More Whistles Sound on Klamath River Science

The Klamath River./TRT File Photo

By KRISTAN KORNS, Two Rivers Tribune

Seven biologists claim “coercive threats” are being used to censor scientific reports and to silence scientists working for the Bureau of Reclamation.

Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) filed a complaint Monday, Jan. 7, 2013 with the Department of the Interior on behalf of the seven scientists.

PEER wrote in their complaint that the Bureau of Reclamation’s Klamath Basin Area Office Manager Jason Phillips had sent a memo threatening to shut down that office’s Fisheries Resources Branch because their scientific studies had been “causing problems” for other agencies.

Jeff Ruch, executive director of PEER, said, “This was used as a way to intimidate them and put them in line.”

Pete Lucerno, public affairs officer for the Mid-Pacific Region Bureau of Reclamation, said Phillips’ memo could have been worded better, but was only intended to open a line of discussion with the scientists and their union.

“The Bureau’s new Regional Director David Murillo, who came on in mid-December, is working with Jason [Phillips] to see how best to maximize our resources,” Lucerno said. “This is clearly a case of reorganizing for efficiency’s sake to meet our mission.”

In the memo sent out in November, Phillips recommended shifting research and data collection for the Klamath area over to the United States Geological Survey (USGS).

Phillips wrote, “Stakeholders in the Klamath Basin, including tribes, other agencies, and interest groups, view studies performed by USGS and other scientific entities, such as universities, as credible.”

“Unfortunately, this is not the case of the studies carried out by KBAO,” Phillips wrote.

Hoopa Valley Tribal Chairman Leonard Masten Jr. said, “Recent claims of retribution by government scientists come as no surprise.”

“The Bureau of Reclamation has used bad science in the past,” Masten said. “No one living on the Klamath can forget the Bush administration decision to manipulate science in 2002 and the subsequent death of 60,000 salmon.”

In 2002, water was diverted away from the Klamath to desperate Oregon farmers during a drought, despite Endangered Species Act regulations designed to protect the river’s fish.

By September 2002, tens of thousands of fish were dead and rotting along the banks of the river.

Then lead biologist on the Klamath for the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), Mike Kelley blew the whistle on what he characterized as political pressure to ignore or reverse science findings.

“I believed, both personally and professionally, that our agency had violated the law during the Klamath River ESA [Endangered Species Act] section 7 consultation,” Kelley said.

Kelley’s team had just delivered a report outlining the lowest possible flows for survival of Coho salmon, when his supervisor received a call and stepped out of the room.
When the supervisor returned, he cut the estimated flows in half.

It was later revealed by The Washington Post that unprecedented political pressure had been brought by then Vice President Dick Cheney in support of Oregon farmers.

The political pressure included direct phone calls from Cheney to officials far down the chain of command in the Interior Department, to handle “this Klamath situation.”

More recently, hydrologist Paul Hauser, a science advisor and scientific integrity officer for the Bureau of Reclamation, said he was dismissed from his post in February 2012 in retaliation for exposing “intentional falsification” and “biased summarization” of scientific results.

“The expectation for employees to compromise scientific integrity in support of Departmental missions and goals, and to engage in systematic reprisal when an employee questions the Department’s scientific integrity, is clearly an abuse of authority,” Hauser said.

Lucerno said possible reorganization of the Fisheries Resources Branch had nothing to do with scientific misconduct or reprisal, but is a way to avoid wasting resources or duplicating the efforts of other agencies.

“If Fish and Wildlife is doing scientific research, why do we need to continue to do the same research when we have other things these guys could be doing?” Lucerno said.

Lucerno added that every employee would continue to work, but the work would change if other agencies took on future studies in the region.

“Some could shift over to overseeing grants for outside agencies that do science for us,” Lucerno said.

Ruch said he viewed Phillips’ memo as an implied threat.

“They’re sort of being told ‘make nice, or you’ll all go,’” Ruch said.

Post Metadata

January 17th, 2013

4 to “More Whistles Sound on Klamath River Science”

  1. Dr. Richard Gierak says:

    Press Release from Siskiyou County Water Users Association


    The Department of the Interior has been seriously guilty of scientific misconduct by ignoring credible science from its own Bureau of Reclamation by not publishing data which negates the Klamath Basin Reclamation Agreement and the removal of four hydroelectric dams on the Klamath River. As a result of the misconduct by the DOI the Klamath Basin Area Office of the BOR has dissolved their fisheries research unit wherein seven qualified fisheries biologists will no longer have positions regarding fisheries research. They have filed a complaint with PEER (Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility) charging political coercion and censorship of Science.
    Dr. Paul Houser, former Chief Science and Integrity Office of the BOR, (Bureau of Reclamation in D.C. ), was fired for filing scientific misconduct charges against BOR regarding Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement and the KHSA, (removal of four hydroelectric dams on the Klamath River).
    (Klamath Basin Area Office of the BOR) documents clearly indicate that the Klamath Project could decimate future Salmon runs in the Klamath Basin. This statement also corroborates scientific data gathered by the Siskiyou County Water Users Association and other involved groups.
    BOR documents point out that the 20 million cubic yards of sludge from removing the dams contain toxic levels of Mercury, Chromium, Zinc and Antimony which could decimate not only Salmon, but, 34 other species that depend on the quality of water in the Klamath River. page 47
    KBAO Model Study indicating that changes in BOR controlled Klamath flows are insignificant to the life cycle of ‘endangered’ Coho salmon as confirmed by credible Biologists in both NMFS and SCWUA.
    (Klamath Basin Area Office) of the BOR study which showed that a population of sucker fish exists in Lake Ewauna, contradicting USFWS listing of this fish. A blatant disregard of scientific data by KBAO, of the BOR, by USFWS for purposes of an agenda to control water and properties.

