Time to Take Action
Our Klamath Basin Water Crisis
Upholding rural Americans' rights to grow food,
own property, and caretake our wildlife and natural resources.

BOR biologists fight for jobs

Scientists say Reclamation wants to suppress their findings

by Devan Schwartz, Herald and News 1/8/13

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.
Coho dispute
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.

Side Bars

Disputes with researchers is not a first for the Bureau of Reclamation
This is not the first time the Bureau of Reclamation has been accused of wrongly firing an employee. Dr. Paul Houser, a whistleblower and former Reclamation scientific integrity officer, made allegations about the agency playing politics with what’s supposed to be objective research related to the Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement and the removal of dams on the Klamath River.
Houser and Reclamation reached a settlement in December with undisclosed details.
Dam removal is a key component of two controversial water settlements, the KBRA and the Klamath Hydroelectric Settlement Agreement. In addition to dam removal, the agreements aim to establish affordable power rates and reliable water supplies for irrigators, restore fish habitat and help the Klamath Tribes acquire a 92,000-acre tree farm.
Klamath Basin Area Office area manager Jason Phillips said in a phone interview the allegations of seven Fisheries Resources Branch employees are being taken out of context, though he needs more time to consider them and determine appropriate responses.
The Bureau of Reclamation released the following statement: “Reclamation frequently reviews operations within area offices to make the most effective use of public resources. At the Klamath Basin Area Office we have recently determined that this reorganization meets that goal and will better utilize existing staff in Klamath Falls to accomplish our on-going work requirements. No staff member will lose their job with this proposed change, and we continue to use management discretion to best meet program goals.”
Klamath Basin Area Office biologists defend their jobs and research
After being informed the Fisheries Resources Branch of the local Bureau of Reclamation office likely would close and their jobs would be transferred, Bureau of Reclamation fisheries biologists sought support from their union.
The biologists include: Keith Schultz, Charles Korson, James Ross, Torrey Tyler, Brock Phillips, Darin Taylor and Alex Wilkins.
Todd Pederson, union president of the National Federation of Federal Employees Union Local 951, said he pressed Jason Phillips on who had objected to the biologists’ research.
The area manager for Reclamation’s Klamath Basin Area Office then reportedly identified the following groups: the National Marine Fisheries Service, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Klamath Basin tribal governments, though specific names were not provided.
On Jan. 7, a complaint of scientific and scholarly misconduct was sent to the Department of Interior on the biologists’ behalf. It argues that DOI policies were violated by “(1) intentionally circumventing policy that ensures the integrity of science and scholarship, and (2) actions that compromise scientific and scholarly integrity.”
Requests for the Bureau of Reclamation in the Complaint of Scientific and Scholarly Misconduct:
1) Withdraw plans to eliminate fisheries positions;
2) Withdraw plans to forcefully reassign fisheries staff;
3) Withdraw plans to eliminate the Fisheries Resources Branch;
4) Rescind in writing the Nov. 8 memo issued by Jason Phillips;
5) Issue a written apology;
6) Appropriately discipline Jason Phillips and any responsible superiors;
7) Form, fund and manage an interagency team of biologists to “ensure that future scientific reports are issued in a collaborative fashion.”




In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. section 107, any copyrighted material herein is distributed without profit or payment to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving this information for non-profit research and educational purposes only. For more information go to: http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/107.shtml

Home Contact


              Page Updated: Wednesday January 09, 2013 03:01 AM  Pacific

             Copyright © klamathbasincrisis.org, 2001 - 2012, All Rights Reserved