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KWUA perspective on the 2002 and 2003 National Academy of Sciences (NAS) reviews
posted July 12, 2004


KWUA Perspective on the 2002 Interim National Academy of Sciences (NAS) Review of Klamath Basin Biological Opinions

The Klamath Water Users Association (KWUA) and its members in 2001 strongly advocated for an independent peer review of the 2001 Klamath Project Biological Opinions, the underlying science, and the related overall scientific process. The 2002 interim report from the National Research Council (NRC) Committee on Endangered and Threatened Fishes in the Klamath Basin represented a critical step towards ensuring proper assessment and maintenance of healthy fish populations.

The 2002 National Academy of Sciences (NAS) Interim Report is a Commendable Effort

  • The panel successfully completed an objective, unbiased initial review of the information used by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and NOAA Fisheries to formulate the agenciesí two 2001 Biological Opinions (BOs).
  • The evidence and arguments presented in the NAS report are sound and the report was fully responsive to their study objectives.
  • Despite varying interpretations of the data used by the USFWS and NOAA Fisheries in the BOs, it is especially noteworthy that the NAS panel achieved consensus on the Interim Reportís conclusions for not just one, but both BOs.
  • The reportís conclusions were adequately supported by the available evidence and analyses used by USFWS and NOAA Fisheries.
  • It was particularly evident that the NAS report was fair and impartial, essential attributes that have been sorely lacking in Klamath basin issues to date.

The Interim NAS Report Did Not Suggest That "Bad Science" Was Used in 2001

Despite some attacks on the NAS Interim Report by certain advocacy groups, the Report does not, in the opinion of KWUA, reflect the use of "bad science" by the USFWS and NOAA Fisheries in their respective 2001 BOs. To the contrary, the independent scientific panel of national experts used the same information as USFWS and NOAA Fisheries but simply derived different conclusions concerning the scientific rationale for higher or lower than historical Upper Klamath Lake levels and flows in the Klamath River. The NAS report concluded that there was insufficient scientific evidence used by USFWS and NOAA Fisheries in 2001 to support changing the recent historical water operations of the Klamath Project. KWUA agrees with the NAS reportís conclusions that higher or lower than recent historical lake levels or Klamath River flows are not scientifically justified based on the available information used by the USFWS and NOAA Fisheries.


KWUA Perspective on the 2003 Final National Research Council Report: Endangered and Threatened Fishes in the Klamath River Basin

The final 2003 report from the National Research Council (NRC) Committee on Endangered and Threatened Fishes in the Klamath Basin represents a critical step towards ensuring proper assessment and maintenance of healthy fish populations. The final NRC report is important to local farmers and ranchers for several key reasons:

  1. The report clearly indicates that recovery of endangered suckers and threatened coho salmon in the Klamath Basin cannot be achieved by actions that are exclusively or primarily focused on operation of the Klamath Project.
  2. The committee also reconfirmed its findings from an earlier report that found no evidence of a causal connection between Upper Klamath Lake water levels and sucker health, or that higher flows on the Klamath River mainstem help coho salmon.
  3. The NRC committee did not accept arguments that the operation of the Klamath Project caused the 2002 fish die-off or that changes in the operation of the Project at the time would not have prevented it.

Despite the final conclusions, some environmentalists and many in the media continue to maintain the sensational but unsupported position that the Klamath Project was responsible for the 2002 fish mortality that occurred over 200 miles from the Klamath Project.

The NRC report is consistent with what Upper Basin interests have been saying for years: the Klamath Project cannot solely bear the burden for species recovery in this basin. A watershed-wide approach to species recovery Ė one that addresses all the stressors to fish Ė is essential to improving our environment and saving our local economy. We share the NRC reportís vision that increased knowledge, improved management, and cohesive community action will promote recovery of the fishes. At the same time, as discussed below, we remain extremely concerned that the "business as usual" approach - regulation of the Klamath Project Ė remains the dominant aspect of ESA biological opinions and advocacy of Project opponents.

The NRC report clearly shows that the Klamath Project alone cannot solve the problems of the entire watershed. With that said, water users want to avoid pointing the finger at other parts of the watershed in an attempt to shift blame. Rather, we encourage other areas to take action towards solving the problem, and we believe that farmers and ranchers throughout the watershed have already clearly demonstrated that actions speak louder than words.


The NAS final report can be downloaded at: www.nationalacademies.org/morenews/

Klamath Water Users Association
2455 Patterson Street, Suite 3
Klamath Falls, Oregon 97603
Phone (541) 883-6100
FAX   (541) 883-8893  

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