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Hardy flow report flawed, scientists say

by Kehn Gibson, The Tri-County Courier

7/23/03 The Hardy Phase II report, a fundamental piece of the 2001 Operations Plan that curtailed water deliveries to the Klamath Project in that summer of distress, is again surfacing in discussions concerning water in the Klamath Basin.

The report, compiled by Dr. Thomas Hardy of Utah State University, quietly slid into the shadows after a National Research Council review panel in November 2001 issued a preliminary finding that the science in the Operations Plan did not support the action of denying water to the Klamath Project.

Although attorneys for Earthjustice, an environmental advocacy group, contend the Bush Administration is "suppressing" the report, the truth may be much simpler.

The truth may be the Hardy report is wrong.

In a declaration submitted to Judge Saundra Armstrong in a lawsuit decided last week, fisheries biologist David Vogel pointed out several aspects of the Hardy report that were in error, or that violated established scientific protocols.

Vogelís declaration convinced Armstrong there was "conflicting evidence" concerning the necessary flows in the lower Klamath.

One of several points Vogel made to the court was Hardyís assumption that habitat for Chinook salmon fry would be used as a surrogate for coho salmon fry, despite documented findings the two species require different habitats at that life stage.

Vogel termed Hardyís assumption as a "major error."

Vogel also argued that, rather that follow established protocols for selecting field study sites, it appeared to him the sites chosen were based on ease of access to the river.

Vogel said every field site in the Hardy report apparently was picked because there was a road nearby.

Dr. Kenneth Rykbost, a retired superintendent of the Oregon State University Experimental Station in Klamath Falls, first saw problems with the Hardy Phase I report in 1995.

"Hardy Phase II was supposed to justify Phase I," Rykbost said. "Yet even a cursory examination showed severe flaws."

Rykbost saw that Hardy recommended an annual mean flow at the mouth of the Klamath River of 1.3 million acre-feet. When Rykbost saw the average inflows to Upper Klamath Lake were 1.3 million acre-feet, he realized that Hardyís report left no water at all for either irrigation or the refuges.

"Is it reasonable and prudent to expect the entire upper Basinís water supply to be the minimum set in Hardy?" Rykbost asked.

In seeking how Hardy developed the 1.3 million figure, Rykbost found the report based historical flow findings on the years 1905-1912.

National Weather Service records show the rainfall during that period was 20 percent above normal for the Klamath Falls area, and 22 percent above normal in the Yreka area, Rykbost discovered.

In addition, Rykbost found that farmers had diked off the Lost River Slough in 1905 in an effort to keep Malin from flooding. And, in 1911, the construction of a railroad effectively sealed excess runoff from reaching either Lower Klamath Lake or Tule Lake.

"Those lakes were an overflow valve for the river in high water years, and in the years Hardy based his report those lakes were not available," Rykbost said. "A lot of his models were based on completely different watersheds, and his results show that."

Rykbost was asked to contribute to an Oregon State University report on the Klamath Basin in 2001. He wrote two chapters, one on downstream flows and another on water quality in Upper Klamath Lake.

The Klamath Tribes, unable to assail Rykbostís findings, instead wrote a letter to then-Gov. John Kitzhaber demanding Rykbostís chapter on flows be disregarded because his doctorate was in soil science. Rykbost voluntarily removed the offending chapter.

 

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