  2. Dr. Richard Gierak says:

    Siskiyou County Water Users Association
    347N Main St.
    Yreka, Ca. 96097
    November 27, 2012

    Dr. Rebecca Blank
    U.S. Department of Commerce

    Cc: Secretary Ken Salazar
    U.S. Department of the Interior

    Dr. Blank;
    It has come to our attention that NOAA and NMFS have both illegally listed Coho Salmon in the Southern Oregon ESU and the Northern California ESU as this species is a non-indigenous species and is a violation of the Endangered Species Act. The Karuk and Shasta Tribes have both confirmed that this species was never present until they were planted. Genetic analysis in the Klamath indicate their origin is from the Willamette River in Northern Oregon. Genetic analysis in the Rogue River indicate their origin is from the Columbia River in Northern Oregon. The KBRA and KHSA planned by the Dept. of the Interior is utilizing this illegal listing to attempt removal of four hydroelectric dams on the Klamath River which lie over 180 miles from the Coast. Regarding Coho spawning parameters you will find that the Yurok Tribe, Calif., Oregon, Washington and Alaska Fish & Game will clearly state that 85% of Coho Salmon spawn within 25 miles of the Coast and not hundreds of miles from the Coast.
    The Siskiyou County Water Users Association and Interactive Citizens United have filed multiple de-listing petitions with pertinent documentation to NMFS and have been summarily rejected.
    What is not being considered is that the following species will be impacted if not totally destroyed by this plan to remove the dams. The following is a list of the 34 species that will be affected:
    Green Sturgeon Acipenser medirostris
    Lamprey Entosphenus tridentata
    Steelhead trout Oncorhynchus mykiss
    Chinook Oncorhynchus tshawytscha
    Small scale sucker (Catostomas rimiculus)
    Dace Leuciscus leuciscus
    Stickelback Gasterosteus aculeatus
    Tailed frogs Ascaphus truei
    Cutthroat trout Oncorhynchus clarkii
    Minnow, Leuciscinae
    Sculpin Scorpaeniformes, Cottoidei Cottoidea,
    Southern Sucker C. occidentalis
    Candlefish Thaleichthys pacificus
    Western Brook Lamprey Lampetra richardsonii
    Otters Enhydra lutris nereis
    Snails Basalt juga
    Freshwater mussels Mollusca bivalvia
    California floater (Anodonta californiesis)
    Western Gray Squirrel, Sciurus griseus
    American Beaver, Castor Canadensis
    Western Pocket Gopher, Thomomys mazama
    White-throated Woodrat, Neotoma albigula
    Black Rat, Rattus rattus
    Black Bear, Ursus americanus
    Northern Fur Seal, Callorhinus ursinus
    Northern (Steller) Sea Lion, Eumetopias jubatus
    Coyote, Canis latrans
    California Sea Lion, Zalophus californianus
    Western Pond Turtle (Clemmys marmorata
    Crawfish Pacifasticus leniusculus
    Bird flyways above the present dams
    Regarding these species being affected by dam removal please review the engineering analysis of 20 million cubic yards of toxic sediment released into the Klamath should these four dams be removed and you will clearly see that all of these 34 species are at serious risk. Dam removal for an illegal listing is a travesty and listing of Coho Salmon in Southern Oregon and California ESU’s must be removed to halt this insanity.

    Respectfully submitted;
    Richard Marshall, President SCWUA
    Dr. Richard Gierak, Science Consultant to SCWUA

    • David Arwood says:

      Where are the references to the claims that the Karuk say that Coho are not indigenous? There are a lot of statements being attributed to groups the author isn’t a part of without any documentation. The burdon of proof is on the claimant..

      • David Arwood says:

        Here is the truth that the Siskiyou county Water Users are still trying to distort.

        A NMFS 2007 response to earlier petition stated, “The quotes that the petitioners provided from the 2002 California Department of Fish and Game report, taken from the 1913 California Fish and Game Commission report, are taken out of context. The 2002 report actually concludes the opposite of the petitioners: that coho salmon are native to the upper Klamath River system, and historically occurred there prior to hatchery stocking.”

        You can read the article at

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