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BOR biologists fight for jobs
Scientists say Reclamation wants to suppress their findings
Scientists employed by the Bureau of Reclamation claimed in a complaint filed Monday that their positions were being eliminated because their research contradicted or complicated other agencies’ findings in studies related to the Klamath River.
In November, the seven people were informed the local Fisheries Resources Branch was to be closed and their jobs transferred, though no one was necessarily going to be fired, according to documentation provided by Public Employees who Protect our Environment (PEER), a nonprofit organization seeking to uphold environmental laws and values.
Klamath Basin Area Office area manager Jason Phillips said he made the decision to end the research because of perceptions about its quality and relevance.
Phillips stated in a Nov. 8 memo that U.S. Geological Survey research in the Klamath Basin was viewed as credible, although his own office’s research was not — thus making their work redundant and unaffordable.
Jeff Ruch, executive director of PEER, said the biologists’ research had angered external stakeholders, prompting scientific censorship and agency retaliation.
“This is an effort to bring scientists into a political line,” Ruch said.
The complaint identifies specific research that Phillips found problematic. One area was a finding of higher-than-anticipated populations of endangered sucker in Lake Ewauna. The complaint suggests this may have complicated a view that Lake Ewauna was essentially a dead-zone for fish moving downstream from Upper Klamath Lake. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service reportedly had to re-evaluate its recovery strategy for Lake Ewauna and the finding led to assertions that others’ work had been proved wrong.
A second problematic and disputed point of research was a study of threatened coho life-cycles. The biologists argued tributary flows were more important to these salmon than mainstem Klamath River flows. Mainstem Klamath River flows are controlled by Reclamation through the Klamath Project and a series of PacifiCorp-owned and operated dams.
Phillips decided not to allow the life-cycle research to be published after the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration raised concerns regarding this model, the complainants assert.
In a phone interview, Phillips denied this allegation and added he intends in the near future to “work something out for management and employees.”
Phillips indicated he would like to keep the biologists’ jobs local, though the process will likely unfold over the next year or more.
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Page Updated: Wednesday January 09, 2013 03:01 AM Pacific
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