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The Chester Creek Project

Identifying the Costs and Benefits of Green Infrastructure for Flood Reduction in Duluth, Minnesota

Final Report: Economic Assessment of Green Infrastructure Strategies for Climate Change Adaptation: Pilot Studies in The Great Lakes Region
Written under contract for NOAA Coastal Services Center, this report covers how incorporating green infrastructure into city plans could reduce flood damage and create economic benefits in Duluth, Minnesota and Toledo, Ohio.

Green Infrastructure can benefit your community!

Study results showed that approximately $1.65 million in benefits could be accrued over the next 20 years in the Chester Creek watershed through

  • Reduced building damages
  • Increased recreational use
  • Reduced land restoration costs
  • Reduced stormwater infrastructure replacement costs

Other benefits of green infrastructure include improved water quality, higher property values, improved natural areas, open space, and wildlife habitat.

Flooding Impacts

In June 2012, the City of Duluth, Minnesota, experienced a major flash flood that damaged stormwater infrastructure, roads, trails, and streams, resulting in $55 million in damages. Most damages were caused by water velocity, increased stormwater runoff, and associated disruption of services. Green infrastructure can help reduce flooding impacts from these events, and Duluth has been working to identify the costs and benefits of using this strategy.

About the Study Area

With a mix of current land uses, high recreational use, and the potential for future development, the Chester Creek watershed in Duluth was selected as an ideal study area. The upper part of the watershed, "above the bluff," is relatively flat, contains the headwaters, and is mostly undeveloped. The lower part, "below the bluff," has a very steep drop in elevation and deeply entrenched streams that run through the city before flowing into Lake Superior.

Working Toward Solutions

The objective of this project is to use science to help communities understand the costs and benefits of green infrastructure options for reducing flooding impacts. The framework for this study included

  1. Identifying flooding impacts, damage costs, and benefits of green infrastructure options. (Complete)
  2. Working with the City of Duluth to identify what green infrastructure options to implement and where.
  3. Sharing the methodology with others.


Funding is provided by the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative administered by the Environmental Protection Agency.

This page last modified on February 21, 2017     © 1996 – 2019 Regents of the University of Minnesota     The University of Minnesota is an equal opportunity educator and employer.
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