U.S. Water News Online
PORTLAND, Ore. -- A National Research Council report saying
the federal government was unjustified in withholding Klamath Basin
water from farmers in 2001 is riddled with errors, a paper submitted
for publication in the journal Fisheries concludes.
The panel chose data selectively in a rush to support its
conclusions, and in one instance its chairman referred to a species
of fish that does not exist in the Klamath Basin, the paper says.
``Politicians have assumed that (the review) has primacy in the
scientific debate, when in fact its speedy construction contributed
to multiple errors that detract from its scientific usefulness,'' say
the authors, fisheries professor Douglas Markle and graduate student
Michael Cooperman at Oregon State University.
They are among the first outside scientists to scrutinize the work
of the panel formed by the National Research Council at Interior
Secretary Gale Norton's request after the Klamath Basin's bitter
water struggles of 2001.
The researchers said it is wrong to treat the panel's finding as
the ``definitive opinion for Klamath Basin water management,'' as
federal agencies have done.
The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation used the findings to justify
cutting back water for fish this year. That left less for salmon,
which later suffered a massive die-off in the Klamath River.
The paper also has circulated among the Klamath Basin farmers. Dan
Keppen of the Klamath Water Users Association said it ``appears to be
more a political assessment instead of an objective look at the
Farmers and politicians had welcomed the national panel's finding
as proof that cutting off water to farms was not based on ``sound
science.'' They have used it to argue for reform of the Endangered
But Markle and Cooperman cite a series of factual errors in the
National Research Council panel's conclusions, such as giving
incorrect years when water quality in the Upper Klamath Lake was
especially poor, using faulty fish population models and selecting
data that supported ``a conclusion they had already reached.''
Five months after the panel was formed, its chairman referred to
problems involving longnose suckers -- a fish species that does not
exist in the Klamath Basin, they said.
One of the 12 members of the panel said the group would weigh the
Oregon researchers' criticism when compiling a final Klamath Basin
report, due out in January.
``It's like everything else; we'll read it, and we'll think about
it,'' said Michael Pace of the Institute of Ecosystem Studies in
The paper was submitted to the journal Fisheries about two months
ago and reviewed by seven anonymous scientists, who returned it with
comments and criticisms. Markle and Cooperman revised the paper to
address the comments and resubmitted it to the journal, where it is
awaiting publication, they said.
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