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Panel: Dam report is reliable
by John Bowman, Siskiyou Daily News March 15, 2012


Released in January, the draft overview report is intended to summarize two years of scientific and technical studies conducted to help inform the secretary of the Interior on the decision about whether to remove four hydroelectric dams on the Klamath River.


According to a DOI press release, the peer review panel found generally that the report “connects to the sound science that underlies its conclusions, provides a depth of coverage suitable for the anticipated audience, and provides clearly stated concepts and conclusions.”

The peer review report states, “In the opinion of the Panel, the Overview Report authors handled many difficult issues with vision, clarity and skill. The Overview Report is an admirable synthesis of diverse research activities that can support decision-makers engaged in the issue of dam removal on the Klamath River.”

According to the peer review panel, the overview report is a particularly effective and accurate representation of the relevant science in regards to clarity, dam removal costs and engineering, water quality and the production of the overview report.

However, the panel states that despite the “general strengths” of the overview report, there are a multitude of opportunities to improve the document in order to more effectively describe the uncertainties of some aspects of dam removal and the effectiveness of KBRA restoration projects.

The issue of how DOI represents inherent uncertainties associated with dam removal was also the basis for the whistleblower complaint filed in February by former Bureau of Reclamation Scientific Advisor Paul Houser.

Panel recommendations

The overview peer review panel listed the following recommendations for improving the document:

• Clarification of scenarios: Clearly describe the two scenarios (dams in vs. dams out) compared in the initial pages of the Executive Summary and Introduction;
• Uncertainty: Be more explicit in describing the relative uncertainties associated with various ecosystem responses to the two restoration scenarios;
• Sediment: Include more information on (1) the fate of released sediments, (2) particle sizes of the sediments, including the sand-sized particles and (3) chemical characteristics of the sediment;
• Fish passage: Present an assessment of the fish passage facilities at the Keno and Link River dams;
• Tribal rights: Clarify the various situations of the six tribes involved in decisions about the future of dams, fisheries, irrigation and other water uses in the Klamath watershed;
• Adaptive management and monitoring: Explicitly state that the “Dams out with KBRA” scenario represents a serious commitment to an appropriately scaled monitoring and assessment program;
• Maps: Include additional and improved maps to place the Overview Report in an informative geographic context;
• Keno and Link River dams: Explain the rationale for leaving Keno and Link River dams in place (while others are proposed for removal) early in the Overview Report; and
• Reclamation’s Klamath Project: Explain Reclamation’s Klamath Project with additional text and maps so that the reader understands its extent and significance for water management, agriculture and wildlife refuges.

In addition, the reviewers suggest the authors of the Overview Report should consider including further descriptions of the process of scientific analysis and development of the summary and findings early in the Overview Report so readers can better understand how conclusions were reached.

“The Overview Report should present science as a process of drawing conclusions from a rigorous methodology of proposing hypotheses, collecting data, assessing support for hypotheses with existing data and models, and building an understanding of the system by going through this process iteratively,” the review panel states in their report.

According to the peer review panel, “There is no debate about what science is, and the Overview Report should say so.”

The panel further explains that, when the authors of the Overview Report state that “the science indicates ...” what they really mean is “the scientific method applied to the available data indicate that ...”

They add that, for complex situations such as assessing the feasibility of Klamath dam removal, “substantial uncertainties are unavoidable. Policy decisions therefore inevitably occur under substantial uncertainty.”

To view the draft Klamath Dam Removal Overview Report, the peer review report or other DOI dam removal documents, visit http://klamathrestoration.gov/.


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