Our Klamath Basin Water Crisis
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(also posted at
Siskiyou Daily News 5/31/12:
Dr. Paul R. Houser, Former Bureau of Reclamation Science Advisor and Scientific Integrity Officer, Bureau of Reclamation’s top scientist, whistleblower on Klamath dam removal science misconduct, responds to Curtis Knight, California Trout's, attack
followed by Knight's opinion
May 29, 2012.
1) Mr. Knight claims that my allegation has evolved. My February 24 scientific misconduct allegation is in writing and has not been modified, and my interviews have closely followed the written allegation. I have provided opinions when asked, but these do not represent changes in the allegation.
2) Mr. Knight claims that my suggestion of a less-extreme option of removing 1-2 dams was bizarre. This suggestion was made in the context of advocating exploration of a wide range of options to meet the objectives. Also note that the dam removal proposal is also only a partial solution, as it excludes the removal of the Keno and Link River dams.
3) Mr. Knight alleges that I am biased because I was paid by dam removal opponents. I have not been paid for my allegation or public speaking, and I do not hold financial interests in the Klamath basin. Since the story went public, my philosophy has been to accept all interview and speaking requests.
4) Mr. Knight claims that I am not a fisheries biologist. This is correct, but I have earned a PhD in Hydrology and Water Resources, and have a 25 year scientific career, with many awards and over 100 referred publications. I do have extensive experience in water research, observation, modeling, management, and fisheries.
5) Mr. Knight claims that I am offering a “politically-driven opinion in place of science-driven decision making.” I have stated that I do not favor or oppose dam removal, and that my motivation is to be a champion for scientific integrity. Politics has no place in scientific integrity.
7) Mr. Knight states that the dams offer no irrigation function, degrade water quality and offer no flood control functions. A recent hydrograph analysis shows that the dams help to regulate downstream flows and are actively used to help improve flows and temperature regimes for downstream fisheries. A 2006 PacifiCorp study shows that the dams help to improve water quality by increasing residence time and settling. By working with irrigators and fishery managers, the dams could be used even more effectively to enhance, water quality, fisheries and agriculture. Unfortunately, these facts, as well as creative solutions are not being actively considered.
8) Mr. Knight objects to my statement that dam removal is an uncontrolled experiment. If an experiment has more than one variable changing, or if there is no control, then it is uncontrolled. In the case of the proposed dam removal, there is no control and multiple independent variables are changing, so it is by definition an uncontrolled experiment.
9) Mr. Knight criticizes my assertion that “scientists are often biased based on who they are paid”. I assert that funding is only one of the issues that cause science to be biased. The very questions and hypothesis that scientists study are often formulated to arrive at a predetermined outcome. For example, in 2010, California Trout commissioned a study to “estimate the economic benefits” of the KBRA. As one would expect with such a charge, the resulting report collated a number of economic benefits, while ignoring potential impacts to agriculture, land valuation, power production, etc.. A better question could be asked that would give the public a real answer to the economic impact of dam removal. Unfortunately, scientific integrity issues run even deeper than this simple example. Decision makers often use science to support predetermined decisions rather than using science to help inform decisions. Decision makers, scientists and peer-reviewers may have conflicts of interest, and biased media reports can skew public understanding.
10) Mr. Knight concludes that dam removal is the preferred alternative for the Klamath River because the peer-review says it is. The panels conclude that removing the dams without addressing the water quality issues, reducing disease, enabling free migration to the upper basin, preventing hatchery salmon from not overwhelm spawning grounds, reducing predation to sufficiently low levels, accounting for climate change, addressing reductions in fall flows, and mitigating long-term sediment impacts, has a low chance for success. Further, there are significant conflicts of interest in the peer-review panels, and the evolution of the expert panel reports from their draft to final forms highlights some significant outside influences.
The outcomes of dam removal on this scale and in this unique environment have significant risks and uncertainties; a positive outcome is not guaranteed and a tragic outcome is possible. Decision makers need to be aware of these risks and uncertainties, and account for them in their decision making process. By only reporting the positive aspects of dam removal without the uncertainties and additional needed mitigation, the meaning of the science is perturbed which may lead to poor decisions.
Critics need to distinguish Klamath dam removal facts from fantasy
by Curtis Knight, California Trout, Siskiyou Daily News Opinion May 23, 2012
Mount Shasta, Calif. — It’s been said that people have a right to their opinions but not their own facts, and in the Klamath River dam removal issue, it’s critical we differentiate between the two.
In a March 2 Siskiyou Daily News article, “whistleblower” Paul Houser said he didn’t have complaints about the science underlying the Klamath. And as a matter of verifiable fact, the whistleblower complaint filed by Houser refers only to a press release and a short summary document, not the science underlying them.
In fact, he was quoted as saying, “The expert panel reports look pretty good.”
Suddenly, all this appears to have changed. In the midst of a tour paid for by dam removal opponents, Houser’s allegations have evolved far beyond that covered in his whistleblower documents, and in the interest of separating fact from opinion, it’s important to examine them.
First, Houser is not a fisheries biologist, and when he says that dam removal seems “extreme,” that’s an opinion, not scientifically supportable fact. In one of his first interviews, he suggested removing only one or two of the dams, a bizarre course of action which had many scientists scratching their heads in wonder. Today, he has offered no scientific basis for that statement, probably because it’s not scientifically supportable.
It’s a statement of bias, not fact.
In other words, Houser is doing exactly what he’s accusing others of – offering a politically-driven opinion in place of science-driven decision making.
The Department of Interior has managed transparent and open decision-making processes. There have been dozens of public meetings, thousands of public comments received and responded to, and 6,000 pages of peer-reviewed science accumulated to examine the situation.
And yes, the science and the facts tell us:
• Dam removal remains primarily an economic and not political issue: Upgrading the dams to current standards will cost PacifiCorp (and ratepayers) two times as much as removing them, and they’ll operate at a $20 million annual loss. Ratepayers will pay far more if the dams are retained.
• The dams are privately owned, and PacifiCorp supports the KBRA/KHSA removal process.
• Instead of economic devastation promised by opponents, dam removal will bring 4,600 jobs to the county and increase the area’s sustainable outdoor recreation industry.
Contrary to “facts” offered up by some, the dams in question provide zero irrigation function, degrade water quality (instead of improving it) and offer no significant flood control function (all verified by peer-reviewed science which is not in question by Mr. Houser or anyone else).
When Houser suggests dam removal is an “uncontrolled experiment,” his opinions are again leaking out. Dam removal projects on many other rivers – including those with sediment issues far more challenging than the Klamath’s – have gone better than expected. Nobody can predict the weather patterns and flows the years after dam removal, but there exists a sizable body of scientifically derived, peer-reviewed work about dam removal.
It’s hardly an uncontrolled experiment.
Finally, it’s a little ironic that Mr. Houser – in the midst of a speaking tour paid for by opponents of dam removal – is apparently happy to impune the ethics of other scientists by stating that “scientists are often biased based on who they are paid by.”
Dam removal is the preferred alternative for the Klamath River because the economics and fisheries science – all of which is publicly available and has been peer-reviewed multiple times – says it is.
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