US

Former Interior Dept. adviser: Administration’s report on dam removal ‘intentionally biased’

A former science adviser to the Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Reclamation was fired in February, shortly after he alleged that the Obama administration intentionally falsified scientific fact in a proposal for dam removal in the Klamath River.

Professor Paul Houser of George Mason University, in a written Feb. 24 allegation to the Office of the Executive Secretariat and Regulatory Affairs in the Department of the Interior, said that Sec. Ken Salazar’s determination to remove the dams resulted in “intentional biased (falsification) reporting of scientific results.”

He also alleged that when he voiced his concern about the scientific integrity of the Department of the Interior’s decision-making process, “[m]y disclosure was never directly addressed.”

And, Houser added, “I faced systematic reprisal.”

He was later terminated from his government job.

Interior seems poised to go ahead with the project because there is a possibility it will bring salmon back to the basin. But the loss of low-cost hydroelectricity and water for irrigation, and the effect demolishing dams would have on human life, are factors Houser believes haven’t been addressed.

The Interior completed an environmental impact review, but he said the result of the report was organized in a way that obscures the truth.

While the Interior said that there would be an 81.4 percent Chinook salmon recovery if dams were removed, it did not acknowledge that there are nine factors that could wipe out that recovery even if the dams were removed.

In his allegation, Houser cited a June 2011 report, in which the Klamath River Expert Panel — one of the Interior Department’s own scientific advisory groups — concluded that water issues in the lake, reduction in disease and climate change, among other factors, would erase any gains in the fish population.

In January, four months after publishing the environmental impact statement Houser said was falsified, the Interior published a new report about the effects of removing the dams.

That report estimated a net gain of 1,400 jobs and $60 million in annual income for workers.

Along with helping the salmon, though, the report acknowledged that the move would pose a threat to other aquatic species and fisheries as sediment runs downstream with the rushing water.

There are also risks of short-term flooding to cultural and historic resources in the area.

And still, the question remains whether the removal of the dams will impact salmon recovery at all.

“There are no guarantees that removal of dams will solve disease problems,” Oregon State microbiology professor Jerri Bartholomew told The Daily Caller, “but returning the river to a more natural system is expected to bring it into better balance.”

If Secretary Salazar decides to remove the dams, it would occur over a one-year period and would begin no later than January 2020. In order for the process to begin, the governors of California and Oregon must agree with the decision.

Kate Kelly, the Interior Department’s deputy communications director, told TheDC that the agency would not discuss personnel matters. She did say, however, that Houser’s allegation “is being reviewed under the standard procedures contained in Interior’s scientific integrity policy.”

Kelly said the Department of the Interior examined 50 different scientific reports to determine the economic and environmental impacts the dam’s removal would have on the surrounding areas.

“The science is high quality, technically reviewed,” Kelly said.

This story was updated after publication to clarify Housers comments about his belief that the Dept. of Interior never acted on his complaints, and to reflect that the agency’s apparent future plans have not yet drawn direct comment from Secretary Salazar.

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