershed in Cape Cod, Massachusetts. In gross benefit terms, not accounting for any social costs, this equates to an average value of 37¢ (2035 TMDL target date) and 11¢ (2060 TMDL target date) per animal harvested over the plan implementation period. Our results encourage the consideration of alternative and in situ approaches to tackle coastal pollution while traditional source control is implemented and its effects realized over time.